With $155 million in bonds and new tax funding, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. is making plans to purchase the remainder of the 22-mile loop around the city and to accelerate numerous projects.
“We have a very, very busy year ahead,” ABI CEO Paul Morris told ABI board members in their monthly meeting Wednesday morning. “This could well go down as our most aggressive and most active year in the history of the Beltline. So I asked everyone to take a good holiday break because we are going to get going quickly out of the gate, and it will be really interesting to see how everything comes together.”
Morris said with the latest funding, ABI is probably in a better financial position than it has ever been.
ABI closed on a bond issuance totaling more than $155 million on Dec. 29, their first bond issued since 2009. Out of that, more than $50 million will be used for affordable housing, jobs and capital construction. The bond money will be spent over three years.
In addition to that money, ABI is expecting $66 million from a special purpose local option sales tax and additional funding from a MARTA tax referendum, both of which passed in November.
Morris said ABI will move forward aggressively with plans to buy the rest of property they need to complete the planned 22-mile loop around the city. Right now ABI owns about 75 percent of the trail corridor and about 57 percent of the transit corridor.
“We do have a game plan in which it may be possible for us to complete all the agreements before the end of this year to close the loop, now that we actually have the funding in place to support those procurements,” Morris said.
In addition to acquiring the remainder of the loop property, ABI has numerous ongoing procurement projects around the city. Some of those include the purchase and redevelopment of 1016 Monroe, the Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard Conversion Project, Lofts at Reynoldstown II, North Avenue Signal Upgrade and University Avenue Corridor Scoping Study.
Over the next three years, about $18 million of the new funding will be spent on affordable housing initiatives, a major topic of discussion for the ABI board in the last six months. Morris acknowledged the $18 million is still not enough to adequately address the issue, but noted it is more than ABI has spent on affordable housing over the last 10 years.
“While it is not everything we need to do our job, nor is it everything the city needs to address affordability and equity issues, it is a really important and significant move on our part to really take a position and be one of the first out of the gate with major funding commitments,” Morris said.
Board members were also briefed on the 2016 audit report, which did not have any findings. It is the third year in a row ABI has had a clean audit without any findings. Joel Black, with the accounting firm Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC, presented the audit information and complimented the ABI financial team on their work.
“There are no matters to discuss,” Black said. “It is a lot of money that flows through there, a lot of projects going on and capital projects to track. They do a really good job accounting for everything.”