In their final meeting of the year, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. board members and staff celebrated a successful year that included reaching an agreement with Atlanta City Schools in January and preparing to complete their first bond issuance in more than five years.
This year also saw major progress on both the Eastside Trail extensive and the Westside Trail, with both expected to be completed next year.
Marshall Norwood, chief financial officer for ABI, told the board they are on track to wrap up a series of five bonds totaling about $145 million to pay for a wide range of things including capital projects, affordable housing, economic development and refinancing. The bond paperwork has been sent to city council for final approval and should be finalized soon.
Those bonds will be issued at a slightly higher interest rate – about 3.5 percent — than ABI had hoped due to several factors, Norwood said. The bonds are backed by a single revenue source, the tax allocation district money, which means it is not considered as secure. Additionally, three of the series are tax-exempt, and the other two are not. A mixed series like that means a higher interest rate, Norwood said. Bond interest rates have also gone up in the last few weeks, Norwood noted.
Despite the higher-than-expected interest rate, Norwood said refinancing their current debt means they will cut their interest rate nearly in half and save ABI more than $9 million over the time of the loan.
About $71.98 million of the bonds will be used for refinancing, $40 million for capital projects, $11 million in affordable housing and $2.5 million in economic development.
In other business, Clyde Higgs, ABI’s Chief Operating Officer, noted ABI is moving ahead with plans to sell nearly 1.5 acres at 1016 Monroe Drive. The property is near the intersection of 10th Street and is close to both Piedmont Park and Ponce City Market.
The deadline for bids was Tuesday, and ABI received five bids, Higgs said.
ABI board members discussed the impact any development would have on Monroe Drive and 10th Street. Councilman Andre Dickens said the city is working with residents in the area to discuss traffic concerns. One option being discussed is to build a pedestrian bridge over Monroe Drive, directly connecting the Beltline to Piedmont Park.
ABI is also soliciting community feedback on three different Beltline benches that have been installed along the Eastside Trail. Whichever bench is chosen will be installed on all the trails.