Atlanta City Council OKs sale of civic center
by Dave Williams
The Atlanta City Council agreed Monday to sell the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center in hopes of turning what has been an under-utilized drain on the city’s budget into a catalyst for revitalization.
Council members voted 10-4 in favor of an ordinance turning over the city-owned property to Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, which will seek bids from developers.
The 380,000-square-foot civic center opened in 1967 on an 18-acre site at Piedmont Avenue and Ralph McGill Boulevard. As it has aged, many of the shows it once was able to attract have shifted to other venues, including the Cobb Energy Center.
“It’s not a cash-flowing proposition on our books,” said Councilman Kwanza Hall, who introduced the ordinance. “There’s opportunity to re-position it.”
But the council members who opposed the ordinance questioned the need for approving the sale without giving the council a say in drawing up the request for proposals Invest Atlanta is putting together or discussing what – if anything – will replace the civic center.
“We need a civic center in Atlanta, whether it’s this present facility or not,” Councilman Michael Julian Bond said. “Before we get rid of this one, I’d like to see some plans for the next one.”
Councilwoman Felicia Moore said the council shouldn’t commit itself to selling the civic center without discussing the proposal in the larger context of how the city should handle the sale of other city-owned properties. Besides the civic center, Mayor Kasim Reed also has proposed selling Underground Atlanta in his efforts to shed money-losing properties so the city can afford an infrastructure bond he wants to put before Atlanta voters.
“This is a city-wide asset,” Moore said. “I’m not going to be supportive of giving a blank check on a city asset.”
To address that issue, council members approved an amendment to the ordinance sponsored by Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean instructing Invest Atlanta to present the final version of the planned RFP to the council before releasing it to the public.
Hall said development options for the civic center site include housing, retail, perhaps a hotel or converting it into office space for the growing film industry, which has used the site for more than a dozen major TV and movie productions.