The Development Authority of Cobb County filed paperwork this week on behalf Atlanta real estate mogul John Williams, seeking property tax abatement — a waiver of taxes — for a planned mega-development.
Williams, who founded Post Properties in 1970, has directed the development of more than $5 billion in real estate over his career.
He led the effort to build the $150 million Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, whose main theater is named after him.
The planned multi-use development maps out 236 condos, 14 three-story townhomes and a 10-story office building containing 200,000 square feet of space. The 7-acre site sits at the intersection of Cobb Galleria Parkway and Cumberland Boulevard.
Construction could begin as soon as the project receives approval with a targeted finishing date of spring 2015. Condos and townhomes will be rented until market conditions trend more toward sales.
Being developed by Riverview Office LLC, owned by Williams, the development doesn’t yet have an official name but is using “Riverwalk” as its working title.
The project falls within the boundaries of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, a self-taxing district that Williams founded in 1988.
That district stands to gain from the proposed new Atlanta Braves stadium in 2017 and has pledged $10 million to support the stadium.
Tad Leithead, chairman of the board that governs the district, said Riverwalk was conceived long before the Braves made their unexpected announcement on Nov. 11.
“The decision to do the Riverview working title building was made well in advance and without any knowledge whatsoever,” Leithead said. “They’re totally unrelated from each other.”
Incentives still possible
An incentives committee made up of high-ranking county staffers determined that Riverwalk doesn’t qualify to have fees for licenses and permits waived.
Applicants must create at least 25 jobs and generate at least $500,000 in property tax revenue to be considered.
Nelson Geter, executive director of the authority, said the county shot down the incentives application because it considered the $60 million office tower and $43 million apartment building separately.
Still, eligible developers are able to get around paying property taxes by going through the Development Authority. As a governmental agency, the authority does not pay property taxes on any of the land or buildings it owns.
To allow the selected corporation to avoid paying property taxes, the authority will either purchase property and lease it to the company or lease property it already owns. The developer then pays a set amount to the authority, typically stretched over a 10- to 20-year period, until it has paid off the purchase price and assumes ownership.
Once the company assumes ownership it begins paying property taxes on the full fair market value of the property.
There’s little oversight over how the Development Authority offers incentives.
The Cobb Board of Tax Assessors approves the value of the property, but the authority is able to enter into the agreement on its own without approval of another body, though the Cobb Board of Commissioners does have to approve any bonds the authority might issue.
Decision could come Jan. 8
The tax assessors will take up Riverwalk’s request for abatement at its Jan. 8 meeting.
Geter says incentives are needed to attract the first Class A office building to Cobb in 12 years.
The Building Owners and Managers Association considers a Class A office as one that has high-quality finishes, state of the art systems, first-rate accessibility and a clear market presence.
“It’s a worthy cause because first of all the project is significantly needed to meet the demands of the inquiries we get regarding the need for Class A office space in excess in 100,000 square feet of contiguous space,” Geter said.
Not having that kind of office space, Geter said, puts the county at a competitive disadvantage.
“Without incentives of this magnitude it’s highly unlikely that you would get an investor,” Geter said.