New Avenues of Funding to Finish the Project
The Atlanta BeltLine began as a bold idea more than 20 years ago—a way to connect neighborhoods across Atlanta and create more mobility and opportunity for everyone in our city. That same vision remains today. And while the BeltLine is closer to completion, significant work remains.
Currently, the project requires a new mechanism for generating the necessary funds to meet targeted dates of delivery. This reality is the basis for efforts to secure a Special Service District (SSD) designation to allocate adequate resources for the completion of a project that is already transforming the city and generating jobs, development, and greater equity for all.
Identifying the Issue
Right now, Atlanta is experiencing an economic and racial inequality crisis further exacerbated by COVID-19. In the midst of this pandemic, fulfilling the promise of the Atlanta BeltLine is more important than ever. The value it brings to the community is vital, especially as it pertains to creating the jobs, housing, economic development, and transportation corridors across the city necessary to stabilize and improve retention within the BeltLine communities.
Unfortunately, the primary funding mechanism for the Atlanta BeltLine, the BeltLine Tax Allocation District (TAD), is forecast to fall short by more than $1 billion of the original projections. Without additional funding, the BeltLine trail corridor – and the jobs, housing, and economic growth it generates nearby – will not be completed before the expiration of the TAD in 2030.
Initial investments of an estimated $600 million in the Atlanta BeltLine project have led to the creation of 18,700 permanent jobs; 3,175 affordable housing units being created/preserved (2,133 of which are in the BeltLine TAD); and $6.2 billion economic impact to the neighborhoods along the corridor. This funding has consistently come from a variety of public, private, and philanthropic sources, and the pathway to fulfilling the completion of the 22-mile mainline trail construction is no different.
Crafting a Solution
A Special Service District (SSD), in which commercial and multi-family property owners in the Atlanta BeltLine Planning Area invest in its construction through a slight increase in the millage rate, can provide critical funding towards the approximately $350M to complete the BeltLine mainline trail.
If approved by Atlanta City Council, the proposed Atlanta BeltLine SSD will ensure trail completion by 2030. Completion of the trail will spur development that will generate new TAD funding and allow ABI to allocate additional TAD funds to advance its affordable housing initiatives.
- Residents living in single family homes near the BeltLine would not be part of the district.
- This mechanism will be used to generate an estimated $100 million in 2021 via bonds, which will unlock another $100 million in philanthropic funds and $100 million in BeltLine TAD funds to complete the trail.
- Having diverse funding sources better positions ABI to become more competitive when seeking to secure the balance of funds needed from federal, state, local and private dollars.
Experiencing the Benefits of the SSD
Establishing the SSD will have a tremendous impact for the City. This tool can provide the necessary funds to complete the trail project, secure additional affordable housing, and spur even more economic growth and investment in and around the BeltLine corridor. This would allow the project to deliver on the promise of better connectivity and stronger, healthier neighborhoods across the City.
More Affordable Housing Options
Affordable housing remains a top priority for the Atlanta BeltLine. Atlanta’s long and complicated history of economic disparities cannot be repaired overnight; however, the BeltLine can serve as a catalyst to help close the gap and ensure greater equity for all through its’ ability to create/preserve more affordable units, while creating more jobs along the corridor to help residents stay in place.
- ABI currently has projected $90M allocated to affordable housing through 2030. New, dedicated funding for trail completion through the SSD and philanthropy – combined with increased TAD revenue from new development along the completed trail – will provide an incremental $50 million in TAD funding to create deeper and longer-term affordability around the BeltLine.
- SSD approval can help the Atlanta BeltLine achieve the original goal of 5,600 units of affordable housing within the BeltLine TAD by 2030.
- Through the support of the philanthropic community, a recently launched community retention fund is expected to provide an additional $12.5-million for nearby legacy homeowners concerned about displacement by helping pay property tax increases and provide more resources to help them stay in their homes.
- Ongoing home empowerment workshops protect both renters and homeowners from displacement through education on eviction relief, homestead exemptions, and property tax appeals. Workshops also refer participants to numerous service providers and key COVID-19 relief programs. For the past three years, over 2,000 registrants have connected with the program.
Additional Economic Impact
It is anticipated that the SSD will spur a total of 50,000 jobs created near the Atlanta BeltLine, approximately 20,000 more than originally projected. As Atlanta seeks to emerge from the economic damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, these opportunities will be imperative for residents to regain financial security and to be positioned to thrive moving forward.
- To ensure equity and inclusion is fully-integrated into our operations at ABI, we are committing to allocating up to $150 million of construction funding to minority-owned contractors.
- The SSD will also free up an additional $7 million from the Atlanta BeltLine TAD for small business support – which will serve as a key investment to ensure that the Atlanta BeltLine is more representative of the neighborhoods it serves and is best positioned to thrive for the future.
Keeping the Project On Track for Completion
Got a Question? Get an Answer
Why do we need to act now to finish the BeltLine trail corridor?
Because it will deliver economic benefits where Atlanta needs them most.
Atlanta is facing an economic and racial inequity crisis amplified by COVID-19. We need jobs, affordable housing, and new opportunities to help restore Atlanta’s economic and community well-being.
The Atlanta BeltLine can play a significant role in our city’s growth and economic recovery. But to do so in an equitable and inclusive manner, it must be completed. That way, the BeltLine will benefit all the communities it connects.
The completed Atlanta BeltLine trail corridor is expected to deliver a total economic impact of $10 billion and nearly 50,000 permanent jobs. Additional benefits include access to health and recreation opportunities, new homes nearby, closer proximity to health care providers, and expanded broadband connectivity.
But without significant additional funding, the Atlanta BeltLine trail will not be complete before 2030.
Early legal disputes followed by an economic recession mean the BeltLine Tax Allocation District (TAD), the Atlanta BeltLine’s primary source of funding, is expected to generate $1 billion less than originally projected before it closes in 2030.
To ensure all the components of the Atlanta BeltLine are delivered equitably and improve quality of life for Atlanta’s residents, additional funding now is critical.
How does completing the Atlanta BeltLine trail aid economic development for surrounding neighborhoods?
The Atlanta BeltLine is a proven economic engine. By completing the BeltLine trail, thousands more residents will be better connected to existing job centers through better transportation options. And the Atlanta BeltLine will ignite the development of new job centers, restaurants, retail, and housing.
The completion will support a projected 50,000 jobs around the 22-mile trail loop. That includes middle-wage jobs and careers attainable to residents without advanced degrees. We’ve committed to partnerships providing job training and helping workers find nearby job openings.
As the BeltLine is completed, nearby businesses will benefit from new customers, including residents, workers, and visitors to BeltLine neighborhoods. We’re dedicated to supporting small businesses with façade improvements and other tools to draw in more business activity for legacy businesses.
Further, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. will allocate up to $150 million in trail construction funding to firms owned by African Americans and other minority-owned businesses.
How will completion of the BeltLine trail corridor enhance affordable housing around the Atlanta BeltLine?
Expanding affordable housing remains a top priority for the Atlanta BeltLine. Atlanta’s long and complicated history of economic disparities cannot be repaired overnight. By creating and preserving more affordable homes while also generating more jobs along the corridor to help residents stay in place, the BeltLine can serve as a catalyst to help close the income inequality gap and ensure greater equity for all.
Completing the BeltLine trail corridor will stimulate more housing production. Because the City of Atlanta instituted inclusionary zoning around the BeltLine in 2018, developers must build affordable units in all new multi-family rental developments.
As of January 2020, more than 2,100 units of affordable housing have been created or preserved in the Atlanta BeltLine Tax Allocation District (TAD) towards the goal of 5,600 units with more than 900 units in the pipeline. Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. is supporting developers who create affordable housing with the BeltLine Affordable Housing Trust Fund and strategically acquiring land near the BeltLine to ensure deeper and longer-term affordability.
In order to provide homeowners with tools to fight displacement, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership (ABP) has launched a Legacy Resident Retention Program to assist nearby legacy homeowners with paying property tax increases. The philanthropically funded program is expected to provide $12.5 million in assistance over 10 years. ABP also works with multiple partners to offer Home Empowerment Workshops that connect homeowners and renters with resources to help them stay in their homes.
What is the cost to complete the 22-mile Atlanta BeltLine trail corridor?
The estimated cost to complete the remaining land acquisition, design, utility relocation, and construction for the full 22-mile trail corridor – including ramps and stairs for access, lighting and cameras for safety, and linear greenspace for public enjoyment – is approximately $350 million.
The trail corridor is one component of the full $4.8 billion BeltLine Redevelopment Plan, which also includes parks, transit, affordable housing, public art, environmental clean-up, and streetscape improvements.
Why are additional funds needed beyond the Atlanta BeltLine Tax Allocation District (TAD)?
Early legal disputes delayed the ability to issue a fully backed bond to finance BeltLine implementation until the end of 2016 – more than a decade after the Atlanta BeltLine Tax Allocation District (TAD) was first created. The lack of early funding to construct the BeltLine, combined with the Great Recession, led to a slower pace of private development around the full BeltLine than initially anticipated. As a result, the TAD is expected to generate $1 billion less than originally projected before it closes in 2030.
Where will the funds to finish the BeltLine trail corridor come from?
As with every part of the BeltLine that has been finished to date, funding comes from multiple public and private sources. The plan for completing the BeltLine trail includes $100 million each from the BeltLine Tax Allocation District (TAD), philanthropic contributions, and a Special Service District (SSD). These three primary funding sources, providing a total of $300 million, will be leveraged to secure the remaining $50 million from additional federal, state, and local sources.
What is a Special Service District (SSD) and how is it created?
A Special Service District is a targeted tax district where property owners pay slightly more in property taxes to fund improvements from which they will benefit – in this case, funding to complete the Atlanta BeltLine trail.
The Atlanta City Council must pass three ordinances to form the district and provide the funding needed to finish the BeltLine trail corridor. The ordinances will create the district, establish the millage rate increase, and allow for bonding. Legislation will be introduced before Council in early 2021.
What area will the Special Service District encompass and how will the funds work?
The proposed Special Service District (SSD) would include commercial and multi-family properties in the Atlanta BeltLine Planning Area. These property owners would invest in the completion of the 22-mile BeltLine trail corridor through a slight increase in the millage rate.
Revenue from the SSD will be used to finance bonds that will generate an estimated $100 million that will be used alongside funding from the BeltLine Tax Allocation District (TAD), philanthropic support, and other funding sources to complete the BeltLine trail corridor. Once the bonds are paid off, the district will sunset.
The revenue from the SSD will free up TAD funds so an additional $50 million can be used towards housing affordability and $7 million can be provided in small business support.
Will owners of single-family houses, condos, or townhomes be part of the SSD?
No. Owner-occupied residences, including single family homes, condos, and townhouses, will not be part of the SSD.
How will the Special Service District affect commercial and multi-family property owners in the Atlanta BeltLine Planning Area?
There will be an increase of approximately 2 mills – or two-tenths of one cent – per every $1 of assessed property value.
For example, a commercial or multi-family property owner with a parcel of land appraised for $1 million pays taxes on an assessed value equal to 40% of the full value. This parcel would be assessed taxes based on a value of $400,000. Two-tenths of a cent per dollar of assessed value on this parcel is $800. So, for a million-dollar property, the increase would be just $800 per year.
At 2 mills, about half of the taxable SSD parcels would be assessed less than $250 annually. An estimated 82% of SSD parcels contained in the proposed SSD would be assessed less than $1,000 annually.
Property owners would not pay the increased millage rate until their tax bills are due to Fulton County in fall 2021.
How will you ensure minority-owned business participation?
Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. will allocate up to $150 million in BeltLine trail construction funding to firms owned by African Americans and other minority-owned businesses. To accomplish this, we are utilizing the following strategies:
- Work with minority-focused business groups in attempts to recruit minority business participation in ABI bids and contracts
- Emphasize the importance of soliciting certified minority businesses for subcontracting opportunities to prime contractors at pre-bid conferences and in the bid documents
- Advertise bid opportunities in minority-focused networks and media
- Break down or combine elements of work into economically feasible units to facilitate minority participation
- Encourage joint ventures and partnership arrangements with minority businesses in order to increase opportunities for minority business participation on projects when possible
- Closely track and provide regular reports on Disadvantaged Business Enterprise participation
How can we provide input and ask Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. questions about the Special Services District and trail construction?
Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. hosts regular community meetings to provide project updates and receive public input. We welcome your questions and feedback and offer many opportunities to get involved to support the Atlanta BeltLine.
Stay Up to Date on The Details for Moving Forward
|Special Service District Fact Sheet|
Finishing the Loop: Key Facts About the Special Service District Proposal
|Special Service District Benefits|
The Special Service District will provide many benefits, such as $50 million in additional Affordable Housing funding, 50,000 new jobs near the Atlanta BeltLine, and more.
|Trail Completion: Special Service District Plan|
The proposed timeline, by segment, of trail completion with the Special Service District proposal.