Mayor’s Office of Communications
55 Trinity Avenue, Suite 2500 • Atlanta, Georgia 30303
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 23, 2017
Reed Administration Response to Atlanta Journal-Constitution Column on Underground Atlanta
Statement by Thomas Sabulis
ATLANTA – “Mayor Kasim Reed, the City of Atlanta and its stakeholders care deeply about the redevelopment of Underground Atlanta. It’s easy to see that AJC columnist Bill Torpy does not. Torpy’s piece in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the latest in a series of columns where he takes cover in opinion and innuendo rather than facts, for fear of finding, or having to present, information that contradicts his clear agenda.
His handwringing column about the future of Underground Atlanta shows little effort to speak with principals involved. It offers no context about the City’s record in recent property transactions, which has fueled phenomenal growth and economic opportunity.
The city deserves the courtesy. Without Mayor Reed’s leadership and action from the City of Atlanta, Ponce City Market would not be the wildly popular success it is. There would be no $250 million investment in Turner Field and its nearby neighborhoods; there would be no $250 investment in Underground Atlanta. There would be no $100 million investment in the film studios at Fort McPherson.
Each of these real estate sales was recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Waste & Efficiency in Government, made up of top business leaders such as Richard Anderson of Delta Air Lines, labor leaders and Atlanta City Council members.
The commission set this strategy to address our $900 million, decades-overdue infrastructure backlog without increasing property taxes, a backlog that we’re on track to cut in half by January 2018. The sale of Underground Atlanta will also save Atlanta taxpayers $8 million annually. Bill Torpy lives in DeKalb County and works in Dunwoody. He doesn’t care what happens to Underground Atlanta. In more than 30 columns about the Reed Administration, he’s never taken a positive position.
When Torpy writes about the Peachtree-Pine shelter, he omits the numbers that show Atlanta’s progress on homelessness. Last year our Continuum of Care initiative reduced the homeless population by six percent.
According to the Regional Commission on Homelessness, since 2013 we have seen a 52 percent decrease in unsheltered homeless individuals; 61 percent decrease in the total number of chronically homeless individuals; and a 62 percent decrease in the number of homeless veterans in Atlanta. We are now at functional zero for homelessness for our veterans.
Nor has Torpy mentioned the overall financial health of the City of Atlanta: eight consecutive credit ratings increases and $152 million in reserves, the highest amount in decades. This financial stability pays dividends across every aspect of government operations and gives the businesses moving and expanding here more reasons to be confident in their choices. The property sales are fundamental to the city’s financial stability.
With Underground, Torpy is trying to have it both ways: In 2015, he wrote a column calling Underground and South Downtown a 'dystopia,' and bemoaning the challenges that exist there. But, today, he wants to turn around and criticize the pace and progress of the sale and of WRS’s plans.
The bottom line is that the WRS development of Underground Atlanta cannot move forward without city approvals. We have multiple opportunities to get this right – just as we got it right with Ponce City Market and Buckhead Atlanta; and just as Georgia State University and Carter will get it right with Turner Field.
We have multiple opportunities to make sure that Underground’s replacement will be special, unique and fitting with its historic setting in Five Points. But these things take time. From start to finish, the sale and redevelopment of Ponce City Market took five years. Twenty-five months to close a more complex transaction should not seem outrageous in comparison.
If WRS winds up not following through, the City has now heard from several other parties interested in making it happen. These developers are now interested because of the momentum gained over the past two years, both by the Administration and by the stakeholders in South Downtown.
Our good work goes on, with or without the daily newspaper that boasts about being ‘complete.’”
For more information about the City of Atlanta, please visit http://www.atlantaga.gov or watch City Channel 26. Follow the City of Atlanta on Facebook and Twitter @CityofAtlanta. Follow Mayor Reed on Facebook and Twitter @Kasim Reed