Atlanta real estate magnate John Williams, one of the nation’s most successful and influential developers, has filed paperwork applying for incentives such as waiving permitting and licensing fees and property tax abatements.
Williams, who founded Post Properties Inc. 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 The John A. Williams Theatre.
The Cobb Board of Commissioners approved earlier this week the $100 million multi-use development containing 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 soon with a targeted finishing date of spring 2015. Condos and townhomes will be rented until market conditions trend more toward sales.
The project is being developed by Riverview Office LLC, owned by Williams. It 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.
First Class A office project in 12 years
“It’s the first significant office development. We’ve seen some apartment development, but it’s the first Class A office building we’ve seen in Cobb County in 12 years,” said Tad Leithead, a consultant for the project who chairs the Cumberland CID.
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.
The property is owned now by Charlotte, N.C.-based developer Crescent Communities but Riverview Office LLC, which applied for the tax incentives, plans to purchase the property, develop it and move its headquarters into part of the office space that will be built.
Leithead says Cumberland needs more housing to thrive.
“The Cumberland Galleria has traditionally over the last 30 years been mostly an office market,” Leithead said. “The residential, the people who work there, commute in from other parts of Cobb and the region. To create a truly comfortable option, we want people to have the option to walk or either have a very, very short commute.”
County decides what to give
Multiple county committees and boards have a say in whether or not Riverview should be given incentives.
An incentives committee made up of county staff will make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners on the request to waive permit fees and business-license fees.
Commissioners will have the final say on those fees. The committee meets today, but it wasn’t clear when that recommendation would make it to the commission.
The Board of Tax Assessors decides what amount of property taxes, if any, will be waived. That board can make the decisions without approval of the commission.
Riverview hasn’t asked for a specific amount of incentives. Companies send an incentives application to the county and are told what the county is willing to provide.
Applicants must create at least 25 jobs and provide at least $500,000 in property tax revenue to Cobb to be considered.
Incentives a common development tool
Economic development is a competitive arena, said Nelson Geter, executive director of the Development Authority of Cobb County.
“If we’re going to continue to compete with other states, like South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, then we have to put competitive incentive proposals on the table,” Geter said.
Leithead says it’s common for developers to apply for incentives.
On a large project, like the Riverwalk development, permitting fees can add up, and he said every little bit helps.
“The incentives don’t directly benefit the developer by reducing the front-end cost of the development. The developer is able to price the office and apartment space more competitively,” Leithead said. “The benefit is to pass it through to the ultimate users and for them to benefit from a more competitive cost.”
Leithead said with this development Williams is once again creating another ground-breaking project in Cobb County.
“He founded the CID and really put us on the map and now if he’s not doing it again,” Leithead said. “The real story is ‘There he goes again.’ John is doing it again and everything that he’s done has been magnificent for our community.”
Board of Tax Assessors will decide if Riverview Office LLC is eligible for property tax abatement.
Roger W. Phelps, chair
John T. Demarest, vice chair
Daniel L. Post, Jr., assessor
Stephen Smith, assessor
Carolyn Turner, assessor
Incentives Committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners on a request to waive licensing and permitting fees.
Michael Hughes, director of the Office of Economic Development
Rob Hosack, director of the Community Development Agency, or designee
Faye DiMassimo, director of the Department of Transportation, or designee
Deborah Dance, county attorney
Stephen White, director of the Board of Tax Assessors/Chief appraiser
James Pehrson, director of the Department of Finance, or designee
Steve McCullers, director of the Water System, or designee