The Atlanta Housing (AH) board of commissioners expects to finally choose a master developer next month for the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, over four years after the housing authority bought the iconic Old Fourth Ward site, which has sat vacant for eight years.

AH officials are now interviewing a shortlist of five candidates to develop the 19-acre site, AH’s CEO, Eugene Jones, told Atlanta Civic Circle on Friday.

“They’re heavy-hitters,” Jones said of the firms bidding on the job. “They’ve got some innovative ideas.”

The ambitious project is expected to create hundreds — if not thousands — of new housing units and hotel rooms, along with restaurants, retail, and greenspace. AH’s request for qualifications also calls for preserving the famous 4,600-seat auditorium the Civic Center was long known for — a venue that once featured  plays, concerts, and lectures.

Jones wouldn’t elaborate on any of the ideas the board was considering from master developer candidates, but he did say it was partial to proposals designed with abundant affordable housing — units priced for households earning 60% or less of the area median income.

“The neighborhood has been asking about the Civic Center,” Jones said. “I think the whole city has been asking about it, so we want to provide a pathway to do a great development that we have the community involved in.”

But construction crews won’t be starting up any time soon. Jones said he anticipates breaking ground around the end of 2023 or possibly in 2024.

AH must first work with the developer it chooses to finalize a master development agreement, then solicit public input for the plans, and determine how to finance the ambitious undertaking. 

In the meantime, AH plans to set up a weekly farmers market at the Civic Center site, and invite food trucks to feed the community. That could kick off as soon as May, Jones said.

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