Apr. 19—CUMBERLAND — The Development Authority of Cobb County took the first step toward issuing $200 million in taxable revenue bonds for the construction of a new Truist Financial office tower at The Battery Atlanta, the mixed-use development owned by the Atlanta Braves that surrounds the team’s ballpark.
The development authority board voted Tuesday to approve two inducement resolutions, agreements which indicate the authority’s willingness to issue the bonds.
The Braves Development Company plans to build the tower and lease it to Truist, the bank which owns the naming rights for Truist Park.
Truist and the Braves will come back to request full approval of the bonds in June or July. Bruce McCall, a lawyer representing Truist and the Braves Development Company, confirmed that they would also request tax breaks from the development authority at that time. Authority Chairman Clark Hungerford said his board would commission a fiscal impact analysis of such tax breaks when it has more definitive information about the project’s size.
“I make this motion because I understand that the inducement resolution basically kicks off the process. … But it by no means commits us to taking the next step of actually issuing the bond issue,” said board member Courtney Knight. “And if we find information between now and then that’s not consistent with what we heard today, then we have another opportunity to deliberate about this project.”
The 250,000-square-foot building, announced earlier this month, will be the new national headquarters of Truist Securities, the firm’s investment and corporate banking arm.
Truist Securities is currently headquartered in the Buckhead area of Atlanta.
At least 1,000 Truist employees will work in the building, which is expected to be finished in the fourth quarter of 2024. The employees working in the new building would earn an average salary of $100,000, McCall said.
The resolutions approved Tuesday were split between two bond issuances — a $140 million bond for the building itself, and a $60 million bond for fixtures, furniture, equipment and other personal property associated with the project.
The vote for both resolutions was the same: 5-2, with board members J.C. Bradbury and Karen Hallacy opposed.
Bradbury, a Kennesaw State University economist, frequently criticizes the use of tax incentives as an economic development tool, especially the $300 million in public subsidies Cobb County provided for the stadium’s construction. He published a policy report in March that found the county has an annual revenue shortfall of nearly $15 million, or $50 per household, from servicing the debt on the stadium.
Ahead of the vote, Bradbury asked McCall why, if tax incentives are so important, Truist was choosing to be located at the Battery, where taxes are higher due to the special services district and the Cumberland Community Improvement District.
“I think obviously Truist is committed to this area. They’d like to be here, they put their name on the ballpark,” McCall said.
Braves Development Company CEO Mike Plant added that companies can recruit better talent by being close to amenities that the Battery offers. The building itself will be highly amenitized, Plant said, as companies seek to “get everyone out of their pajamas” and return to the office.
“So if we already have this, why do we need more (tax) abatements?” Bradbury asked. “If you’re already inducing people to come here, because the Battery is incentivizing them to come here.”
Responded McCall, “That’s a factor … But that’s not their final deciding factor.”
“Truist Financial Corporation is a business. They need to look at what they can do, where they can go, and they need to look at total costs. And this helps,” McCall said.
“So,” Bradbury continued, “the taxpayers should help subsidize this business then?”
Plant said that the undeveloped land where the offices will go is generating minimal tax revenue now, and touted the size of Truist’s investment.
“I don’t want to have a debate with you about your opinion on incentives versus ours,” Plant said.
Asked by Bradbury if Truist and the Braves would seek the waiving of fees from Cobb County, Plant said they would not.
Hallacy said that when Truist Park and the Battery were being built, the Braves promised not to ask for more abatements beyond what the county provided for the stadium.
Plant countered by saying that it was Truist asking for incentives, not the Braves, and that the commitment the Braves made was only for phase one of the Battery.
In another line of questioning, Knight sought to get more clarity on what exactly “1,000 jobs” means. Would those simply be employees relocated from Buckhead, or from Truist’s headquarters in Charlotte? Would they be new positions?
McCall told Knight that the project was still in planning stages, and it was too early to say.
“Provided the bonds and incentives go forward, 1,000 (employees) is the minimum they are willing to commit to at this time,” McCall said.
Truist will likely relocate the majority of the 500-600 people working at its Buckhead office, McCall said. Other Truist employees from around the country may also be relocated to the new building.
Truist will be the sole tenant of the building, which will be located behind the ballpark. A five-story parking deck will accompany it, Plant said.
Per Plant, the Braves plan to use the area east of Hank Aaron Way, between Battery Avenue and Windy Ridge Parkway; and the area north of Windy Ridge Parkway and west of Circle 75 Parkway.
Construction is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2022.
“This is bringing approximately 1,000 jobs, could be more, and this is taking up a piece of land that no one else is vying for,” said board member Donna Rowe, who voted in favor of the resolutions.