A deal to extend car rental taxes at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport beyond their 2038 sunset to raise money for millions in taxpayer renovations at Philips Arena has cleared one hurdle: it has the blessing of the city of College Park.
The College Park City Council signed off on extending the collections through 2047 in May and now awaits a response from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, said College Park Mayor Jack Longino.
Hartsfield-Jackson, which is owned by the city of Atlanta, is located in College Park. “He and I have done a lot of talking and I believe we have a deal that they will accept,” Longino told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month. “It gives them the money that they wanted. It gives us the money that we wanted.”
College Park has been in negotiations since December with Reed on using car rental tax proceeds to pay a large portion of the $142.5 million the Atlanta mayor has committed to overhauling Philips, the downtown Atlanta basketball arena and concert facility.
The Atlanta Hawks, the principal users of Philips, will invest about $50 million in the facility’s renovations.
Exact terms of the deal between College Park and Atlanta, however, have not been released. Repeated phone calls to the City of College Park to get more information on the terms were not returned.
The deal to renovate Philips should not be confused with a separate agreement between College Park and the Hawks to build a $20 million to $40 million facility in that south metro city for a minor league basketball team affiliated with the franchise.
On Tuesday, Reed said he was reviewing the deal between Atlanta and College Park for the car tax extension, but declined to give any details about the agreement or provide a timeline when he would make a decision on whether he will OK it.
“I will talk about the results of (the agreement) when we’re done,” Reed said Tuesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for a manufacturing facility for Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta’s West End. “Everything is in really nice shape.”
Reed said his office is working on the fine print of the agreement and was confident negotiations had gone in the right direction.
“I feel good about closing it out,” he said.
Renovating Philips was used as a carrot to lock the Hawks in at the arena. The team added 18 years to their lease last November and will play at Philips until 2046.
After current arena debt is paid off, the team would pay $5.9 million per year in annual rent through the life of the lease, which includes a $200 million "break-up fee" to keep the franchise from leaving.
Former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard, who is running to succeed Reed as mayor, said there are better uses for these funds. In addition to Philips, proceeds from car rentals can also be used for tourism and cultural activities. That could go a long way to support the city’s arts centers, which desperately need support.
“We have tons of other facilities that need renovations,” she said. “We have needs for the arts and parks and the basics like sidewalks and fixing potholes. Those are the things that are important to Atlanta.”
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