North DeKalb Mall project gets $70 million in tax reimbursements; demolition could start in 60 days

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By Sara Amis

DECATUR, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – The board of the Decide DeKalb Development Authority on Thursday voted unanimously to grant $70 million in tax reimbursements over a 15-year period to EDENS as an incentive for the company’s planned redevelopment of the 76-acre North DeKalb Mall location.

The reimbursements mean EDENS could start tearing down the mall in 60 days. EDENS also owns the Toco Hills shopping center.

The project, which will give North DeKalb Mall the new name of Lulah Hills, will be a $843 million mixed-use development.

EDENS Managing Director Herbert Ames said that proximity to Emory, Children’s Health Care of Atlanta, and the Centers for Disease Control provides an opportunity to create a project that will be sustained partially by the growing healthcare industry.

“Twenty percent of all of the new jobs that were created last month were health care jobs. That’s going to continue to be a trend, we believe,” Ames said. “There’s an enormous amount of energy and job focus here.”

Along with offices, the development will also include retail space and 1,800 housing units, with some set aside for workforce housing. Ames said that it is important to the community that people who work in Lulah Hills will also be able to live there. The AMC movie theater is staying.

The reimbursements are intended to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements including demolition of the existing mall, asbestos and other environmental remediation, utility relocation, sewer capacity expansion, street grid construction and streetscaping, a parking deck, stormwater management to protect South Fork Peachtree Creek, and a trail that will connect to Emory through Medlock Park.

EDENS will bear the upfront costs. The money will come from a “pay-as-you-go” program through the Market Square Tax Allocation District intended to promote economic development in blighted or underdeveloped areas.

EDENS will be reimbursed for taxes paid on the difference between the current value of the property and the increased value as parts of the development are completed, up to $70 million. That difference is likely to be significant, as the site is currently valued at $6 million and Ames said that EDENS expects to create between $250 million and $300 million in taxable value.

In addition, Ames anticipates $12 million per year in sales tax coming from the site.

Decide DeKalb Redevelopment and Strategic Initiatives Manager Yvette Humphries emphasized that this approach requires no money from the county up front. Reimbursements will not begin until the development is built and open for business and the taxes have already been paid.

“It’s minimal exposure to the county. This is not a bond transaction,” Humphries said.

Humphries said that the relatively low current valuation of the property came from the DeKalb tax assessor’s office, and reflects the fact that the mall is mostly empty.

Decide DeKalb Board Vice Chair Kevin Gooch asked what the timeline for the redevelopment will be.

Ames said that with the reimbursements coming, EDENS will be able to start demolition within 60 days. The first retail spaces should be open in 2025, with the first mixed-use buildings to open in 2026. Additional retail and residential space will be added in stages through about 2033.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond described the project as important for the future of the county.

“DeKalb County is in the midst of a major renaissance. North, south, east, and west,” Thurmond said.

Decide DeKalb also cast an eye on the future of South DeKalb Mall.

Humphries offered a presentation on the formation of a Southwest DeKalb TAD, which will encompass the area around the South DeKalb Mall and the brand-new Shadowbox Studios on Constitution Road.

Commissioner Ted Terry said that he believes the new TAD will be of benefit to a neglected part of the county.

“It’s a community that often feels like they’ve been forgotten. That’s a recurring theme that I hear from that area,” Terry said.

Atlanta News First media partner Decaturish contributed this story.