From left, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton, HB 128 sponsor Representative Allen Peake and Senate Economic Development Committee Chairman Frank Ginn after the Georgia Senate Economic Development Committee unanimously passed the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Act (HB128) out of committee in early March.
On the second to last day of the 2014 legislative session, the General Assembly passed the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fund Act. This legislation will create a revolving fund to specifically help redevelop properties across the state, and in the process help revitalize downtowns. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) will administer the fund. City governments, downtown development authorities and nonprofit groups could access the loans.
“This is truly a great tool for the revitalization of Georgia’s cities—investment dollars can be hard to come by but Georgia’s Downtown Renaissance Fund should help bridge the gap,” said GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton.
Over three years of effort went into the passage of the bill, with leadership and guidance from Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and the author of the bill, Representative Allen Peake. New DCA Commis-sioner Gretchen Corbin also helped with the bill this year. The bill implements an important component of GMA’s and the Georgia Cities Foundation’s Special Downtown Development Task Force, which calls for direct investments in Georgia’s downtowns.
DCA will create rules for the fund as well as the application process in the coming months. Over the next four years, the General Assembly may appropriate as much as $5 million a year in seed money for the fund. Through the legislative process, the bill was amended to remove a yearly set-aside of $20 million in state income tax credits for commercial investments in downtown boundaries. Legislators thought it best to hold off on that aspect of the bill while the state continues to recover from the recession. Once DCA adopts rules and the initial appropriation is made, projects that meet DCA’s qualifications should be ready to apply.
The bill will go into effect upon Governor Nathan Deal’s signature.