The Brookhaven Development Authority and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta entered into an intergovernmental agreement and community investment agreement totaling more than $20 million Dec. 6. The agreements came hours before the Planning Commission is set to take up CHOA’s zoning request to annex some nearly 20 acres into the city as part of its planned massive redevelopment at the I-85 and North Druid Hills Interchange.

A rendering of the finished Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta campus. (CHOA)

The Development Authority met in a special called meeting to approve the two agreements. The community investment agreement states:

  • On or before a land disturbance permit is issued for the construction of office buildings, CHOA will allocate an estimated $4 million for I-85 underpass improvements to accommodate additional lanes and a pedestrian pathway. The expectation is the the pedestrian path under I-85 will connect to the Peachtree Creek Greenway.
  • On or before the issuance of a land disturbance permit for the same office buildings, CHOA agrees to pay up to $200,000 of Brookhaven costs for construction and installation of sidewalks along the access road of I-85 from the underpass to Corporate Boulevard and along Corporate Boulevard.
  • On or before the issuance of a land disturbance permit for the $1.3 billion hospital towers, expected to be between 16 to 19 stories, CHOA agrees to fund the local match up to $10 million for modifications and upgrades to the North Druid Hills Road interchange at I-85. The city would otherwise be required to provide the local $10 million match as part of any federal and state funding. With CHOA agreeing to pick up that local match, the city will not be paying for the yet-to-be determined interchange improvements.
  • CHOA also agrees to pay $200,000 toward the interchange modification report for the North Druid Hills/I-85 interchange improvement.
  • And CHOA will pay another $100,000 toward the beautification of the North Druid Hills/I-85 interchange improvement.

Also as part of the community investment agreement, CHOA agrees to pay an estimated $6 million to provide sanitary sewer upgrades to the line that runs northward under I-85 from CHOA’s property and along Peachtree Creek before it builds its new hospital. The new sewer line will be upgraded from a 14-inch line to a 16-inch line. As part of the IGA between CHOA and Brookhaven, the city will also work to secure funding from DeKalb County for the sewer line improvements.

City Manager Christian Sigman told the development authority board members at the Dec. 6 meeting that CHOA approached the city in March 2017 about its plans for redevelopment of its North Druid Hills campus. Since that time, he said, the city and CHOA have negotiating an investment strategy.

“The community investment agreement is a significant investment by CHOA in the city cementing them as our largest employer” in the next four to five years, Sigman said.  “The city administration and mayor and city council are excited about these investments and believe they will set a model for future [partnerships], especially on Buford Highway and Executive Park.”

Sigman said CHOA’s agreement to pay the $10 million local match for the interchange upgrades is significant because the city could not afford to pay such a steep amount.

CHOA’s Chief Public Policy Officer David Tatum also addressed the development authority and said the pediatric hospital will be a large economic engine for the city as well as serve as a southern gateway to the city.

He noted that CHOA has a long clinical and academic history with Emory University, which purchased some 60 acres of Executive Park, located across the street from the CHOA campus. He said he does not know what Emory has planned for Executive Park but expects the two entities together will create a major medical center.

“We will attract higher quality businesses, hotels, restaurants … that all contribute to the local economy,” Tatum said. He added that unlike other large organizations approaching municipalities, CHOA is not asking for a tax abatement. “We’re contributing,” he said.

However, CHOA is a nonprofit organization and is exempt by federal law from having to pay property taxes.

One development authority board member asked about what impact the annexation on property into the city would have on the DeKalb County School System. Sigman said CHOA continues tot talk with the school system about the loss of revenue it would incur.

“Part of our commitment to our community is to serve as a catalyst for health and wellness, and this includes supporting shared priorities with Brookhaven, including improved transportation infrastructure, enhanced sewer access that will spur additional economic development, safe connections to the Peachtree Creek Greenway and pedestrian safety upgrades,” said Brian Brodrick, spokesperson for CHOA, in a statement. “The community investment agreement – which provides tens of millions of dollars in direct benefits to Brookhaven as well as the ability to leverage those funds for many millions more – is reflective of this commitment.”

CHOA unveiled Nov. 16 renderings and plans for its campus at the North Druids Hills Road and I-85 interchange that is slated to start early next year and be completed by 2026. The plans include a $1.3 billion hospital, the Center for Advanced Pediatrics now under construction, support buildings, parking decks and more than 20 acres of green space.

Before any dirt can be turned, though, CHOA must first receive the nod from the city of Brookhaven to annex and rezone nearly 20 acres along the I-85 Northeast Expressway to make way for an 8-story office building and 7-story parking deck. This “support” building will replace the office complex around Tullie Circle that will be torn down to make room for the new hospital.

The new hospital will replace CHOA’s Egleston Hospital on Clifton Road near Emory University. Hospital officials say Egleston is running out of bed space and is landlocked in an area where they say traffic is worse than the traffic at North Druid Hills and I-85 that spills onto arterial streets and into residential areas.

The Brookhaven Planning Commission will consider the rezoning of the annexed property along the I-85 access road, which now only allows for a 5-story building, at its Dec. 6 meeting at 7 p.m.. The City Council will consider the annexation and rezoning at its Dec. 12 meeting. Some variances are needed as well and will be considered by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Dec. 20.

The plans also call for CHOA committing $40 million toward traffic improvements around the campus as it is built out over the next nine years, including funding going toward a redesign of the I-85 interchange.