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State votes to sell Pullman yard to entertainment company

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State votes to sell Pullman yard to entertainment company

The Pullman Yard in Kirkwood. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

This story has been updated. 

In a surprise move, the Georgia Building Authority voted to sell Kirkwood’s historic Pullman Yard to Atomic Entertainment for $8 million.

The GBA declined to provide any details about the proposal by Atomic Entertainment, but other bidders said the company wants to turn the property into an entertainment complex, including a film studio. The company does not have a corporate registration in Georgia. No representative from the company spoke at Wednesday’s GBA meeting and it wasn’t clear if anyone from the company was in attendance. The board did not discuss the details of Atomic Entertainment’s proposal during this meeting.

GBA posted a list of attendees at a Jan 18 bidders conference on its website and Atomic Entertainment’s name does not appear on the sign-in sheet.

A representative of the company, Adam Rosenfelt, spoke to Curbed Atlanta and said Pullman will become a “‘cool mixed-use destination’ that stresses historic preservation, and a movie factory that’s basically the antithesis of walled-off fortresses for film production.”

The Curbed article notes that, “Rosenfelt and his cohorts had been scouting the country for an ideal setting to build an entertainment and arts district, to no avail, when associates in Atlanta pointed them toward the Pullman Yard property about eight months ago.” To read the full story from Curbed, click here.

The state put the Pullman Yard property on the market in December.

Attempts by Decaturish to reach the company have been unsuccessful.

Another bidder, a joint venture between Fabric Developers and Civitas Housing Group, offered $8 million for the property. An attorney for GBA told Decaturish the company was required provide 3 percent of the bid amount up front, but only offered 1.5 percent, which disqualified it.

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Other bidders who attended Wednesday’s meeting thought there would be a second round of bidding with a formal decision by GBA in June. There were five bidders under consideration, but there was some interest for people who weren’t being considered officials at the meeting said. The Atlanta Land Bank made an offer, according to comments made during the meeting.

The other bidders said a flow chart in the bid documents said there would be a “best and final offer process.” That led them to believe that GBA would give the bids another look before making a decision. An official at the meeting told the board that they had the discretion to approve the sale without initiating this process.

Here is the flow chart:

ITB Process Flow Chart

GBA posted responses to bidder questions online. The document said that GBA expected to make a decision about selling the property sometime in June, and there was no indication the board would vote to dispose of the property this month.

Here are the questions and answers:

Pullman ITB GBA #12-16 Responses to Bidder Questions (1)

The other bidders Decaturish spoke to were upset with the board’s decision, saying they intended to submit higher offers in what they assumed would be a second round of bidding.

During the meeting, Gov. Nathan Deal asked board members if they wanted to open up a second round of bidding from the five companies that were under consideration. The board instead opted to sell the property to Atomic Entertainment, even as other bidders insisted they could make a better offer.

Questions about whether the historic aspects of the property would be preserved loomed large in the discussion about the bidding process, if not the process itself.

The minimum bid was $5.6 million. Community members pressed the state to preserve the historic structures on the site. While the state has declined to answer questions about the sale of the 27-acre property, it has made clear that preservation is not its primary concern. Questions about the history of the property were among the questions bidders asked the GBA. The questions were repeatedly ignored by state officials.

Here’s one example:

Q: What is the reasoning that historic preservation was taken out of this bid?

A: This question is not specific to the current [Invitation to Bid] and/or the property; therefore no response is given.

In late November the Atlanta Urban Design Commission backed away from a proposal that would’ve given Kirkwood’s Pullman Yard landmark status. The state pressured the Urban Design Commission to drop its proposal, saying it was immune to any actions taken by the city to preserve the structure.

While the GBA has not made historic preservation a priority, its bid documents do give some of the history of the site.

According to the bid documents, The Pratt-Pullman Yard – originally farmland purchased in 1904 by the Pratt Engineering Company for a sugar and fertilizer processing plant – was used for munitions manufacturing during World War I.

It was purchased in 1922 by the Pullman Passenger Rail Company and used as a rail car service and repair facility. Southern Iron and Equipment Company used it from 1955 to the 1970’s. The facility was closed after the federal court order split up the Pullman Passenger Rail Company.

Georgia Power used the facility for its fleet of Trackless Trolleys, a name for electric buses. The Georgia Building Authority bought the property in 1990. It was briefly used as part of the New Georgia Railroad, a dinner train running from Underground Atlanta to Stone Mountain. In recent years, it has become a popular filming location.