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"Endangered" Auburn Ave. could benefit from new tax zone

7:06 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- The first few feet of street car track are already embedded below the asphalt at the project's east end at Auburn Avenue. The streetcar line's value has been hotly debated. 

Yet the state has upped the ante by making the Auburn Avenue business district a state opportunity zone -- making tax credits available for new or expanding businesses hiring new employees.

"It means you don't have to be a large business to make use of this tax credit," said Duriya Farooqui, Chief Operating Officer for the city of Atlanta. "All you need is a creation of two net jobs to qualify for this credit."

Two years ago, Grant Henry opened a bar called Church behind the King Center, in an area that has since started to blossom as an entertainment district. "It's a risk. It's a real risk down here," Henry said. He thinks the new tax district will jumpstart more businesses.

"That's huge. And I think its huge for people who want to expand. I mean, when I think of expanding, that's another reason to do it," Henry said.

Henry's business sits one block away from Auburn Avenue-- a paradoxical tourist attraction that's filled with history, yet is rife with empty storefronts and decaying buildings. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed the Sweet Auburn district as one of America's most endangered historic districts.

Local officials touting the new opportunity zone are hopeful that it will also engender a long-overdue turnaround on Auburn Avenue. Henry thinks it has a shot.

"I don't think it's going to change everything. But it's like lubrication for the process," Henry said.

Same thing, he says, with that street car line -- due to open for business, and change the landscape here, about a year from now.

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