Apr 25, 2023 - News

Data center's $45 million tax break request meets pushback

Two construction workers stand in front of a mammoth data center with a front facade of glass

Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

A billion-dollar company building a mammoth data center along the Beltline wants a $45 million tax break. Good government and urbanism advocates, community leaders and public officials are working to stop that from happening.

What's happening: Today, the Development Authority of Fulton County will consider whether QTS should get a 10-year reprieve on property taxes for its $1.3 billion server complex on West Marietta Street.

Why it matters: Critics argue that approving the deal — the largest on DAFC's agenda in recent memory, according to Julian Bene, a government finance activist — would mean less tax revenue over time in exchange for little public benefit.

  • It will only create 15 to 20 permanent jobs, QTS says. Though it's close to the Beltline, the gargantuan data center — it's roughly the length of three football fields — won't be a major tourist or retail draw.

Details: The company, purchased by financial giant Blackstone in 2021 for roughly $10 billion, is working on the first phase of its 1.5 million-square-foot development in the fast-growing (and nebulously bordered) swath of the city dubbed by some as the Upper Westside.

  • QTS says it's contributed nearly $30 million in community improvements, including allowing an easement for the Beltline to build the paved path between the property and the Westside Paper mixed-use development.

Yes, but: Arthur Toal, the president of the Howell Station Neighborhood Association, says QTS told the community during pre-construction talks that the company had no plans at the time to request tax incentives.

What they're saying: The Beltline is funded partly by growth in nearby property taxes. In a memo to DAFC obtained by Axios, Beltline CEO Clyde Higgs said the organization opposed the tax break, saying "in this instance [it] would limit ABI’s future ability to deliver on key programmatic goals such as trails, parks, and affordable housing."

  • A QTS spokesperson did not respond to specific questions from Axios. In a statement, they said the center would "unlock the potential of the community and establish the FinTech capital of the world" and "have a powerful and positive impact on the surrounding area."

Of note: Atlanta elected officials have strongly criticized DAFC for giving incentives to developers to build in red-hot areas like the Beltline and Midtown and without requiring affordable units, undercutting the city's goals to improve social equity.


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