Warnock sent $16 million to project benefiting co-owner of Church’s controversial apartment complex

Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock sent $16.4 million in federal earmarks to a project that benefited the co-owner of his controversial low-income apartment complex.

The funding was intended to build a path connecting a residential and commercial complex known as “Pittsburgh Yards” to other parts of Atlanta’s BeltLine. The developer of Pittsburgh Yards is Columbia Ventures, part of the Columbia group of companies that owns and operates a low-income housing complex with the Church of Warnock.

The funding raises questions about whether Warnock’s business relationship with Columbia had any influence on his funding decision. Warnock did not respond to a request for comment.

Warnock’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he serves as senior pastor and CEO, formed in 2005 “a partnership with Columbia Residential to rehabilitate [a] dilapidated high-rises” and converted the building into low-income apartments. Ebenezer and Columbia co-own the company through a joint venture, with Ebenezer owning 99 percent and Columbia owning the remaining 1 percent, according to a state grant application filed by the entities in August.

Last November, Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff (D., Georgia) announced that they had helped secure funding for the trail project, which will extend “about two miles of the Southside Trail component of the Atlanta BeltLine from Pittsburgh Yards to Boulevard would build”. Crossing Park.”

“When we connect our communities with footpaths and bicycle paths, we provide a path for residents to enjoy local green spaces and invest in small businesses,” Warnock said in a press release. “We enhance social and economic mobility for hard-working Georgians when we make strong federal investments in projects like the Atlanta BeltLine, and I look forward to securing more infrastructure investments like this for other vital transportation projects in Atlanta and across our state.”

Atlanta’s BeltLine, under construction since 2010, has been a lucrative project for real estate developers and led to a spike in real estate values. Columbia Residential and its sister company Columbia Ventures have been working on multiple developments along the trail, which when completed will run through the city and connect neighborhoods via light rail. The $16.4 million earmarked by Warnock from the U.S. Department of Transportation funded a “critical” portion of the path connecting the “east side and the west side of the BeltLine,” starting at Pittsburgh Yards, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

One of the more ambitious projects is Pittsburgh Yards, a 31-acre mixed-use development with commercial and residential buildings. The property is owned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and was developed in partnership with Columbia Ventures.

Columbia Ventures sent requests for comment to the Casey Foundation, which forwarded requests for comment to Pittsburgh Yards. Pittsburgh Yards said it could not comment for Columbia Ventures, but said it did not believe the funding was politically motivated.

“Pittsburgh Yards and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the principal funder of Pittsburgh Yards, are nonpartisan entities and have not, and would not, have any discussions that are political in nature,” said Betsy Helgager Hughes, a spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Yards. “We also do not comment or comment on the position of other companies.”

The Warnock Church apartment complex has become a problem in his race against Republican challenger Herschel Walker leading up to the Georgia Senate runoff election on Dec. 6. Walker launched an ad campaign last week expressing concern about evictions and living conditions in the building.

Columbia Residential, which manages the apartments, has filed eviction proceedings against more than a dozen residents since the start of the pandemic, including a tenant who owed just $28.55 in back rent, the Free beacon reported first. The apartment building has also been hit with multiple city code violations due to rodent and insect infestations, overcrowded trash rooms and mold problems, according to data obtained by the Free beacon.


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