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Report: Norfolk Southern '100%' Moving HQ To Atlanta

The current headquarters of Norfolk Southern in Norfolk, Va.

Is Norfolk Southern's headquarters move to Atlanta a foregone conclusion? Many in the rail company's Virginia hometown seem to think so.

Despite the efforts of Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander to convince the railway giant to maintain its headquarters in Hampton Roads, Virginia, the move to Atlanta “is not a question of if but when,” the Virginian-Pilot reports.

“They're gone; they're gone,” one source told the paper, adding that the chance of Norfolk Southern's move was “100%.”

That could be music to the ears of Georgia state and Atlanta city officials — both hungry for more economic development victories on top of some big wins in recent years — as well as Cousins Propertieswhich was reported recently to be buying a 4.1-acre parcel in Midtown Atlanta that is being viewed as the front-runner to land the Fortune 500 company's headquarters.

But that deal is tied in complicated ways to Atlanta's city council battle over an incentive package that could be worth up to $1.75B. Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group has proposed a $5B mixed-use project on a 40-acre, downtown parcel known as The Gulch. CIM envisions a project spanning 9M SF of office, 1M SF of retail and hundreds of hotel rooms and apartments, some of which would be designated toward affordable renters.

Renderings of the plaza level of CIM's planned Gulch redevelopment in Downtown Atlanta.

The plots of land that make up the Gulch are divided among five owners: Norfolk Southern, the city, the state of Georgia, the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority and MARTA. Sources previously told Bisnow that Norfolk Southern is seeking to use the proceeds of the Gulch sale toward its headquarters move to Atlanta.

That sale is far from a sure thing. Despite Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' continued pressure on city council members to approve the deal, there has been widespread resistance among both city officials and residents to the incentive package. Monday, the city council failed to pass a measure to bring in an outside auditor to scrutinize the Gulch deal, just two weeks after Bottoms delayed a vote in the city council on it. The council is next expected to vote on the package Oct. 15.

City officials and their many allies for the deal, including Central Atlanta Progress and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, have pushed public relations efforts among voters to garner support for The Gulch deal in recent days, including through a social media and internet campaign under the moniker “Greenlight the Gulch,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“We are clear that the redevelopment of the Gulch is an imperative worthy of deliberate, timely and thoughtful consideration,” Metro Chamber CEO Hala Moddelmog told the paper. "As we work toward our mission of making metro Atlanta more vibrant and prosperous, breathing new life into downtown Atlanta is a clear priority."