A Downtown Development Authority (DDA) a major decision-making and project driven entity that plans and manages the downtown business district. A DDA is a corporate body recognized by State law, and from an Internal Revenue perspective, the DDA is considered to be governmental tax-exempt. The DDA is eligible to receive certain grant monies, whereas, a local business or merchants association may not qualify. The DDA can utilize a variety of financing tools outlined in the Official Code of Georgia. Money created from the implementation of these tools can be used in several ways to bring about revitalization and economic development of the central business district.
The DDA can work with volunteers from the local business association, citizens, the city, and county to bring about the revitalization of the downtown area, or depending on a set of criteria for qualification, a DDA may choose to initiate a Main Street or other type of program to assist with redevelopment.
CREATION: Since the passage of the 1981 Downtown Development Authorities Law, cities of all sizes have created DDAs. Many of these became inactive after changes in federal tax codes in 1986 removed certain tax incentives for downtown improvement loans, but many others have continued to work to strengthen their downtowns. Often simply having a well-structured and focused organization with a comprehensive and long-term view of downtown, cities have seen positive results and have prevented opportunities from being lost by utilizing the powers of their DDAs.
There are two types of DDAs in the State of Georgia; statutory and constitutional authorities. The latter is not common. Constitutional DDA’s have some unique features that statutory DDA’s do not, but for the most part they are very similar and serve the same purpose. Most DDAs are statutory and all DDAs have bylaws that they adopt and are subject to.
The Downtown Development Authorities Law of 1981 created “in and for each municipal corporation in the State a public body corporate and politic to be known as the Downtown Development Authority of such municipal corporation…” This law authorizes a DDA in every city in Georgia. It eliminated the need for individual local legislation to establish constitutional authorities, which had previously been the case. These DDAs must be activated by city government before they can function.
This is done by first designating the downtown area boundaries with the city; appointing the initial directors of the authority; creating a resolution which also declares that there is a need for such an Authority; pass the resolution and file copies of the resolution with the Secretary of State and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

MEMBERS: The DDA Law indicates that each authority shall consist of a board of seven directors. These directors must be taxpayers residing in the county in which the authority is located. At least four of the directors must also be owners or operators of downtown businesses. Directors of authorities created under the DDA law are appointed by the governing body of the municipality. Directors appointed after January 1, 1992 are required to attend and complete at least eight hours of training on downtown development and redevelopment programs.
PROJECTS: Each authority can undertake commercial, business, office, industrial, parking, or public projects where these will have a benefit for the downtown. (Certain public projects such as the construction of government buildings and streets are not permissible DDA projects). A 1988 amendment added hospitals, skilled nursing homes, and intermediate care homes where such facilities are operated on a not-for-profit basis.
Cities are encouraged to work with their DDAs to implement downtown master plans, acquire and dispose of commercial property, recruit target businesses, and achieve long-rang strategic goals. The 1981 amendments also gave cities the express authorization to create special tax, fee, or assessment districts within the area of operation of downtown authorities, to be used exclusively for downtown redevelopment.
POWERS: The following are powers that are specifically provided to the DDA created under the Downtown Development Authorities Law of 1981:
  1. To sue and be sued.
  2. To adopt and to change as necessary a corporate seal.
  3. To make and execute contracts and other agreements, such as contracts for construction, lease or sale of projects or agreements to finance projects.
  4. To purchase and own property, real or personal and to sell or otherwise dispose of property, lease or rent property. The authority’s property is tax-exempt.
  5. To finance projects by loan, grant, lease or otherwise.
  6. To finance projects using revenue bonds or other obligations of authority.
  7. To borrow money. To apply for and receive government grants, loans, loan guarantees or other financial assistance.
  8. To receive and use city tax monies. (The City can levy a tax up to three mills for the support of the authority. See Official Code of Georgia Annotated 48-5-350).
  9. To employ an executive director for the downtown revitalization efforts.
  10. To prepare plans for the downtown area or to hire others to prepare plans.
  11. To exercise any power of public or private corporations under state law, which does not conflict with the authority’s public purpose.
The 1992 Amendments (Act No. 1334) added the following powers:
1.   To serve as an urban redevelopment agency under the Urban Redevelopment Law.
2.   To serve as a redevelopment agency under the Redevelopment Powers Law.
3.   To contract with a city government to carry out City Business Improvement District services in a downtown.
4.   To acquire real property through eminent domain (subject to the approval of the City and the meeting of other requirements.)
These amendments also gave cities the express authorization to create special tax, fee, or assessment districts within the area of operation of downtown authorities. This authorization is pursuant to Article IX, Section II, Paragraph VI of the Georgia Constitution.