Large Downtown Decatur Greenspace To Become Park and School

From the City of Decatur just minutes ago…

On May 9, 2017, the Board of Education of City Schools of Decatur voted to purchase property at the corner of Commerce Drive and West Trinity Place from the Housing Authority of the City of Decatur for future expansion by the school system. The City of Decatur worked closely with City Schools of Decatur and the Decatur Housing Authority during negotiations to assure that a portion of the site would serve as an open greenspace park for community use.

Mayor Patti Garrett said, “This property offers an opportunity for shared park and green space in partnership with CSD that will be similar to shared spaces in Winnona Park and Westchester and at City facilities such as McKoy and Oakhurst Park. We are grateful for the support of CSD and the Decatur Housing Authority in finding a way to protect a portion of this site for community use.”

The City of Decatur will coordinate with CSD to provide basic amenities such as benches, picnic tables and trash cans but the space will remain primarily an unprogrammed passive open greenspace available for community use until CSD is ready to move forward with construction of a new building. The City of Decatur will work closely with CSD in the future as they develop an overall plan for the property that includes shared open greenspace on the site. Commissioner Tony Powers added that “we appreciate everything that CSD and the Decatur Housing Authority have done to move this agreement forward and are excited that there is neighborhood access to the site.”

The release from CSD (below) indicates that CSD intends to build an Early Childhood Learning Center on the property if College Heights is needed as an elementary school.  Decaturish is reporting from the School Board meeting this evening, where the Board is deciding between two scenarios (in short, make elementary schools K-2 with less redistricting or keep as K-3 with more redistricting) to expand capacity within the growing school system.

City Schools of Decatur (CSD) and Decatur Housing Authority (DHA) are pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached on the purchase and sale of DHA’s property between Commerce Drive and Electric Avenue, south of Trinity Place, and north of DHA’s Allen Wilson and Oliver House properties. CSD is purchasing this 2.88-acre property from DHA for $4.4 million. The CSD Board of Education and DHA Board of Commissioners have approved the attached purchase agreement, and the CSD Board has passed the attached resolution. Pending approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the purchase will close in approximately three to six months.

 

We are excited about the potential that this property offers to the community. CSD intends to use the property for an early childhood center if College Heights is needed as an elementary school. This use will assist CSD in returning to one of the core purposes of our early childhood program–preparing economically disadvantaged students for a successful experience in kindergarten and beyond. Additionally, we recognize the need for green space in the vicinity of downtown Decatur and look forward to working with the City to develop outdoor space that can serve the needs of the school during the school day and the needs of the community outside school hours. Until the property is needed for a building, CSD will work with the City to provide basic park amenities, such as benches, picnic tables, and trash cans, so the community can begin using the space immediately.

As student enrollment continues to grow, the CSD Board of Education and staff continue to seek out land to proactively plan for future buildings and additions to existing buildings. In the last year, the Board has purchased land at Talley Street, houses adjacent to College Heights and Westchester, and the Board is still in discussion with Columbia Ventures and DeKalb County about land at the Avondale MARTA site.

CSD and DHA have a long history of partnering to serve the best interests of our shared stakeholders, and we look forward to continuing such partnerships into the future. The economic, racial, and cultural diversity that DHA brings to the community is part of what makes the school district great. DHA plans to utilize the proceeds from the sale of this property to invest and support DHA’s affordable housing efforts in Decatur, including the potential revitalization of the Swanton Heights community in the future.

Photo courtesy of Google Streetview

22 thoughts on “Large Downtown Decatur Greenspace To Become Park and School”


  1. It is unfortunate that schools suck up so much greenspace. The urbanization of Decatur is transforming it so, it is becoming less appealing. Those with different views that are not respected will eventually leave.

    1. Gosh, when I read this last night I was certain there wouldn’t be anyone upset about this.

      The City gets greenspace, the schools get flexibility on the build out conundrum, and the land stays out of the hands of developers cramming in more apartments or mixed use. I can’t think of a better possible outcome for the City.

      I’d be curious to know how this could have been better for you? And if you suggest the City buy it purely for greenspace, with what funding source?

      1. In addition to school flexibility and downtown greenspace, let’s not forget that the deal also allows DHA’s ongoing redevelopment of substandard housing into new units to remain funded. So it’s actually a win-win-win.

        Just out of curiosity, what are the “different views” Robert references that are not being accommodated in some way with this deal? The only one I can think of would be a desire to preserve our downtown of 20 years ago in amber as an historic diorama depicting what life was like in Decatur after decades of disinvestment.

          1. I wouldn’t say “plan.” More like expectation. DHA’s plan has always been to sell that parcel to help finance their redevelopment efforts. Previous talk of a mixed-use building only reflected an expectation at the time that that’s where the market would be. So far as I know, they’ve never had any particular preference for or insistence on a mixed-use building and have always been open to offers of any kind.

    2. This wasn’t greenspace until very recently. It was affordable housing and was still owned and being considered for more of it. I, for one, never viewed it as a permanent park. If we want the city to stay viable, the school system has to adapt. This is a great compromise. I’ve been here more than 20 years and both of my children are CSD graduates (now out of college), this is the sort of thing that has to happen to keep our community vital.

  2. This is good news. But I wish they’d use it as a more centrally located 3-5 academy and turn F.AVE into a neighborhood K-2. Right now both of the 3-5 schools are scheduled to be at the edges of the city limits (and resulting in a lot of neighborhood traffic from kids across town who don’t take the bus). But I’m VERY happy about the greenspace, either way.

    1. I don’t think F.AVE could be used for K-2 due to the classrooms located on upper level floors.

      1. With Early Learnig Center restricted to lower floors, perhaps this land purchase provides even more flex for CSD, the City and DHA. If additional high school space is needed, upper floors could be designed for use by DHS (separate entrances, etc). This space is in such a good vertical building location, the CSD cental office, DHA and the City should consider if it could use higher floor level space for offices/rec/artists space, senior living, a nonprofit community movie theater, etc. I’m sure there are restrictions on combining some of these activities, but there is time to work out some legislation to accomplish max bang for 4.4mil buck.

  3. One huge advantage to building the ECLC in this location will be the proximity to low income housing. Transporting children under 4 is no easy task and this location will enable those children to walk or roll to preschool. This is great news!

    1. Why aren’t the kids taking the bus? If not, they are adding that much more to pollution and traffic. I get really tired of seeing people dropping their kids off at school. That’s what the buses are for. Don’t tell me it’s because you can’t get your kid up that early. My FAVEer has been getting up at 6:15 every morning for two years to catch the bus. We live about as far from FAVE as we can get. There’s no way I would contribute to pollution and traffic and the sucking up of my time to drive him to school every day.

      Apologies…this is supposed to be a reply to Danielle!

      1. Agree 100%. My daughter takes the bus every morning. I started to express that same sentiment in my comment but then didn’t feel like even getting into it because there are families that just won’t do it. If it were up to me, kids would walk their own selves to school every morning, even long distances, like we did when I was a kid (up hill both ways of course). Now if kids do walk they’re outnumbered by grownups. So much for independence.

      2. While there is busing for prek students there is no bus for ECLC preschool students (ages 0-3).

  4. I don’t know the age distribution of the kids in the DHA properties that are along either side of Trinity (they have properties in Oakhurst too), but it’s a win for them whatever the grades/ages it houses, which I agree is a good thing.

  5. Call me crazy, but I generally prefer the breaking news coming out of Decatur to the breaking news coming out of DeKalb. I continue to be surprised by CSD and the City, but usually in a good way, and I continue to be surprised by the news and “exposure” coming out of DeKalb, and usually not in a good way.

  6. A bravura move for all involved. (Eventually) using this as a shared ECLC and park space is a proven model with College Heights and McKoy Park, and having the ECLC so centrally located would be great for everyone. And look how many constituencies they appease with this one move:

    • Folks who lamented that that spot (or at least some portion of it) would be lost as green space.
    • Folks who criticized the Beacon Hill sale as a missed opportunity to expand CSD near the square/high school.
    • Folks who very much wanted the ECLC to survive in the new CSD configuration.
    • And with the announcement that CSD is going with the K-2 plan (for the better part of the next decade, one assumes), folks who worried that any reconfiguration would still leave schools close to capacity and not take into account future growth. Now when growth south of the tracks necessitates the conversion of College Heights to another K-2, there will be a built in release valve without sacrificing the ECLC.

    If there’s a Venn diagram of the above, I fall right in the middle. Could not be more thrilled all around.

    1. Agree and in addition, maybe this will increase the enrollment of at risk preschoolers and preKers, the population that attracted the original donation that funded the ECLC. While I was grateful for the time that one of my children spent in preK there, I was shocked to see how few of the students then seemed to be the at risk population that the ECLC was supposed to target.

  7. Really happy to see this remain as much-needed green space in Decatur. Also really sad to see every green thing chopped down at that new development on Trinity, especially that giant old magnolia where the farmer’s market was. If I’d known, I would’ve sat in that tree!!

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