The possible sale of Atlanta Memorial Park in Buckhead to the state will go before the Atlanta City Council next week, but not before the city hears from the community on the issue.
After the council’s finance committee approved the legislation regarding the transaction Wednesday, the council could vote on the deal at its meeting June 6 at 1 p.m. But that meeting will come after a community meeting set for June 3 at 3 p.m. at E. Rivers Elementary School on Peachtree Battle Ave., said District 8 Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, whose district includes the park.
District 10 Councilman C.T. Martin, on the behalf of Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, introduced legislation calling for both the park and a nearly half-acre, empty parcel of land downtown where the World of Coca-Cola previously was located to be sold to the state. According to the legislation, the city would get in return a piece of land downtown known as the plaza parcel and state parking deck.
It is part of a deal that includes the city's sale of Underground Atlanta to WRS Inc. Real Estate Investments, a Mount Pleasant, South Carolina-based company that plans to transform it into a mixed-use development. The plaza property is next to Underground.
“The committee voted to send the [legislation] forward with no recommendation on the condition that there was a meeting June 3,” Adrean said Thursday. “I abstained and Felicia Moore voted no and the rest of the [committee] voted yes.”
She said before the vote Reed and others spoke about the deal.
“The mayor came and made a brief statement about the transaction between the state and the city and the various parcels of real estate involved,” Adrean said. “He talked about how badly the state wanted this property to provide a world-class golf course as a part of the state’s golf portfolio.
“Following that, there were between 25 and 30 people who participated in public comment and the majority of them were from the PGA and its various programs. Some of them were from the Georgia [State] Golf Association, and there were some who were part of a new Friends group that formed to help raise money to fund this park’s improvements and they talked about their vision. They talked about the programs that would affect juniors and children. There were also some neighbors who had some concerns, so I asked the mayor if we could have a community meeting.”
The 199-acre park includes the Bobby Jones Golf Course, the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, a playground and trails on both the east and west side of Northside Drive. Adrean said the legislation includes provisions to allow the city to lease from the state the tennis center for $1 a year for 50 years; to protect the golf course’s clubhouse, which dates back to 1941, nine years after the golf course was built; and to keep the city’s commitment to spend at least $30 million to help fix the stormwater sewer overflow problems that have plagued the park.
Tony Smith, president of Friends of Bobby Jones Golf Course, which helps beautify and maintain the links, said several commercial interests, including Georgia State University’s golf team, which is seeking a permanent practice facility; the Georgia State Golf Association, which could move its Georgia Golf Hall of Fame there; and U.S. Kids Golf; would like to see the park owned by the state.
Smith said in February if the state takes ownership of the park, he fears the course will be transformed from an 18-hole format to a nine-hole one, which is part of the conservancy’s master plan that includes adding a parking deck and a driving range, a move he said will cause the course to lose business.
Adrean said if the state buys the park, she hopes it will follow through on its promise to invest $50 million in improvements and “be good stewards and good partners with the neighborhood.”
“I’m eager to hear from a state representative and see if we can all work together,” she said.
In a letter to its members and residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the park, Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy board president Kirk Billings and Executive Director Catherine Spillman said they were “seeking to fully understand more about this pending legislation and potential beneficial impact to the park.”