In many ways, 2019 was a year of new beginnings in south Fulton County. The cities of College Park, East Point, Fairburn, Hapeville, Palmetto, City of South Fulton and Union City all saw development, construction and businesses investing on the southside, priming the area to become the place to live, work, shop and play like never before. Here are some of top news stories highlighted in 2019 in the South Fulton Neighbor:

-The city of East Point celebrated ribbon cutting after ribbon cutting in 2019, but none more so anticipated than when the new city hall opened to the public. A journey that started 10 years ago for the city marked significant progress at the end of April with the opening of the 32,000 square foot building. The new city hall is home to city offices, a multipurpose city council chamber and an additional 2,400 square feet for future growth. “This is not just a government complex but also a venue for greater events and for the residents to use right in the heart of our downtown area,” said Deputy City Manager Deron King at the grand opening celebration.

-Tackling food insecurity and access to more nutritional food options, East Point also became the home of two important food-oriented resources for the south Fulton community and beyond. In February, the Atlanta Community Food Bank held a groundbreaking ceremony to begin work on its new headquarters at the intersection of Redwine Road and Desert Drive. Construction of the new facility stirred some controversy last year as some East Point residents expressed their disapproval of the $15 million, 344,000-square-foot headquarters with a warehouse and office east of I-285 and next to the Williamsburg area. Opponents cited traffic issues and city planning staff recommended denial of the permits needed to rezone and move forward with the project. The expected opening of the new building will be announced and is currently scheduled to take place before the spring of 2020. As the project progresses, the food bank in Atlanta will continue to operate as usual.

In August, East Point was selected as the pilot location for a plan to prioritize urban agriculture. Atlanta-based nonprofit Food Well Alliance, which is a collaborative network of local food leaders, is heading up the new program called the City Agricultural Plan. Guided by the planning expertise of the Atlanta Regional Commission, the goal is connect thriving community gardens and urban farms in order to provide greater access to locally grown food across the metro Atlanta Region. “We are thrilled the City of East Point will be joining us in this exciting new endeavor,” said Food Well Alliance Executive Director Kim Karris. “We believe that East Point is uniquely poised to take bold steps and become a national model for urban agriculture. The work begins today, and it couldn’t come at a more crucial time. Metro Atlanta is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and our cities are rapidly becoming more developed. This threatens the long-term viability of community gardens and farms. The City Agriculture Plan paves a way for city officials to work directly with growers and community leaders to determine the policies, ordinances, and programs that will move the needle most effectively.” Once the plan is developed, Food Well Alliance will guide the implementation of the plan and provide a minimum of $75,000 in funding to help the community bring it to life, according to officials.

-The city of College Park was flying high when they celebrated the official opening of the Gateway Center Arena, new home of the College Park Skyhawks, the G-team affiliate of the Atlanta Hawks, as well as the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. The $46 million venue has a seating capacity of 3,500 fans for basketball games and more than 5,000 for concerts. It had its official ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 7, attended by more than 350 governmental, business and civic leaders from throughout south Fulton. “This arena is a tremendous achievement not only for this city, but for Georgia,” stated College Park City Manager Terrance Moore. The brand new College Parks Skyhawks team played their first game at the end of November.

-College Park voters made their voices heard and their ballots count by electing a new mayor in the Dec. 3 runoff elections. In College Park, Bianca Motley Broom was able to obtain almost 70 percent of the 1,472 ballots cast, unseating longtime incumbent Jack Longino who is currently serving his sixth consecutive term as mayor. According to her campaign website, Motley Broom ran on a platform of creating more opportunities for small businesses, advocating the restructuring of city-wide spending practices to improve allocation of resources, integrating more cultural programming to create a vibrant live, work, play community accessible to all residents, increasing community access to quality job and more. Motley Broom is a mediator for a firm in Atlanta and has served on the boards of the Historic College Park Neighborhood Association and The Main Street Academy since moving to the city in 2008. “I will lead with integrity, strength, and compassion. We need a servant leader who will advocate for our youth, our seniors, and everyone in between,” stated Motley Broom on her campaign website. She will be sworn in on January 6.

- Fulton County Schools celebrated construction of a state-of-the-art STEM facility in Fairburn with a groundbreaking ceremony in November. In August 2021, Fulton County Schools will open two STEM-focused schools where students will study high-tech, high-demand college and career courses. The South Fulton STEM School is being built adjacent to Campbellton Elementary School in Fairburn. Designed to accommodate 900 students within a 147,000-square-foot structure, the school will also put its focus on courtyards that will be an extension of the classrooms. The plan also provides for a gym, classroom pods, music technology, student center, auditorium, and more. SPLOST is funding the new school’s construction. In December, it was revealed that Anthony Newbold was chosen as principal of the yet-to-be-named school. “I am excited to not only bring something into Fairburn and the south Fulton community that has never been there before, (but) I am equally excited about getting in there and serving that community,” Newbold said.

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