SE Atlanta neighborhoods: Don’t build police training facility on old prison farm site

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

A growing number of southeast Atlanta neighborhoods are speaking out against the proposal to build a massive training center for police officers and firefighters on forested land in DeKalb County.

The East Atlanta Community Association, Grant Park Neighborhood Association and South Atlantans for Neighborhood Development — which includes the neighborhoods of Ormewood Park, Benteen Park, Boulevard Heights, Woodland Hills, Glenwood Park, North Ormewood Park and Custer-McDonough-Guice — have all passed resolutions in recent weeks in opposition to the proposal.

Those communities, home to more than 20,000 city residents, are among the closest Atlanta neighborhoods to the site, which is located in unincorporated DeKalb off Key Road. The city owns the site and announced plans earlier this year to build a state-of-the-art training center that would include a building for firefighters to practice putting out blazes, a mock city, classrooms and an explosives testing area.

An ordinance is currently pending in the City Council to lease the land to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the construction of the site.

ExploreAtlanta City Council tables police and fire training center proposal

The proposal has been met with pushback from residents and advocates pushing for the preservation of the historic site and activists who oppose further police investment.

The neighborhoods’ resolutions state that they support the land’s “conservation in-perpetuity for passive greenspace, natural habitat restoration, and future public recreation uses.”

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

It adds that the neighborhoods recognize the need for high training standards for Atlanta’s first responders, but they support “a thorough and transparent public-interest review of the place-based needs and objectives for such training.”

Katie Kissel, the president of the Kirkwood Neighbors Organization, said on Twitter Sunday that she is also working on a similar resolution, and is contacting community leaders in Edgewood and East Lake.

ExploreBattle brews over land, plans for new Atlanta police and firefighter training center

The police foundation, which argues the facility is needed to bolster the staffing and training for Atlanta’s public safety responders, said in a statement that organization officials attended Grant Park’s neighborhood meeting to speak about the need for the training center.

“We invite input from all of these communities and would be happy to answer any questions they have,” the foundation said. “We want to ensure every community has complete information and there are no further factual discrepancies about the (Public Safety Training Center) and the collaborative process by which we developed the plan.”

The City Council tabled a vote on the proposal until its next meeting on Sept. 7. Several councilmembers who voted to hold off on the vote said they hope to gather more input from residents and DeKalb County officials over the next few weeks, saying the police foundation had not done an adequate public review process. The council recently amended the proposal, shrinking the amount of space that could be leased to the police foundation from 150 to 85 acres.

The $90 million center would be funded by a mix of private and public dollars involving the Atlanta Police Foundation and the city’s philanthropic community, the police foundation said. Cox Enterprises President and CEO Alex Taylor, who also chairs the Atlanta Committee for Progress, is leading the campaign to raise private funds for the project. Cox Enterprises owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.