APS to sell one of the former schools in Atlanta deeds dispute

Arkwright Elementary School at 1261 Lockwood Drive SW was built in the 1950s and closed in 2004 amid declining enrollment. Photo: Terry Kearns
Arkwright Elementary School at 1261 Lockwood Drive SW was built in the 1950s and closed in 2004 amid declining enrollment. Photo: Terry Kearns

Atlanta Public Schools found a buyer to pay $485,000 for a former Venetian Hills elementary school building, one of the properties the city turned over to the school district during a long-running dispute over deeds.

Arkwright Elementary School at 1261 Lockwood Drive SW was built in the 1950s and closed in 2004 amid declining enrollment.

The school board agreed this week to sell it to RYSE Media House Holdings, LLC., which intends to convert the building into a film and entertainment training and development facility, according to APS.

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The site was one of four properties that APS included in an initial 2015 lawsuit as it tried to wrestle control of property deeds from the City of Atlanta. The city had held onto the deeds to Arkwright and dozens of other school properties even after APS legally split from the city in the 1970s.

The conflict became a political battle, as former Mayor Kasim Reed refused to turn the deeds over to APS, which wanted the ability to sell land and buildings it no longer needed.

Reed wanted APS to require that properties it sold to be redeveloped into multifamily housing included affordable units.

The school board in January 2017 adopted a policy to answer Reed's concern. It requires any developer who receives money from a development authority to purchase APS property and build publicly subsidized multifamily housing to reserve at least 15 percent of the housing units for low-income residents.

In February 2017, the city transferred the Lockwood Drive property to the school district, according to Fulton County Board of Assessors records.

The company purchasing the property would have to abide by the district’s affordable-housing policy if it planned to turn the Arkwright site into a housing development instead of a training site.

The city, under Mayor Keisha Lance Bottomshas turned over dozens of additional school deeds.

Atlanta's former Arkwright Elementary School closed in 2004. Photo: Terry Kearns
Atlanta's former Arkwright Elementary School closed in 2004. Photo: Terry Kearns

The 30,829-square-foot former school features a cafeteria and auditorium with a stage, at least 15 classrooms and offices, according to the brochure prepared by the real estate firm APS used to market the property. It sits on about four acres.

APS agreed to a 75-day “due-diligence period” before the sale is finalized, and closing the sale is contingent on the property being rezoned for its new use.

The school district likely will use proceeds from the Arkwright sale to build up its fund balance, according to spokesman Seth Coleman. Since property sales are “one-time revenue,” money generated from them are not used for recurring costs, he said.