Atlanta council approves Mims park proposal

After reassurances from Atlanta officials that a proposed 16-acre park would not worsen flooding in the troubled Vine City neighborhood, Atlanta's City Council approved plans to create Historic Mims Park, along with sculptures of civil rights leaders, an urban farm, and an 80-foot "peace column."

In a vigorous debate on Monday, some residents and city council members asked for the plans of the National Monuments Foundation to be slowed down. But there was support for it also. One resident said she had collected 30 signatures in favor of the proposed park, a few blocks from the Georgia Dome.

Speaking a few moments later, former state represnetative and Atlanta city council member "Able" Mable Thomas urged the council to "slow this train up just a little bit" to allow for a public work session on the park.

Proponents won out, citing the need to create jobs in an area that has lost residents and been battered by foreclosures over the years.

Ivory Lee Young Jr., who represents the area on the city council, said the Atlanta-based monuments foundation had agreed to develop the park and fund the expected cost of more than $50 million.

"Right now, without the National Monuments Foundation, there is no project," Young said. "We have nothing to lose and everything to gain from this project. There will be a plethora of opportunities for normal folks to profit."

But Bob Bell, who once owned four rental homes in Vine City, said he was skeptical about the park unless adequate security could be provided. His properties were routinely vandalized by copper thieves.

"I really, really tried for about eight years to improve the quality of life in that neighborhood," Bell said. "In return, I lost a small fortune and was the victim of countless crimes. A new park would be just another place for street level crime."

Councilman Aaron Watson said he hoped for more formal assurances that rising property values and higher property taxes would not price existing residents out of their homes.

"I understand there is a commitment to do some of this stuff, but I wish it was in writing," Watson said. "I would hate to see us have this incredible investment in Vine City and not have any of the current residents enjoy it."