Parkland Acquired in Midtown Atlanta (GA)

Atlanta, 11/14/02 — The City of Atlanta today acquired a lush 7-acre tract of Midtown land from the Trust for Public Land (TPL) – thanks in part to a unique public-private partnership sparked by funding from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and residents of Atlanta’s Ardmore Park neighborhood.

The land is adjacent to Ardmore Park (which is owned and managed by the City of Atlanta) and extends to encompass Tanyard Creek, a tributary of Peachtree Creek that flows to the Chattahoochee River. The property is a rare forested tract only five miles north of downtown Atlanta and has been declared a Wildlife Sanctuary by the Atlanta Audubon Society. The site is also the epicenter of one of the most costly and decisive assaults of the Civil War – the battle of Peachtree Creek. Had the land not been saved, a developer would have put between 9 and 18 new houses on the land.

“There hasn’t been this much land available for protection in this area of the city for decades,” says Dan Bauer, president of the Ardmore Park Neighborhood Association. “This is an effort you can really get excited about because the land is right there next to an existing park and you don’t have to add anything. It’s a ready-made urban forest.”

The city purchased the land with some $654,000 generated by The Georgia Development Impact Fee Act, which allows impact fees to be collected to finance “parks, open space, and recreation areas and related facilities.” Impact fees are collected at the time of issuance of building permits and are intended to transfer part of the burden of providing expanded public facilities to service new development from the city to the developer.

The Trust for Public Land through its CitySpaces program assisted the City of Atlanta by handling the real estate negotiations and site assessments and then coordinating the transfer of the property to the city. The partnership is one of the first in the city to receive a major green space grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Other key funders include PATH, Park Pride, and the Ardmore Park Neighborhood Association – the latter raising more than $100,000 to help finance the costs of acquiring and improving the site.

Says Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin: “The acquisition of the urban forest is another great example of what public-private partnerships can do to revitalize the city. The impact fees gave us the muscle to make this project happen, and our partnership with TPL provided us with the know-how – with the community and concerned local foundations providing the additional funding we needed. People asked us to help them obtain safe connections between neighborhood and to provide more places for their children to play – and we delivered.”

Bauer says the geographical tie-in was a major reason so many people fought for the purchase.

“Neighborhood connectivity is very important,” Bauer says. “Right now, kids can’t go visit their friends without getting in a car because there’s no way you can cross Collier Road on foot. Turning this land into a park instead of developing it means that people in Ardmore Park, Brookwood Neighbors and Collier Hills will be able to visit each other without the fear of getting killed on the roads. And we’re going to have a great park.”

Funds from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation come from its agenda-setting, three-year Environmental Initiative, which will invest at least $20 million to improve the quality of life in the core of metropolitan Atlanta by preserving green space and improving parks for public use.

“We’re fortunate to have The Blank Family Foundation step up as a catalyst for partnerships to save green space,” says TPL’s Angela Graham, director of the organization’s CitySpaces program. “We value the foundation’s leadership in bringing people together to do what’s right for Atlanta.”

Atlanta City Councilwoman Clair Muller is also glad to see the project come to fruition. “The residents of Ardmore Park proved that they were serious about wanting to enhance their community,” says Muller, who early on met with neighbors and the seller – and introduced the city’s resolution to purchase the property. “The City of Atlanta is equally committed to giving the community more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.”

Reflecting on the initiative, Graham sees the Tanyard Creek Urban Forest project as a model for future efforts. “In the past, people were sometimes skeptical about trying to work with their government,” Graham says, “but we’re seeing countless examples of citizens making their voices heard and great things happening because of it. In this case, city officials responded to a group of residents, and a coalition of nonprofit organizations and foundations joined them. Things are getting done in the city of Atlanta.”

About TPL: Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate — applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Across the nation, TPL has saved more than 1.4 million acres of land. In Georgia, TPL has helped protect land throughout the state – including nearly 70 miles along the Chattahoochee River. It has also conserved land on Georgia’s coast and rivers, and in urban centers.

Posted 11/14/02