Monumental memorial park challenge in NW Atlanta strikes ahead

A greenspace challenge in northwest Atlanta is shifting ahead that backers envision as one of many solely websites in America devoted to relaying the story of the dreadful convict leasing system that grew to become prevalent in years following the Civil Warfare.

A yr and ½ after the previous Chattahoochee Brick Firm web site made headlines lauded by preservationists and neighborhood teams, Metropolis of Atlanta officers have unveiled plans for gathering neighborhood enter relating to the location’s future, starting later this week.

Town is partnering with the Nationwide Middle for Civil and Human Rights to host a sequence of discussions at The Carter Presidential Middle with a purpose of illuminating the property’s troubled historical past—and defining targets for its redevelopment.

The acreage is greater than 3 times the dimensions of Centennial Olympic Park, and different attributes of the location could be distinctive amongst Atlanta greenspaces. 

The previous Chattahoochee Brick Firm web site close to northwest Atlanta neighborhoods comparable to Whittier Mill Village, Scotts Crossing, and Riverside. Google Maps

Remnants of the location’s previous makes use of nonetheless dot the property. Picture by Stacy Funderburke; courtesy of The Conservation Fund

The free month-to-month seminars shall be held between this Saturday, Feb. 17, and June at The Carter Presidential Middle. In keeping with metropolis officers, the conferences are thought of the primary section of neighborhood involvement in bringing the historic web site right into a extra helpful state.

Saturday’s two-hour seminar begins at 1 p.m., with Morehouse School’s Clarissa Myrick-Harris scheduled to offer the keynote handle. It’s going to lend an outline of the Chattahoochee Brick challenge “and become involved within the upcoming course of to rework the location from its former use to 1 that not solely memorializes those that labored (and probably died) there, but in addition one that may serve the wants of Atlanta residents at this time,” in keeping with the occasion’s registry web page.

Advancing the parks challenge to this stage was an arduous course of.

Following protracted negotiations, metropolis officers bought the 75-acre former Chattahoochee Brick Firm web site from Lincoln Terminal Firm in summer season 2022. That buy—aided by a $4-million grant from Atlanta nonprofit The Kendeda Fund and nationwide environmental nonprofit The Conservation Fund—spared the culturally vital riverside property from private, industrial makes use of, comparable to a prepare terminal or chemical depot.

Located at this time on Brick Plant Highway, subsequent to the historic Whittier Mill Village neighborhood, the brickworks enterprise owned by former Atlanta mayor James W. English relied on intensive use of convict lease labor from the late 1870s to early 1900s. Lots of of males, most of them Black, had been accused of typically petty crimes comparable to vagrancy and compelled to endure working circumstances and beatings so extreme that many died—till convict labor was outlawed in Georgia in 1909.

Historians and others with curiosity within the web site imagine it’s dotted with unmarked graves.

The previous Chattahoochee Brick Firm web site, a 75-acre win for ITP greenspace preservation in 2022. Picture by Stacy Funderburke; courtesy of The Conservation Fund

Picture by Stacy Funderburke; courtesy of The Conservation Fund

Industrial makes use of continued on the property till about 20 years in the past, and makes an attempt by environmental nonprofits and the Metropolis of Atlanta to purchase the location had by no means come to fruition. Group members and descendants of laborers subjected to atrocities fought for the location’s safety for years.

Lincoln Terminal Firm ultimately purchased the location and deliberate to redevelop however was denied a allow in 2017; that firm’s subsequent plans to promote to Norfolk Southern, which hoped to construct a prepare terminal, had been met with fierce pushback from activists and metropolis leaders. These redevelopment plans had been formally scrapped in 2021.  

Extra lately, the town has put collectively an 11-member group referred to as the Chattahoochee Brick Firm Memorial, Greenspace, and Park Board as a way of holding the visioning, planning, design, and redevelopment phases extra clear and inclusive.

A city-issued announcement final week says the method of gathering public enter is anticipated to take “a number of years.” A memorial honoring victims of lease labor practices shall be an integral a part of no matter turns into of the land, officers have stated.

The location may even increase too-rare public entry to the Chattahoochee River for metropolis residents. It’s anticipated to ultimately be linked to the Proctor Creek Greenway and the a lot bigger, 53-mile Chattahoochee RiverLands initiative.

The 75-acre parcel in query, adjoining to the Chattahoochee River. Picture by Stacy Funderburke; courtesy of The Conservation Fund

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