Eleven days after a Georgia state trooper was shot and a young protester fatally wounded near the controversial Atlanta Public Safety Training Center’s proposed site, the city’s mayor and other metro government leaders have detailed a plan they say will boost nearby neighborhoods and spare as much forestland as possible.

Meanwhile, critics of so-called “Cop City” plans who feel the project would unnecessarily destroy one of Atlanta’s last intact forests are calling for Mayor Andre Dickens to resign.

Dickens joined DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond near the 1500 Key Road training complex site Tuesday to unveil a “memorandum of understanding and statement of principle” they say solidifies their commitment to making sure the project serves as a “community resource,” that will “protect and enhance the surrounding environment” while spurring local business and job opportunities.

An overview of the site in question, located about six miles from downtown Atlanta. Moreland Avenue is at left, while the southern section of Interstate 285 is just below. Atlanta Police Foundation

The announcement comes after a Jan. 20 clash between law enforcement and protestors around Intrenchment Creek and the South River Forest Basin that left 26-year-old Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán dead and an unnamed trooper hospitalized.

In the wake of the fatal shooting, the resistance group Defend the Atlanta Forest released a statement today that says 1,300 climate justice and racial justice groups across the U.S. are calling for Dickens’ immediate resignation and an independent investigation into Terán’s death.

Tentative breakdown of planned uses at the now $110-million training complex, as approved by Atlanta City Council in 2021. Atlanta Police Foundation

The Atlanta City Council voted in September 2021 to allow the public safety training campus to move toward construction in southwest DeKalb County. That legislation authorized a ground lease with the Atlanta Police Foundation to build an 85-acre complex for training the city's police and firefighters. Estimated cost is $90 million, though the Foundation has said the first phase will be funded with corporate and philanthropic donations.

Supporters have argued the complex will replace outdated training facilities and bolster the recruitment, retention, and morale of public safety professionals in the city.

The city has owned the 380-acre swath of southside land that includes the Old Atlanta Prison Farm—located about six miles from downtown—for a century. Beside the complex, the remaining roughly 300 acres will be “preserved as greenspace, parkland, and trails,” officials said in a press release today. They noted that 30 acres of the training center’s 85 acres will also be devoted to greenspace and trails.

According to Dickens and Thurmond’s announcement, project leaders will heed recommendations that continue to come in from a Community Advisory Committee, regarding noise control, security, lights, sidewalks, and traffic at the training complex.

Tentative plans for the Key Road facility's layout. Atlanta Police Foundation

How the police and fire training facility would fit with forested acreage in the area, as supporters envision it. Atlanta Police Foundation

The announcement notes the training center won’t be built in the forest but “on land that has long been cleared of hardwood trees through previous uses of the site,” which mostly contains “rubble from old building structures and asphalt from old parking lots.”

A few other highlights of Atlanta and DeKalb government's recent commitments, as outlined today:

"Atlanta and its nonprofit partners commit to planting 100 hardwood trees for every hardwood tree impacted by construction, as well as planting additional hardwood trees for any invasive species trees removed.

Atlanta will partner with educational organizations to engage youth in public safety and other career development opportunities and provide workforce development to include a Cadet Program.

Atlanta will encourage its nonprofit partners to utilize good faith efforts to engage in outreach to certified minority and female business enterprises.

Atlanta will encourage contractors and subcontractors to use WorkSource Atlanta and WorkSource DeKalb to facilitate training and hiring workers from the surrounding communities.

Atlanta will encourage contractors and subcontractors to use local businesses for support of the project, including materials, supplies, equipment, and indirect project expenses such as signage and catering."

Dickens said in a prepared statement that community input has been vital in formulating the new commitments and that engagement with the public will continue.


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Atlanta City Council OKs controversial police, fire training complex (Urbanize Atlanta)