Could the third time be a charm? Or an example of government overreach?
Thirteen months after Atlanta Medical Center abruptly and disconcertingly shuttered in Old Fourth Ward, the Atlanta City Council has enacted a moratorium for the third time that blocks any redevelopment of the nearly 25-acre campus that had housed a hospital for a century.
The move will allow the city council and community leaders to better get their bearings and chart a course forward, city officials have said.
But it also means—as Atlanta urbanists have pointed out—the neighborhood will likely be staring at a hulking, empty hospital for a long time.
The city council voted 11-1 last week without discussion to extend the moratorium for another 180 days, which means Atlanta’s planning department must reject any applications for building permits, rezoning, land disturbances, or other paperwork associated with redevelopment, as the AJC reported.
The moratorium applies to 15 parcels that were part of AMC’s campus and operated by Wellstar Health System, the current owner, since 2016. Following the council's vote, Wellstar won’t be able to move forward with a new purpose for the site until at least May 2024. But signs point to the process taking significantly longer.
District 2 Councilmember Amir Farokhi, whose district covers part of the hospital site, was the lone dissenter in last week’s council vote. Farokhi has voiced concerns over the former hospital property devolving into a blight on that section of Old Fourth Ward, located just north of Boulevard’s intersection with John Lewis Freedom Parkway.
Given its nonprofit healthcare system status, Wellstar pays no property taxes on the land—which carries an assessed tax value of nearly $119 million—in one of Atlanta’s hottest neighborhoods for redevelopment over the past decade, as the AJC noted. The parcels span more than a city block and carry various zoning designations now, including BeltLine affordable workforce housing district and community business district.
Wellstar has previously told the newspaper it has no current plans for the site but is in talks with community members to evaluate solutions and determine the best future use.
Opinions on what to do with the properties have varied. Councilmember Keisha Sean Waites, for one, has introduced a plan to create a diversion and crisis center from the Wellstar site that provides short-term emergency housing, along with medical services and mental health, drug, and alcohol treatment.
In the meantime, city officials plan to launch a study and hire a contractor to determine how best to move forward. As 11Alive reported earlier this month, that contractor will be tasked with hosting a number of public meetings and consulting with Wellstar, community leaders, and area residents.
That contractor’s proposal for the site might not come together before late next year. Wellstar, meanwhile, says its helping the city in the evaluation process.
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