Just weeks after unveiling the concept, City of Atlanta officials have set their sights on an empty plot of land south of downtown for creating a second Rapid Housing homeless initiative.
Mayor Andre Dickens’ office and Atlanta Public Schools announced Tuesday the deal would involve exchanging two pieces of publicly owned land in an effort to better consolidate APS facilities and boost affordable housing opportunities in the city.
The proposed land swap goes that APS would gift the city 2 acres of vacant property it owns at 405 Cooper Street in Mechanicsville, just south of downtown.
The parcel in question is on a dead-end street immediately south of Interstate 20, in the northernmost blocks of Mechanicsville. The Fulton County Juvenile Court complex is located a block east of the property.
In exchange, the city would transfer ownership to APS of 1.5 acres at 70 Boulevard, adjacent to Hope-Hill Elementary School in Old Fourth Ward.
That parcel includes a greenspace and gym the elementary school already uses. By owning it, APS could “consolidate on-campus facilities and improvements into a single contiguous, safely secured campus,” according to city officials.
Legislation to authorize the no-cost land swap was introduced at Monday’s Atlanta City Council meeting by councilmember Jason Dozier, a Mechanicsville resident whose District 4 covers that neighborhood and parts of downtown.
Dozier said he plans to work with District 4 constituents to shape what the Rapid Housing site will become. “[It] represents a rare opportunity to meaningfully provide stable housing options for Atlanta residents currently experiencing homelessness,” Dozier noted in a prepared statement.
According to city officials, the deal came about during a year of work between the city and APS through the mayor’s Affordable Housing Strike Force, a partnership between government and nonprofit officials that aims to activate public land for more affordable housing. (Atlanta Civic Circle reports this week that more than 2,000 APS students—or 4 percent of the student population—reported being homeless during the past school year.)
The land-swap proposal comes three weeks after Dickens’ office issued an executive order to begin development of a new $4 million program that aims to help Atlanta’s homeless at 184 Forsyth Street downtown, in the shadow of MARTA station. Plans call for using shipping containers—many of them donated by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, following use as temporary COVID-19 hospital facilities—as a relatively cheap, quick means of delivering the city’s first phase of Rapid Housing options.
That plan drew criticism this week from a pro-business group that believes Forsyth Street is the wrong location for a village of shipping containers, in that it’s a food desert with a high concentration of nightclubs.
According to the city’s announcement, acquiring the Cooper Street property in Mechanicsville will boost Rapid Housing efforts by “providing a long-term site for quick-delivery housing and wraparound services that is easily accessible to key resources and transit access.”
The proposed land exchange is scheduled to come before the Atlanta Board of Education at its regular meeting in September.
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