By Maria Saporta
Given the new spirit of cooperation between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Public Schools, Mayor Kasim Reed said he is willing to transfer 10 property deeds to the school system.
Reed, speaking at the State of the City business breakfast Thursday morning at the Georgia World Congress Center, said he would ask the Atlanta City Council to transfer those deeds “right away.”
The deeds were one of the sticking points between APS and city – an issue that got mired in the dispute over how much the city owed the schools over the Atlanta BeltLine’s tax revenues.
The issue became so contentious that the Atlanta Board of Education filed a lawsuit against the City last spring to gain control of the deeds of four former APS schools –properties with firm offers from private developers or businesses.
The City and APS jointly announced on Jan. 29 that they had resolved their BeltLine dispute, but the issue of transferring the deeds was not part of that deal. When asked about the deeds last week, Reed said he would collaborate with APS on the deeds and do so in a speedy manner.
Less than a week later, Reed made the deed transfer an important part of his State of City address.
“It was the right thing to do,” Reed said after his speech. “It felt right. I think it’s just another step in having a strong relationship with APS. It’s really time to turn the page.”
There was a joyous sentiment among APS officials when they heard the news with even one board member texting a happy face.
“Love it!” APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen wrote in a text almost immediately. “In less than a week, we have finally settled one dispute and aggressively embarked on resolving another decades-long issue. I’m grateful to Mayor Reed for his leadership and renewed partnership to benefit the children of APS.”
The lawsuit involved four former APS schools that have been vacant for years – the George Adair School in Adair Park, Arkwright Elementary School in Venetian Hills, Milton Avenue Elementary in Chosewood Park and Rosalie Wright Elementary School in Florida Heights.
It is not known at this time exactly which 10 property deeds the Mayor is proposing to transfer to APS even though people familiar with the process said it does include those four schools.
During his speech, the mayor said he was doing that so that APS could sell the properties as soon as possible. He then broke into a smile and said he was feeling “warm and fuzzy” by making that move.
The City also stands to benefit because once the schools are sold, they will go back on the City’s tax rolls. Also developers will be able to bring new life to properties that have been stagnant or vacant – sometimes for decades.
When Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell heard the news at the breakfast, he said: “I jumped up and instinctively clapped.”
Mitchell had been working behind the scenes with both the Mayor and APS to help resolve their conflicts, including the deed transfers.
“The deeds had been in and out of the conversation for some time,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s a really good sign that we are serious about moving the City forward together with the school system. It’s sign of a renewed spirit of collaboration.”
Reed said that APS also will be able use the proceeds from the sale of the schools to reinvest in the school system and to benefit the students.
“There’s no need to be contentious,” Reed said. “It’s a shot in the arm for the schools system.”
Mitchell also said it will help rejuvenate the areas around the schools.
“We are making sure those schools are a net positive for the city and not a net negative as a source of blight.”
He went on to say that by renovating, restoring or redeveloping the APS properties, it will help communities with new economic development, job creation and general quality of life.
When we receive the list of the 10 property deeds that are part of the Mayor’s proposal, we will update this story.