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City of Atlanta to buy Chattahoochee Brick land to turn into green space

Chattahoochee Brick Atlanta

Looking through a chain link fence at the former Chattahoochee Brick Company site in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

By Maria Saporta

The City of Atlanta will acquire and protect 75 acres of land that was the former site of the Chattahoochee Brick Co.

Through a partnership with the Conservation Fund, the property acquisition will restore greenspace and memorialize the historical significance of the site.

The legislation was presented Tuesday by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and presented as legislation at today’s Community Development and Human Services Committee. The legislation passed in a 4-0 vote.

The Chattahoochee Brick Co., owned by former Atlanta Mayor James English, supplied material for the construction of houses and buildings in Atlanta after the Civil War. The factory relied on forced convict labor — mostly African American men who endured inhumane working conditions that often turned deadly.

Chattahoochee Brick Atlanta Sacred Site

Egun Omode Performing Arts Collective performs during the sacred site ceremony at the former Chattahoochee Brick Co. in April 2021 (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Our administration worked closely with the Conservation Fund and property owner, Lincoln Terminal Company, over the last several months to acquire the former site of the Chattahoochee Brick Co.,” Bottoms said in a release. “It is our responsibility to protect the sanctity of this property and honor the thousands of victims who suffered and lost their lives on this land.”

Bottoms went on to thank “the Conservation Fund, and the community at large, for efforts to acknowledge this property’s troubled past. We look forward to a brighter future on this solemn land.”

The Conservation Fund is a non-profit organization, with a dual mission of environmental conservation and sustainable economic outcomes for communities. To reach an agreement on the purchase of the Chattahoochee Brick Company property, the Fund played an integral part in making the deal a reality.

This agreement will add 75 acres to the over 240 acres of greenspace protected with the help of the Fund during the Bottoms Administration. The City of Atlanta and the Conservation Fund have partnered in other property acquisitions before, notably the Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve purchase in 2019. With the continued partnership, the Fund will manage activities to preserve the Chattahoochee Brick Co. property as parkland, greenspace, recreation and watershed land in the city.

Former Atlanta City Councilmember Derrick Boazman (center) Joe Beasley (center, left) and other civic leaders met Feb. 9, 2021 to oppose development of the former Chattahoochee Brick Co. property. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

“The Conservation Fund’s work towards acquisition of the former Chattahoochee Brick Co. site is a critical first step in its future protection, creating an opportunity for a signature greenspace adjacent to the Chattahoochee River for the community and providing a place for an appropriate memorial to honor the workers of Chattahoochee Brick Company,” said Stacy Funderburke, the Conservation Fund’s regional counsel and Georgia/Alabama Associate state director. “I’m excited that the Conservation Fund has been able to play a key role in reaching a deal between the City of Atlanta and Lincoln Terminal Co. for conservation of this important site.”

The legislation passed the Community Development and Human Services Committee today, and it will go before the full City Council on Monday, Dec. 6. If approved, the City plans to work with District 9 neighborhoods, advocates, and the entire Atlanta community to finalize a plan for the Chattahoochee Brick Co. property.

Lincoln Terminal originally tried to develop the site as an oil terminal but ran into environmental and community pushback. It then arranged to do a deal with Norfolk Southern railroad to develop it as a distribution hub, but the city and the community objected to those plans. Norfolk Southern quickly abandoned that partnership in February 2021.

Dustin Hillis, the councilmember who represents the area that includes the Chattahoochee Brick, said he authored a letter to Norfolk Southern and Lincoln Terminal asking them to abandon their partnership to build a large fuel terminal on the Chattahoochee River at the mouth of Proctor Creek.

Chattahoochee Brick Atlanta

A wreath decorates the former sign at the entrance to the former Chattahoochee Brick Co. site in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

“Norfolk Southern did the right thing and abandoned their partnership with Lincoln Terminal, effectively killing the project,” Hillis wrote in an email during the committee meeting. “However, even after that huge success and, for once, disproving the saying ‘you can’t fight the railroad’, the 70 plus acres of historically and environmentally important land of course remained with its owner, Lincoln Terminal.

“Our work was not done, as we had to ensure this land was preserved for park land, greenspace, and a memorial to those who died in convict labor there,” Hillis continued. “Two weeks ago, the Georgia Trust placed the Chattahoochee Brick site on their 2022 “Places In Peril” list. Today, the City Council’s Community Development/Human Services Committee will consider legislation to work with the Conservation Fund to acquire, protect, and restore this land.”

The land is considered to be a critical piece in the development of the Chattahoochee Riverlands, a project that would make the Chattahoochee River more accessible to the public with trails and recreational activities.

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Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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2 Comments

  1. Mary Morrison December 7, 2021 7:43 pm

    This is ridiculous! A greenspace is a great idea, but to memorialize CONVICTS, no matter what color they are has got to be the dumbest thing I have ever heard. This is so out of control! We take away from one person’s history to put another on a pedestal? Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks are worthy of special recognition. A brick making convict? PLEASE!!!!Report

    Reply
    1. Brian December 9, 2021 12:15 pm

      Dumbest thing you’ve ever heard? You may want to check out what actions got a Black person convicted of a crime in the post-Civil War south. Those are pretty dumb. Looking at a white woman, not saying Sir to a white man, walking down the street; the list of “non-crimes” that got Blacks sentenced to torture and death at Chattahoochee Brick goes on and on. It’s horrible. Must be nice to be able to cushion yourself from such realities.Report

      Reply

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