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Decatur City Commission considering improvements to Children’s Home athletic fields

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Decatur City Commission considering improvements to Children’s Home athletic fields

The former United Methodist Children's Home campus in Decatur. The campus is now called Legacy Park. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

The United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Update: The agreement was approved at the Sept. 5 commission meeting. 

Here’s our original story …

The city of Decatur, now the proud new owners of the 77-acre United Methodist Children’s Home campus, is eyeing upgrades to the campus athletic fields.

At its Sept. 5 City Commission meeting, commissioners will consider a $19,000 agreement with McFarland-Dyer and Associates for improvements.

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“The proposed work will include limited master planning services to determine the most practical and appropriate improvements to the existing athletic fields at UMCH, preparation of construction plans (e.g., grading, drainage, irrigation, fencing, etc.), bidding assistance and construction administration,” a memo from Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon says. “We hope to have improvements underway in late fall or early winter and anticipate that the fields will be ready for use by late spring.”

Decatur completed the purchase of the UMCH campus in August.

The purchase price is $40 million. The city made the purchase using its newly created Public Facilities Authority, which borrowed most of the money for the deal. The city also received a low interest $11.5 million loan through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. The loan will pay for the purchase of 22 acres out of the total 77 acre campus on South Columbia Drive. The city won’t be able to develop this property as part of the loan agreement.

The Children’s Home has been in Decatur since 1873 and was established to care for children orphaned during the Civil War. As part of the agreement, UMCH will retain ownership of the Moore Chapel on campus, and the city has agreed to preserve the grave of UMCH founder Jesse Boring.

The city has had its eye on the property for years, but things got rolling earlier this year when rumors began swirling that UMCH indicated wanted to sell the property, possibly to a home developer.

UMCH recently signed leases to relocate its residents and offices from the campus.

The city will use some of the buildings on the property for its Active Living Department, City Manager Peggy Merriss said. The city will begin a community-wide master planning process for the property in January of 2018.

The Sept. 5 Decatur City Commission meeting begins with a work session at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the Reimagine West Howard project.

The project, which involves improvements on West Howard Avenue from Paden Circle to North McDonough Street, will address concerns about pedestrian and bicycle safety on the road.

The city’s Community Transportation Plan identified West Howard Avenue as a city corridor. The goal is to have more people walking and biking along the PATH trail, Atlanta Avenue, Howard Avenue and College Avenue. The improvements are also intended to “increase the frequency of people walking to and from downtown and neighborhoods to the south and southwest of downtown.”

The City Commission meeting will be held at City Hall, located at 509 North McDonough Street. The regular meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. following the work session. All meetings are open to the public.

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