Atlanta Council Approves Historic School Renovation Over Development Partner Concerns


“My question is, do the working class and the poor have the right to control, lead or even have a say in their own community? said Thomas, who represented the region at the General Assembly for a total of 22 years. “We didn’t have a voice in this community. “

Keven Patterson, CEO of The Optimal Company, said he ran a massive community outreach campaign, including a neighborhood meeting earlier this month to hear from residents. He said the event space will be used for wedding receptions, art shows and other community events, not as club space. The permit has conditions requiring that events cannot last after midnight on weekends.

“This will be a very impactful project that will create jobs, create economic mobility for people,” Patterson said.

The permit was passed by city council by a 13-2 vote with the support of city councilor Antonio Brown, who represents the area.

“This is a property that has been dilapidated in this community for over 12+ years, and several entities have attempted to go ahead and develop this property,” Brown said in an interview Monday. “And for some reason it never happened.”

To exploreOne of Atlanta’s oldest schools added to National Register of Historic Places

The rich history of the school building dates back over 100 years.

It was built in 1910 on English Avenue, a western neighborhood named after former Atlanta Mayor James English. It was an all-white school until 1950, when the demographics of the area began to change and the city changed its designation to a black school, according to the Atlanta Preservation Center.

In 1960, the school was bombed the morning after members of the community held a prayer vigil and a march against segregation. It is considered one of the worst racially motivated bombings in the city’s history. The school closed in 1995, with notable alumni including Gladys Knight and Herman Cain.

The property has remained vacant since then and has fallen into disrepair and disrepair, with its windows boarded up or broken. English Avenue is now a predominantly black, low-income neighborhood, and is experiencing a wave of new investment following the construction of the Westside Beltline Connector Road.

Thomas’ nonprofit purchased the property in 2010. Since then, it has launched a campaign to raise funds and tried to work with various developers over the years to revitalize the property, but these attempts have failed. . Last year it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Thomas’ nonprofit and The Optimal Company entered into a partnership in 2017 for the redevelopment of the school. Patterson owns a controlling interest in the partnership.


English Avenue School has become an eyesore in the neighborhood.

Credit: JD Capelouto / AJC

Credit: JD Capelouto / AJC

In an email to board members obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Patterson said he invested over $ 400,000 in pre-development costs and put together a development team for the property. He also said he had secured financing for the property.

English Avenue resident Patricia Campbell said she was concerned about events taking place in the building, which is in a residential area, and would prefer the building to become a center offering services such as life support. rental or daycare.

“We didn’t want what he offered. We don’t want a venue, ”Campbell said, referring to Patterson. “I just don’t think he looks at this neighborhood the way it is. Maybe he’s watching it in 20 years. But he’s not trying to help people.

City Councilor Michael Julian Bond, who grew up near English Avenue, said he voted against the permit to reflect concerns he heard from residents. Bond said he wanted Thomas and Patterson to come to an agreement “so that there is a united effort to have this historic building renovated”.

“I just wish these two people who were in partnership on this development could have had another round of outreach and negotiation,” he said.


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