Decatur Next

Decatur Diary | February 11, 2018

Dream Big: 400+ residents turn out to imagine Children’s Home future

Dorsey Nobles has been a part of the former United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH) for 39 years — first as a young child, then as a career maintenance specialist and now, today, as the property’s caretaker and sole resident.

You’d assume he’s seen it all but, joining together Sunday with his Decatur neighbors in the Home’s dining hall to imagine possibilities for the property’s future, that proved untrue.

“To be honest,” he said, “I’ve never seen it this packed.”

A Hugely Successful Kick-Off

Dodging rain showers throughout the afternoon, over 400 people turned out on Sunday, February 11 to begin a process many have been dreaming of for nearly a year — ever since Mayor Patti Garrett announced in 2017’s State of the City address that Decatur was in talks with the UMCH organization to acquire the historic, 77 acre property.

Mayor Garrett addresses a full house. Click for larger view.

After weeks of online announcements, a soaring aerial video, and a postcard mailed to every city address, they came in droves, loaded up with enthusiastic ideas ready to be shared. Hundreds, if not thousands of ways the former Children’s Home property could be used, repurposed, preserved, developed, programmed, or otherwise put in the service of the greater Decatur community.

The Decatur Makers were there. So were advocates for a pump track. And a running track. And pickleball. And a disc golf course. Supporters of the arts and artists showed up in force, matched by an equally impressive collection of affordable housing champions. Throw in myriad schemes for recreation, environmental stewardship, and community education and you get a sense of just how broad and diverse the suggestions were.

Participants took part in a variety of imagination exercises, chatted with the project team at various themed stations and, in between showers, toured the property and its many existing buildings.

Just a small sample of submitted ideas. Click for larger view.

First We Listen

All five sitting commissioners spent time on-site during the day, often finding themselves pulled aside by eager participants looking to gain amplified support for their ideas. So much so, in fact, that by day’s end, Commissioner Powers had a well-practiced response ready to go:

“Nothing’s decided and nothing will be decided until everyone’s had a chance to be heard,” he explained. “From there, we make a plan. Because that’s how Decatur gets things done.”

Mayor Garrett also offered a few words of thanks and encouragement:

Next Steps

In the coming weeks we’ll begin the work of focusing the conversation. Some of that will take place in the form of Civic Dinners, where groups of 6 to 10 participants gather over a meal for a host-facilitated conversation about the property and its future.

Furthermore, make plans now to join us for a series of interactive public workshops in which the consultant team will continue to listen, translate ideas to paper, and prioritize community goals to inform a series of concept options.

Saturday, March 3 | Site Planning Workshop | 9-Noon
Tuesday, March 6 | Site Planning Workshop | 6-8pm
Saturday, March 10 | Site Planning Workshop | 2-5pm
Monday, April 30 | Options Workshop | 6-8pm

City resident or not, everyone’s welcome to participate. Stay tuned for more detailed information here on Decatur Next as we approach each meeting.

Meet Some Neighbors

Interested in who’s speaking up for what? Check out some of our enthusiastic dreamers below (click any image to launch a slideshow viewer).

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