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Decatur Diary | May 1, 2018

Draft UMCH Options Presented, Community Survey Released

Multiple options for how the former United Methodist Children’s Home property might be put to use in the years ahead were unveiled Monday night, April 30, for a curious and enthusiastic crowd of over 250 residents.

The presentation capped two months of community input and discussion.

Filling the Ebster gym at the Beacon Municipal Center, attendees were introduced to three concepts — each reflecting different priorities and costs — as well as potential partners that could prove key to making them a reality.

“None of these options are presently funded,” stressed presenter Allison Bickers of the Cooper Carry-led project team. “As you consider each one, be thinking about what partners might be necessary and who they might be.”

Given the expansive nature of the property, all options were able to incorporate various forms of recreation and housing, the two features most often requested by the community, but the character and intensity of each varies by design.

Culling from the now 2,000 ideas contributed thus far, the presented plans demonstrated different approaches to incorporating the various elements — one primarily focused on passive enjoyment of the property with minimal disruption to the historic character of the campus; one prioritizing active recreation and competitive sports; and one particularly responsive to community calls for affordable housing solutions.

Each adds a playground and retains the gym and pool as accessible community amenities.

Further orient yourself in the three options below.

Option 1: Passive Recreation

Option 1 is best described as an effort to maintain and augment the pastoral nature of the campus in line with its existing character. Existing sports fields remain and get refurbished. Diverse housing options (28 units at various levels of affordability) are added but get discretely tucked into the edges of the property. Trails allowing for cross country running, easy strolls, or bicycling weave their way throughout, connecting a playground, an arboretum, the community garden, a small amphitheater, and the lake and forests of the conservation easement with the East Decatur Greenway.

Option 01. Click for larger view.


Option 2: Get Active

Option 2 brings the action. Though it requires the greatest level of up-front capital costs, it also delivers the highest level of returns, meeting some frequently articulated community needs head on in ways that can be monetized for their long-term sustainability.

Foremost are two new athletics facilities — a track and field facility, and a multiple-court tennis and pickleball complex. Included within their designs are the complementing elements that make competitive-level sports facilities viable — particularly large-format lighting, bleachers, and a substantial parking lot to accommodate users.

Cross country gets a specific trail that winds its way past a new multipurpose field and throughout the property. Housing is also a component, matching the site’s greater intensity with 61 units, also at various levels of affordability.

Option 02. Click for larger view.


Option 3: Welcome Home

Option 3 focuses most heavily on using the property to deliver affordable housing opportunities. Envisioned with 128 units in a variety of formats, it orients the bulk of them in a pocket village at the southwestern corner of the site, adjacent to a reconfigured Katie Kerr.

Existing ballfields become less structured as open greenspace while trails continue to wind throughout the property. The small amphitheater, comparable to Option 1, is also included.

Option 03. Click for larger view.


Miss the Meeting, Still Want to Comment?

At the conclusion of the presentation, attendees were afforded opportunity to share their reactions and comment on their preferences. Those who were unable to make the meeting are encouraged to attend the City Commission Work Session at 6:30pm on Monday, May 7th where the presentation will be repeated. Public comment will not be taken at the Work Session, as is customary, but there will be input boards set up in the City Hall entry lobby immediately following for audience input.

Commission Work Session
Monday, May 7, 2018 | 6:30pm
City Hall Commission Room
509 North McDonough Street, Decatur

Finally, we’ve also launched an online survey available to all. It closes Sunday, May 13 so please chime in!

Stay tuned for news on our next meeting. Until then, here’s a collection of photos from the evening. Click any image to launch the slideshow viewer.


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Weigh In | Your Ideas Matter
Join These 8 Contributions
Ground Rules: We encourage respectful community conversation around planning and development issues in the City of Decatur. Participants are asked to login via Facebook, Twitter or Google, or create a user account through Disqus. Profane or abusive contributions may be moderated.


  1. Crazy Bob says

    Option Number 2 gives the City of Decatur some things that it’s never had….a running track facility and a cross country course. This is a one time opportunity. Please make it a reality.

    • GopherPT says

      You’re not crazy Bob – Active sports’ field space is at a complete premium in Decatur, with just one all-weather field (DHS stadium). So many rainouts for youth sports, overused grass ones, and they have to wait for high school to play on all weather turf? (that’s like the 5% of kids that get that far). RMS & DHS cross-country teams train on our city streets? (you could make more than a 1 mile track on that property). Please let the nearly 6,000 students (many of whom are athletes) have a voice in this; many parents that miss the community meetings due to…youth sports! If Option 2 doesn’t win, perhaps Ebster can get turf and lighting? (too short for full size track). As much as we see the word “active,” that word to most kids means sports. So let’s support them. Look at any of the programs we compete against; we can’t because we practice half as much and have to limit youth participation due to field availability.

  2. The survey link is invalid and shows as having already taken the survey (which I haven’t). Please update with the correct link.

    • Hi, RC. We just checked the link from two clean devices and it went to the survey as intended so whatever you’re experiencing does not appear to be on the link side. Is it possible someone else with access to your device has already taken the survey? If not, it’s likely something associated with your IP address is somehow triggering the response. Some things to try: clear your browser history; close and reopen your browser; or disconnect and reconnect to wifi. If you’re still experiencing the problem, it may be easiest to take the survey from another device. Hope that helps.

      • I followed the link from Decaturish, which may have been the problem. I am able to access the survey using my phone and this site.

  3. Can someone explain what the original structures near Columbia will be used for? Seems like a real missed opportunity in these designs to think big. Its a once in a long time opportunity to make a Piedmont Park of Decatur and it seems to be not fully capitalizing.

  4. How can we pay for the track and field? The infrastructure of our city is in need of maintenance. Skip the track, go for soccer fields and lighting. The cross country track could be wonderful. Keep it natural, no pavement.

  5. Matt good question. What will all the existing buildings be used for? And who will be able to occupy the proposed housing? Having such a spectacular greenspace is invaluable.
    But. Maintenance is a concern. Looking at the Decatur cemetary as an existing example of maintenance (it isn’t in good shape) and our city streetscape, there is reason for concern. Now that we have this additional 77 acres what resources are in place to care for it? The cemetary is lacking in overall maintenance. Is there adequate manpower and equipment to take on this additional space?

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