By Isadora Pennington
If you’ve ever driven down DeKalb Avenue past the intersection with Clifton, you may have noticed the looming buildings of Pullman Yard just on the other side of the tracks. The property is a sprawling combination of buildings and open spaces in various states of disrepair. Despite the graffiti on the walls, it’s rare to see anyone on the lot regardless of the time of day.
Originally built as an industrial complex by the Pratt Engineering Company in 1900, the buildings have been repurposed as both a train repair center for the Pullman Company in the 1920s and then later as an operations center for the now defunct New Georgia Railroad, which provided rail service to Athens. Since the 1990s the space has been largely abandoned except for private events and a filming location, including The Hunger Games. The property is currently owned by the State of Georgia, and is not open to the public without going through proper channels.
The historic buildings now stand in a state of disrepair, with collapsing ceilings and overgrown greenery. The grass may get mowed from time to time, but there is virtually no care going into the property on a regular basis. It’s no wonder that this mysterious and haunting remnant of Atlanta’s industrial history has piqued the interest of multiple organizations who foresee a vision for the property.
One of those people is David Epstein, executive director of local nonprofit Atlanta Contact Point (ACP), an organization that promotes physical activity and play for children and adults to combat obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle. The nonprofit has, in partnership with Village Habitat LLC, has proposed a plan under the auspices of Pullman Preserve that would create a mixed-use development of art studios, urban gardening, sustainability classes, retail, a nature preserve and sports facilities.
“Atlanta needs an Intown space for its residents to be active, socialize, and learn new things,” Epstein said. “It is in an optimal space to create special programming and education opportunities for the surrounding neighborhoods, including unique space for schools, seniors and adults to play and get together.”
The Pratt-Pullman property is actually part of the quiet Kirkwood neighborhood, and the community has expressed concerns with regard to redevelopment plans. Questions of vehicle access, parking, neighborhood traffic congestion, noise pollution and how best to honor and maintain the value of the historic property have lingered in the minds of those affected by the proposition.
The joint nonprofit/for-profit vision set forth by Pullman Preserve seeks to assuage those with doubts, asserting that conservation, preservation, education, and a ‘full-bodied’ approach to the development would be forefront in their plans.
“The main concern has been how to create a financially viable model,” explained Village Habitat director Greg Ramsey. “Pullman Preserve is addressing this with its for-profit and nonprofit model designed to balance the commercial and nonprofit development to create a viable model.”
The venture would find funding from grants, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and contributions from local organizations in order to keep costs low, while also looking to generate money in studio rentals and sales at the proposed cafe, retail and market. Cooperation with inter-governmental partners, surrounding neighborhoods, for-profit and nonprofit entities would be essential in the actualization of their plan.
“The project has been crafted so that each of these entities plays an appropriate part and together create a successful project,” Ramsey said.
In sharp contrast to Pullman Preserve, the other propositions that have been extended with regard to the property have typically been a combination of retail, office and living space along the lines of Edgewood Retail Center on Moreland Avenue.
“We do not have many properties left in Atlanta that can be utilized for the overall well-being of the community,” Epstein said. “This is a perfect opportunity to clean, preserve, and transform into a special space for people to come together to play, learn and socialize.”
Epstein and Ramsey are hopeful that their ideas for Pullman Preserve will strike a chord with the neighborhood, and empower those in the community through sustainability education.
“We feel very strongly if the state gives us a chance, we can make it happen,” Epstein said. “Otherwise it will just go to highest bidder for expensive townhomes and high-end shopping.”
To learn more about Pullman Preserve and to provide feedback or volunteer, contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org or Greg at email@example.com. You can also see more photos, plans, and diagrams online at atlcp.org/pullman-yard.