Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst sat in the driver’s seat of an excavator on the morning of July 24 to take a ceremonial swing at the former Georgia Department of Public Health Vital Records Office building at 2600 Skyland Drive set to be demolished to make way for a new $3.05 million city park.

Just a top corner of the building where the “2600” was located came down during Monday’s event that included speeches by Ernst, DeKalb County School Board member Marshall Orson and District 2 Councilmember John Park. The vital records office building was build in 1956, according to a spokesperson at the state Department of Public Health.

Duluth-based Multiplex, the company doing the demolition and park construction, will be safely removing asbestos materials from the premises, a process that can take up to two weeks, before the rest of the building can be razed and construction of the 4-acre park begins, according to city officials. The new park is slated to open in January 2018.

The city is tearing down the office building to make way for the new park as part of a land deal made last year with the DeKalb County school system. The council approved a deal in May 2016 to sell the current 10-acre Skyland Park to the school system for $4.7 million as the site for the new $22 million, 900-seat John Lewis Elementary School. The new elementary school is part of the school district’s efforts to alleviate overcrowding in the Cross Keys cluster that includes Brookhaven.

DeKalb School has awarded the construction contract for the new John Lewis Elementary School to Barton Malow. Construction will start next week July 31 with the installation of fences and other site preparations, according to spokesperson Andre’ Riley. The construction of the school is scheduled to be completed in August 2019 for the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

Orson noted the DeKalb County School District recognized it had “under invested” in the Cross Keys cluster and said Monday that the district will be spending more than $150 million over the next couple of years specifically in the Cross Keys cluster — to build the new John Lewis Elementary School in Brookhaven, to build another elementary school in Doraville, to renovate the current Cross Keys High School into a middle school and to construct a new Cross Keys High School.

The partnership between the city of Brookhaven and the DeKalb County School District exemplifies the kinds of partnerships the school district wants to have with other municipalities, Orson said, calling the new park and new school project an “integrated complex.”

Councilmember John Park also praised the city’s relationship with DeKalb schools and said the two entities are listening to residents living around the new school and will be mitigating traffic by having buses using Dresden Drive. An underground storm water retention pond for the park will also be located on the school property.

The city is also about to undertake projects at Georgian Hills and Murphey Candler parks, said Ernst.

DeKalb Schools purchased the old vital records office building from the state for $2.8 million. As part of the land deal agreement, DeKalb Schools transferred the vital records office building and the land the building is located on — some 4 acres — to the city.

Renderings of the new park designed by GreenbergFarrow were at the ceremony. Two shade structures that look like picnic areas and covered with solar panels will allow visitors to charge their electronic devices at the park and there will also be a designated parking spot and charging station for electric cars.

Amenities also include two sand volleyball courts, two picnic shelters, a new restroom facility, an open space field, a large and small dog park and a natural playground in the northeast corner of the park under a canopy of trees.

Click to enlarge the photos below.

(Photos by Dyana Bagby)

Rendering of the two sand volleyball courts.
Another rendering of the sand volleyball courts.
Rendering of the open space area.
Rendering of the dog park area. The shade structure includes black solar panel strips that can be seen in the image. The solar panels are then able to be used by visitors to charge electronic devices.
From left, Councilmembers Linley Jones and John Park, Mayor John Ernst, DeKalb School Board member Marshall Orson, and State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver.
Councilmember John Park, whose district includes the Skyland Park area.
Mayor John Ernst before tearing down the “2600” of the office building address.
Mayor John Ernst and DeKalb Schools board member Marshall Orson discuss the locations of the new park and new John Lewis Elementary School.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.