People who drive down North Druid Hills Road near the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station often see a familiar sight — volleyball players digging in the dirt as part of a sand volleyball league that has played at the Boys & Girls Club for nearly 20 years.
But now the Brookhaven Boys & Girls Club property is for sale, with plans to close its Brookhaven site this year and relocate to Chamblee in January.
Developer Ashton Woods is seeking to buy the property with plans to build a 64-unit townhome development, which has raised the ire of nearby residents who say such a development will only worsen the already notorious traffic near Peachtree and North Druid Hills roads.
Many residents are also sad to see the landmark location, with its green space and sports fields, leave the community.
“Everyone knows the volleyball courts and the softball fields,” said Shelley Fulghum, who moved to Brookhaven in 2009 and lives on Logan Circle behind the Boys & Girls Club. “It’s a community space, and it’s going to be a big loss for the area.”
Fulghum has played in the volleyball league at the club for about five years. She joined the league, managed by Fusion Sports, after seeing volleyball players on the courts that are visible from North Druid Hills Road.
“I understand what the club needs to do,” she said. “But if it can’t be green space, it would be better as single-family homes.”
The sale to Ashton Woods of the Boys & Girls Club, which has been in Brookhaven for 40 years, is contingent on rezoning. City Manager Christian Sigman said the club approached the city about purchasing the property months ago, but at the time was asking $10 million, too steep a price for the city to pay.
But even if the rezoning fails, the club will close its Brookhaven location and move about four miles away to 2880 Dresden Drive in Chamblee, said Melanie Buckmaster, Boys & Girls Club spokesperson.
“The new location offers more than double the building space of our old site including a huge gym,” she said. “We will be able to serve 250 kids each day, a more than 50 percent increase over our current space.”
The sale of the club is not a signifier of a decline in participation, Buckmaster added. There are 25 Boys & Girls Clubs in metro Atlanta “and, on the whole, have seen our membership numbers rise or stay stable in recent years,” she said.
“We have not sold any other properties, but have shut down a few locations where we did not own the buildings and our partnerships came to an end,” she said.
Buckmaster said Brookhaven kids will still be able to be served in Chamblee with club buses picking up students at several of the local schools to take them to the new facility.
“No child that is currently being served will be left behind,” she said.
The City Council Oct. 24 voted to defer the rezoning vote of the property at the request of Ashston Woods, which is still hoping to garner neighborhood support for the project. The proposed development goes back to the Planning Commission on Dec. 5. But last month, the Planning Commission rejected the Ashton Woods development, saying it did not conform to the single-family character of area.
David Williams, 28, has lived in Brookhaven since he was a teen and remembers attending the Boys & Girls Club on North Druid Hills Road while he was a student at Cross Keys High School.
“I made some lifelong friends at the club,” he said during volleyball recreation league play on a recent Sunday afternoon. Williams, who works for Fusion Sports, was learning to referee the sport. He is also an umpire for Fusion Sports’ softball league, which also plays at the club.
Williams said he understands the Boys & Girls Club’s decision to move to a larger facility in Chamblee but is sad to see it go. “I have so many memories here,” he said.
Rich Alvarez owns Fusion Sports and sits on the DeKalb County board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club. Finding a new home for the sports leagues is in the works, including discussions with the city of Brookhaven, other parks departments, and some private organizations.
“In all honesty, it was time for that club to move on,” he said. “That neighborhood has changed … and this new move is in the best interest of the club, and more importantly for the kids.