Brookhaven’s new $12 million public safety facility including the police department and municipal court will be located on the Peachtree Creek Greenway.
The decision was announced at the May 8 City Council meeting following a unanimous vote to award an $800,000 contract to Rosser International, an Atlanta-based architecture and engineering firm. Rosser will design the new facility for the city’s police station and municipal court. Money to build the new facility is coming from SPLOST funds approved by voters in November.
There was no discussion by the council of where the new building was going during the vote to award the Rosser contract. At the end of the meeting, however, Mayor John Ernst announced the new building would be located on the 19 acres of property at 1793 Briarwood Road recently purchased by the city for the Peachtree Creek Greenway.
The 19-acre tract on Briarwood Road was recently purchased by the city for some $2 million. The city first tried to seize the land using eminent domain, but a judge ruled against the city, saying it violated the law.
“With the approval of the contract with Rosser we did forget to mention where we were going to build [the public safety building],” Ernst said.
“We’re going to build it on land we just acquired on Briarwood Road. This is an extremely great use of the land,” he said. “We thought we were just getting land for the Greenway but now we are able to use it for our public safety building. This is a great use of city resources … otherwise we would have to spend another $3 million [for property] on Buford Highway. Basically we have two for one.”
Councilmember Joe Gebbia also praised the decision to locate the public safety facility along the Greenway and said it will provide safety to along the linear park. “This is a strategic move for us,” he said. “This is a good move at a good time.”
Part of Rosser’s job will be to find the approximate 4 acres needed for the building and parking lot. Most of the Briarwood Road property cannot be built on due to power lines, flood plains and stream buffers. The most likely spot for the new building and parking lot will be behind Northeast Plaza overlooking the Greenway and adjacent to where the linear park’s signature trailhead is to be located.
No one from the Peachtree Creek Greenway advocacy group attended the meeting. Betsy Eggers, chair of the group, said in a prepared statement released by the city that the new public safety building will be a benefit to Greenway visitors.
“A trail with its own public safety building is incredible,” she said. “Additionally, having a trailhead with restrooms, water fountains and plenty of parking is a tremendous asset for the ‘miracle mile’ of the Greenway.”
The $2 million to buy the land came from a deal between the city and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The city sold CHOA about 5 acres of right of way on Tullie Circle and Tullie Road for nearly $10 million. CHOA is using that land land to close off the streets to public use as part of its massive 80-acre campus redevelopment at I-85 and North Druid Hills Road.
No public input on putting the public safety building on the what has been dubbed the “Brookhaven Beltline” was sought. Council members said following the meeting public input was not needed because municipal real estate deals are exempt from the state open meetings law.
But the city originally tried to acquire the 19 acres through eminent domain. City Manager Christian Sigman said after the meeting had the city acquired the land through eminent domain, it would not have been able to legally build the public safety building on the property.
Because the city purchased the land, he said, the city is able to do what it wants with the property. Sigman said there were no plans to build the public safety building on the site while the city tried to acquire it through eminent domain.
As part of the SPLOST vote approved by voters in November, the city stated it would spend up to $15 million on public safety. The city in April stated publicly it was seeking a site for a new public safety building.
The new public safety building will provide state-of-the-art amenities and room to grow for Brookhaven Police, which is now crowded into a rented building near the Atlanta city limits. The current facility at 2665 Buford Highway only has 55 parking places for a department with 85 employees and a busy municipal court.
“We are busting at the seams, with very little room for police officers, cars or equipment,” said Police Chief Gary Yandura in a press release. “The building we are in now doesn’t even have adequate backup electricity when the power goes out. The new facility will address all of these issues and give us a little room to grow over the next 20-30 years.”
The total cost of the new building will be no more than the $12 million limit on the SPLOST proceeds, and construction is expected to be complete in the summer of 2020.