In January 2016, local newspapers began reporting on the possibility of a land swap between the City of Atlanta and the State of Georgia.
The City of Atlanta would transfer ownership of the active part of Atlanta Memorial Park (including Bobby Jones Golf Course and the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center) as well as the City’s part of the World of Coke property to the State of Georgia.
In exchange, the State would transfer ownership of state-owned property near Underground Atlanta to the City. This property is vital to completing a $25 million sale of the dilapidated former attraction to developers WRS Inc. (WRS Inc. plans to turn Underground Atlanta into a live-work-play community; see preliminary plans here.)
On May 16, 2016, Atlanta City Councilman C. T. Martin introduced Ordinance 16-O-1282, one of two pieces of legislation that would formalize the proposed land swap.
While the majority of the terms surround the fate of the Bobby Jones Golf Course, the following passage is of specific relevance to Bitsy Grant Tennis Center patrons:
(a) a conservation easement for the use of the Properties as a tennis center and a golf course which includes preservation and maintenance of the historic clubhouse by the State and reasonable public access to the tennis and golf facilities and amenities which may also include a golf museum and a parking facility and/or as a State park and other ancillary recreational uses; (b) reasonable availability and community access to facilities for use as public meeting space on the Properties; (c) the lease-back of the Tennis Center from the State for a term of fifty (50) years for $1.00 per year; (d) the retention of easement and encroachment rights for utilities and other public infrastructure including but not limited to streets, sidewalks and multi-use trails on the Properties;
In short, the ordinance states that the City of Atlanta will continue to lease Bitsy Grant Tennis Center from the State for 50 years. The tennis center, golf course, and the sidewalks and trails surrounding them, will remain available and accessible to the public. Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean also proposed a conservation easement that ensures the land will remain reserved for public recreation and green space. It appears that the State will carry out much of the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy’s master plan for restoration of the active side of the park. In addition to the original master plan, the State’s plans include a new Golf House which would hold a golf shop, GSGA offices, and a museum dedicated to Bobby Jones.
Following this announcement, at the Atlanta City Council’s Finance/Executive Committee meeting on May 25, 2016, twenty-six individuals made public comments, presenting their case either for or against the swap. Bitsy Grant was represented at this meeting by Friends of Bitsy Grant Board President Justin Boller and former Board President Mel Locklear. Both expressed support for the swap and the Conservancy Master Plan, but wanted guarantees that any tennis courts disrupted by new construction be restored. The BuckheadView has an extensive write-up of the proceedings, for those interested.
There will be a June 3 public meeting held at 3 pm at the gymnasium of E. Rivers Elementary School (8 Peachtree Battle Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30305). The meeting will be attended by City Council members, Mayor Kasim Reed, and representatives from the State. The City Council will then consider the legislation at its June 6 meeting.
- “City transfer of Bobby Jones course to state advances after public hearing,” BuckheadView (May 26, 2016)
- “Bobby Jones Golf Course-Underground deal moves forward,” AJC (May 26, 2016)
- “Buckhead Deal Could Mean Underground Moves Ahead,” Curbed Atlanta (May 19, 2016)
- “Atlanta Could Swap Bobby Jones Golf Course For Parking Deck,” WABE News (May 18, 2016)
- “Council gets bills to swap Memorial Park land to state for parking deck,” BuckheadView (May 17, 2016)
- “Atlanta City Council considering transferring Bobby Jones Golf Course to state,” Reporter Newspapers (May 17, 2016)
- “Legislation on proposed sale of Atlanta Memorial Park to state going before council committee,” Northside Neighbor (May 17, 2016)
- Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy’s Response (May 16, 2016)