East Point is trying to determine if residents want a $15 million recreation and aquatic center in its westernmost Ward D and, if so, what it should include.
But its companion piece, a strip of stores and restaurants along Camp Creek Parkway at Washington Road, recently muddied the waters.
Ward D resident Emanuel Mathis said he supported one, but not the other.
“Having young kids, I am in full favor of a rec facility,” he said at the first of two community meetings about the center Oct. 11 at Asa G. Hilliard Elementary School. “My main concern is, if we’re talking about reducing traffic but we’re adding retail, that’s the exact opposite of reducing traffic.”
Like others among the 75 attendees, Mathis also reminded the elected officials present of the outcry over their June decision allowing the nonprofit Atlanta Community Food Bank to build its new headquarters in the same ward.
City Manager Frederick Gardiner said that site had been considered for the center until the nonprofit bought it.
Neighbors to the north of the site also asked if the center, tentatively slated for five acres of a 19-acre site owned by Oviedo, Florida-based Site Selection Inc., can be put somewhere else.
Other places the city investigated were too small, had greater traffic issues or experienced flooding, Gardiner said, but the search can continue.
“If this is not a good location, we’ll move it. We’re not married to anything at this point,” he said.
During the three-hour meeting, Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham said the center, still in the concept phase, will require even more community input.
“You get to tell us what you want. You get to say it because of how you feel, what you think is best, ‘not in my back yard’—you get to say all of that,” she said. “Then we have business owners and property owners and they have rights. We have all of these rights that we’re balancing and then we have to make the right decision.”
Holiday Ingraham and Gardiner both said the center will add an amenity to those already enjoyed in Wards A, B and C.
“We do not have a park or any recreational facility in Ward D,” she said.
Holiday Ingraham reminded about attendees of the written surveys distributed at the start of the meeting.
“This meeting was about, do you want a parks and recreation center (and) what do you want to see in it?” she said.
Attendees included Ward D city council members Joshua B. Butler IV and Stephanie Gordon and city staff members from the planning and zoning, parks and recreation, and transportation departments.
Proposed floor plans created in June by Pieper O’Brien Herr Architects depict two floors comprising between 40,000 and 60,000 square feet.
Features include two gyms, a meeting room, computer lab, game room, dance studio, art room, a kitchen and an aquatic area with a pool, splash pad and hot tub on the first floor.
The second floor has an exercise area and a track.
The conceptual aerial plan by Norcross-based Griffin and Davis Consulting for the property owner includes a police precinct and five retail parcels, as well as a proposed extension of Desert Drive between the stores and the rec center.
The area is now wooded and zoned residential, although Holiday Ingraham and Gardiner said single-family homes are unlikely to be built there.
There is no planned date for zoning or city council consideration.
Gardiner said the city’s 8 percent hotel and motel taxes, which are used to promote tourism and for “product development” like new stadiums, will fund the center.
The second community meeting will be Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the school, 3353 Mount Olive Road.