The Decatur City Commission unanimously voted July 2, 2012, to allocate $1.3 million for consultants Rutledge Alcock Architects to prepare construction documents for redevelopment of the former Beacon and Trinity schools. The proposed project ultimately will cost $25 million.
Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon presented the staff report. Although “heritage” was mentioned several times, the phrase “historic preservation” was not included in the discussion nor was there any mention of the Georgia state historic preservation office’s 2010 $10 thousand Certified Government grant. Saxon’s report underscored the city’s plans to demolish parts of the historic school complex:
As the master plan developed, the design team concluded that part of the building should be removed and replaced with a new modern police headquarters and a municipal courtroom facility.
Saxon also described the project’s “heritage” component:
Because of the building’s heritage, the property’s heritage, we are planning to include an exhibit which will honor the history of the area as the center of African American life in Decatur. And we hope that will be an exciting addition to the property. I think it is very fitting, really, that – especially if the school system moves in there – that they will be able to use an old school for their central office.
Saxon then went on to describe additional project details and a companion stormwater management project. Only one commissioner, Fred Boykin, queried Saxon about the project’s commemorative aspects. “Could you go into a little bit more detail about the Beacon Hill historic section,” Boykin asked.
When we did the master planning, we spent quite a bit of time doing outreach to the Beacon Community that had two workshops at the new auditorium down at the high school. Employed Lord Cultural Resources – I don’t know if you remember, we employed a special firm to help us in outreach and in goal-setting and in helping us make decisions about the sort of facility that would – where the heritage of the community could be reflected. And that’s something that still has to be done.
One of the elements of this project will be to design that exhibit. And when I say exhibit, it sounds like, you know, one thing. We’re actually thinking this will be carried through – be a theme of the entire building.
No former Beacon Community residents attended the meeting. Only one Decatur resident spoke about the agenda item in the public hearing portion: a parent who asked about improvements to City pools.
Saxon told the commission that groundbreaking could begin as early as this year. Commissioners Jim Baskett, Kecia Cunningham, Bill Floyd (mayor), and Fred Boykin were in attendance. Commissioner Patti Garrett was absent.
Read more about the redevelopment project and the impacts to Decatur’s only intact African American historic site.