“The efforts to acquire this property has been going on about a decade or more by other individuals,” said Michelle Ritan, director of the organization.
“Different folks have tried to acquire it unsuccessfully an then when East Decatur Greenway got involved about a year ago we learned there were title issues and it had extensive environmental contamination,” Ritan said.
The organization now has full title to the property, which includes an abandoned gas station that is riddled with graffiti. The goal of the nonprofit is create community greenspace, remediate environmental contamination and build safe trails for bicycling and walking.
Ritan, who lives just behind the property in the Forrest Hills neighborhood, said they are a small nonprofit with big ambitions.
Work has begun as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has accepted the property into its Georgia Brownfields Program.
A $100,000 targeted brownfields assessment, covered wholly by the Environmental Protection Agency, will be done to remove the three underground storage tanks and the slab of the former convenience store in order to be able to conduct more accurate soil and groundwater sampling.
This will also include demolition of the convenience store building.
Ritan said the gas station project is the first step in the environmental cleanup.
Once the assessment is complete the organization will then apply next fall for an EPA cleanup grant, which would cover the remaining work needed to be done.
“We’re really interested in community input right now,” said Ritan. “We want to obviously clean it up and once the EPA gets through with it — it will certainly look a lot better because they’re going to take everything that’s currently on the site down.”
The property is adjacent to The Friends School of Atlanta, a partner with the organization. Ritan said the school is planning to donate a small parcel of its land to the group, which will create more than two acres that will be transformed into greenspace.
Besides the school, the group also has other community stakeholders in support including the Forrest Hills Neighborhood Association, Midway Woods Neighborhood Association, Columbia Residential, East Decatur Station and more.
The Environmental Protection Agency has begun demolition and soil and groundwater sampling at the site at 890 Columbia Drive in Decatur.