Redevelopment of Callaway Building would be subject to alcohol restrictions

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt February 18, 2015
The Callaway Building, located at 120 West Trinity Place, is behind Decatur High School. Source: Google Maps

The Callaway Building, located at 120 West Trinity Place, is behind Decatur High School. Source: Google Maps

Decatur’s plans for a mixed-use development at the Callaway Building have an important caveat.

Currently, state law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption within 200 yards of a school. The building, located at 120 West Trinity Place, is right behind Decatur High School.

Assistant City Manager Lyn Menne told the Decatur City Commission at its Tuesday meeting that the restriction could limit what would be allowed in the redeveloped Callaway Building. Specifically, she said it would limit the ability to put a grocery store on the property.

“I think any kind of urban area like the city of Decatur that has a school is going to come up against this type of restriction,” Menne said. “While we certainly don’t want to create a free for all. We also … are trying to get better access to food and downtown for all of our residents.”

During the meeting, City Commissioners changed the zoning of the Callaway Building from institutional to commercial. The city has an agreement with Cousins Properties to redevelop the 5.25 acre site. The city purchased the property from DeKalb County using $5.12 million borrowed by issuing bonds. DeKalb County currently occupies the building but the county’s lease ends in October of this year.

The alcohol restriction on businesses near schools adds another twist to questions about whether the property would be better suited to ease overcrowding in Decatur schools. Current City Schools of Decatur enrollment is more than 4,300 students. Enrollment projections show the city adding somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 students by 2020, depending on the growth scenario.

City Manager Peggy Merriss has said the project will provide much-needed commercial tax revenue for the city.

There is a chance that the restriction on the sale of alcoholic beverages could be lifted, however.

Mayor Pro Tem Kecia Cunningham pointed out that there’s currently a bill under consideration that would give local cities a say on whether to waive these rules. Senate Bill 91 provides, “for local control of distance requirements for grocery stores as to the retail sale of wine and malt beverages for consumption off the premises only such that grocery stores shall be allowed to open in locations near school buildings and school grounds if so permitted by the local governing authority.”

Menne said city staff has followed up with the state legislative delegation about the bill.

Commissioner Patti Garrett said the bill has been described as an economic development tool.

Garrett said, “I don’t know where the traction is or anything, but I just remember seeing it last week and going, ‘woohoo!”

Read more: Senate Bill 91.


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  • pete

    The Callaway building still contains DeKalb employees. Where will they be housed?

    • County would need to vacate by the end of the year under the terms of the purchase.

  • An American Patriot

    Hey city commission, school board, school administration and who ever else decides these things, let’s not make another mistake like the DeVry thing. The Calloway property is perfect for school property. Put the Middle School there and use the current MS for another elementary school. It would be the perfect transition from MS to HS. C’mon, the City of Decatur does not need 300 more housing units right downtown, especially in that crowded area. Just think about it, on one contigous piece of property there would be the HS, MS, Housing Project, PD, and CSD Administrative Offices and more. Don’t miss the opportunity for this to happen. And if you get the right architects, a running track, which is sorely needed, could be incorporated into the configuration. Again, don’t make another mistake.

  • Restless One

    I can’t believe the city is missing this opportunity to expand the high school, get a track and maybe some other sports field(s), a really good band room, and parking spaces. All without losing the garden and trees, and putting the kids through years of renovations. Have they been taking lessons from APS on poor school development

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