City Commission considering agreement to purchase Children’s Home

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 14, 2017

The United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

This story has been updated. 

The Decatur City Commission is considering an agreement to purchase the 77-acre campus of the United Methodist Children’s home.

The UMCH board recently voted to sell its Decatur campus on South Columbia Drive.

The agreement is up for consideration at the upcoming April 17 meeting. The purchase price is $40 million, or about $520,000 per acre.

The city will make the purchase through its recently created Public Facilities Authority. Here is a map showing the approximate location of the property:

UMCH Boundary 20170414

Under the terms of the deal:

– The UMCH will retain ownership of the Moore Chapel to provide a space for contemplation, weddings, reunions, and gatherings. If the UMCH or an associated organization no longer desires to own the Chapel parcel, the City can purchase the Chapel for a nominal cost.

– Jesse Boring was an important trailblazer in the history of the United Methodist Church, the UMCH and the State of Georgia.  The City of Decatur will respectfully protect Mr. Boring’s gravesite near the existing administrative building, which would be named in recognition of the contributions of Bev Cochran who previously served as the Executive Director of the UMCH for 43 years.

– The City has 100 days to secure financing and then 15 days to close the transaction.  The UMCH would have up to 60 days after closing to vacate the property.

Source: City of Decatur

The announcement that the property was going on the market created an uproar in the community and among alumni of the Children’s Home. Initially, alumni believed a developer wanted to build 600 homes on the property. The city of Decatur intends to use the property as a public space.

UMCH intends to vacate the property in the late summer or early fall.

“Once the City owns and takes possession of the property, it is recommended that the property be annexed into the City limits,” the City Commission meeting agenda says. “Then, we would begin a community–based master planning effort engaging nearby neighborhoods, UMCH alumni and other community stakeholders to help determine a vision and plan for its future use.”

The property has ball fields and a gym. There’s also a building that house the city’s Children and Youth Services Division and host after school and summer programs.

“There are approximately 25 acres of open and green space that can be preserved,” the meeting agenda says.

The Children’s Home has been in Decatur since 1873 and was established to care for children orphaned during the Civil War. UMCH Vice President John Cerniglia previously told Decaturish that there are 12 families on campus that include 60 at-risk children and parents, 20 single teens and young adults on campus, and seven young adults in apartments throughout the metro area. At its peak in the 1950s, UMCH served 160 children. UMCH also has another 115 children in foster care in 40 counties.

He said the families on campus would be relocated.

“We are committed to providing uninterrupted ministry to all those in our care, and to find suitable locations across North Georgia,” he said.

The April 17 City Commission meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at City Hall, located at 509 North McDonough Street. All meetings are open to the public.


About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

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