An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

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Community group seeks approval to utilize district excess land for pool

This+layout+was+prepared+by+Field+Landscape+Architecture+in+collaboration+with+the+VaHi+Pool+Association.+The+plan+is+intended+to+illustrate+the+potential+for+the+Field+of+Dreams+and+serve+as+a+reference+point+for+discussions+with+the+community+and+Atlanta+Public+Schools.
Virginia Highland Pool Website
This layout was prepared by Field Landscape Architecture in collaboration with the VaHi Pool Association. The plan is intended to illustrate the potential for the Field of Dreams and serve as a reference point for discussions with the community and Atlanta Public Schools.

The Virginia Highland Pool Association (VHPA) has spearheaded a multi-million dollar initiative with hopes to transform the Virginia Highland Elementary “Field of Dreams” into a community pool, which Atlanta Public Schools (APS) sports teams can utilize.
In April, the Atlanta Board of Education created an inventory of the district’s historic properties and a rubric for scoring which to save and how. In a land utilization report in their May monthly meeting, the board then considered the “Field of Dreams” an excess property and recommended that APS ownership would continue but the land would be leased or co-developed for projects that “benefit the community.”

“This is going to be a huge benefit to not only the Virginia Highland community, but also APS and specifically Midtown High School because kids will no longer be bused all around the city just to do the sports they care about,” Virginia Highland Pool Association Founder John Closs said. “They can just walk down the street and enjoy a great facility. For the school system and benefits for the broader community, I really hope it comes to fruition.”
Closs has lived in Virginia-Highland for seven years and noticed the underutilization of the field.
“I always knew it was underutilized because I live two blocks from there and I drive by it every day,” Closs said. “When it was a middle school, I would see kids out there for soccer practice occasionally, but ever since it has been a temporary home of Morningside Elementary School, I maybe saw kids out there twice a year. So, I knew it was an excess property, and then APS confirmed through their process.”
The pool initiative is estimated to cost up to $5 million and the hope is for the pool to be a mixed public-private space that serves both the APS community and private members of the facility, in hopes to alleviate pressures from limited APS pool facilities.
“Midtown currently practices at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, which is about a 20-minute drive [that] can be longer with Midtown traffic in the evening,” former Captain of the girl’s swim team Sarah Prevost said. “The pool was often not big enough [and] not available because it was being shared amongst so many APS schools in the area, and not staffed with lifeguards at times when we wanted to practice. A pool like this so close would create so much more flexibility, convenience and possibly better training.”
Fundraising for the pool is being collected from local membership sales and donations from residents, businesses and foundations. There has been no draft of an official legal agreement with APS about the cost of the facility’s utilization.
“We are not asking APS to pay to put any money towards this other than potentially paying for utilities,” Closs said. “The idea is that they would lease the land to our nonprofit at an essentially $0 payment, and then they would get back $5 million of capital contributions on the land and use of the land at any time of their choosing.”
On its website, the Virginia Highland Pool Association describes the proposal as a “year-round asset for the community” because of the seasonal accommodations and public and private uses for the facility.
“The pool would be designed in a way so that it could be covered with a temporary structure during the winter months to allow for year-round swimming,” the website reads. “FIELD Landscape Architecture collaborated with the VHPA to develop a conceptual site plan to illustrate the vision and potential for developing a pool on the Field of Dreams.”
Prevost believes access to the pool for an elementary and middle school summer league would greatly impact the high school turnout and roster numbers, because it introduces young athletes to the sport.
“A lot of kids will do a summer league team in the summer, and then they decide they really like to swim and will join their high school team to get more involved in swimming,” Prevost said. “Right now, the Virginia Highland area doesn’t have a good summer league team, so I think that [a league] would attract a lot more kids to stick with it, especially if they saw the high school team practicing.”
However, some residents on the surrounding streets of Virginia Avenue, Ponce Place and Virginia Circle worry about the possible impact on the formerly calm part of VAHI.
“While the pool promises to foster a strong sense of community, there are valid concerns about potential noise and street parking issues that need careful consideration,” Virginia-Highland resident Blair Fallivene said. “Despite these concerns, I believe the construction of the pool is a positive step forward, and with thoughtful planning and communication by Mr. Closs and his team, it has the potential to become a cherished space that enhances the neighborhood’s vibrancy.”
The VHPA is currently hosting meetings with community members to better understand and address problems like this.
“The response from the community for the most part has been overwhelmingly positive,” Closs said. “In the month and a half that we’ve had the website live, we’ve had about 100 people reach out via email to me just being supportive and asking how they can help and get involved. We are working to create a model with lighting, sound and parking that would mitigate [disturbance] to surrounding residents.”
Other members of the community believe that other uses of the land could better serve the community. Chip Bullock, a member of the planning committee for the Virginia Highland Civic Association (VHCA), sees the land better serving the school system.
“I believe that the site has more strategic value to APS,” Bullock said. “More structured plan of collaboration and development of a proposal for VAHI review and comment is needed before formal applications are submitted.”
By the end of November, the Atlanta Board of Education believes they will be finalized with their decisions regarding the future utilization of each property, which will then allow the association to formally submit a proposal for approval from the Board of Education.
“I had those initial conversations almost two years ago at this point with city council members, people on the [APS] facilities team and board members, and even back then it was extremely positive from all of those folks,” Closs said. “I think now, more than ever, they can recognize the underutilization of this area and the need for additional pool capacity for Atlanta Public Schools [and] the community as a whole.”

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Sierra Pape
Sierra Pape, News Managing Editor
Sierra Pape is a junior and this is her third year on the Southerner staff. When she is not writing, you will find her running for the Midtown cross country team, working for Midtown Votes and political organizations outside of school, and singing and playing the guitar. She is excited to contribute to the paper for years to come.

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