Nov 14, 2023 - News

Mayor's plan to extend Atlanta Medical Center moratorium meets pushback

A map of parcels (marked in red) where the city wants to freeze development temporarily

The 25-acre campus is in a red-hot pocket of Old Fourth Ward that's getting continued interest from developers. Screenshot: Atlanta City Council

Mayor Andre Dickens wants to wait longer before allowing developers to propose plans for the old Atlanta Medical Center property.

  • But one council member fears that could result in a 25-acre dead zone in the middle of Old Fourth Ward.

What's happening: On Monday, the Atlanta City Council zoning committee gave its blessing to legislation extending the mayor's time-out on rezonings and other development applications for the campus.

  • The full council will take up the measure at next Monday's meeting.

State of play: Dickens wants the city to hire a contractor to gather community feedback and propose the best use for the property, including potentially reusing existing buildings, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported last week.

Yes, but: The process could take several months to a year before the city adopts the plan, according to the outlet.

Atlanta City Council member Amir Farokhi, who represents the eastern half of the 11-parcel campus, told Axios he would like to see the properties redeveloped with housing, retail and preferably some health care use.

  • He said that moratoriums are typically "bad public policy. They delay the inevitable, often to the detriment to both land owners and neighbors."
  • Farokhi went on to say that "to the extent that a rezoning is necessary for future use, that's the pinch point where the city has the most leverage."

Catch up quick: After Wellstar's surprise November 2022 closure of the nearly 500-bed hospital, Dickens said the moratorium was needed to "review the impact of the hospital's closure on the community and consider possible rezoning."

  • Since then, council members have proposed that the city buy the property to use as affordable housing or a center with social services. This past weekend, a physicians organization marched to urge Wellstar to donate the property to the city.

What they're saying: Council member Liliana Bakhtiari, who represents the other part of the campus, told her colleagues at Monday's zoning meeting that Wellstar officials told her they're "very amenable to doing something health-related at the site."

  • But unless the city has a formal agreement from Wellstar, she supports temporarily extending the moratorium — "especially seeing how they conducted their closure, which was very poorly done," she said.

The other side: In a statement, Wellstar told Axios the system continues "to talk with members of the community and evaluate potential solutions."


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