Reimagining Pullman Yard

The twenty-six acre industrial relic in Kirkwood could become a sports complex


Despite the pastoral expanse of Piedmont Park and the BeltLine’s burgeoning greenspaces, Atlanta ranks low on parks per capita, coming in at thirty-one on the Trust for Public Land’s 2013 assessment of parks in the country’s fifty largest cities. Conversely, Georgia’s at the top of the ranks for childhood obesity.

To help reverse those stats, a group called Atlanta ContactPoint has outlined lofty goals: boost intown park space, confront the flab problem, and nurture transitional communities by transforming old industrial sites into sports complexes. David Epstein, a Wall Street trader turned teacher and coach, founded ACP two years ago and has enlisted more than 100 disparate organizations—soccer clubs, developers, and law firms among them—as collaborators.

ACP has an inaugural project in mind: turning the state-owned Pullman Yard, a twenty-six-acre former rail facility in Kirkwood, into a compound with indoor courts and outdoor fields of durable turf that can withstand year-round use. Pullman Yard was slated for auction in May, but the Georgia Building Authority, which controls the site, postponed the sale at the last minute. The property, which last housed the New Georgia Railroad, has been vacant for six years. It was assessed at $16 million back in 2007 and valued at a postrecession $4 million this year. Epstein is confident ACP will eventually purchase the site. ACP has met with the building authority and the governor’s office. “People have asked, ‘Shouldn’t you keep this close to your chest so developers don’t hear about it?’ And we say, ‘This is perfect for our proposed use.’ We really want this place,” says Epstein.

In the meantime, ACP hosts “Play Day” events to promote youth fitness and raise awareness for its longer-term goals. The next will be October 19 at Piedmont Park.

This article originally appeared in our October 2013 issue.

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  • nrosbottom

    Yes! Our fellow “intowners” have been envious of OTP (outside the perimeter) sports fields/non-professional sports venues for years. The communities in town could utilize this central spot: hardcourt bike polo (currently our local team shares basketball courts), kickball, softball, street hockey, you name it…

  • skilakeclaire

    I can’t imagine a more beneficial program and venue for this area to build and sustain a healthy, active and engaged community. Central location for families and young professionals in town, close to the Beltline, marta, bike trails…great, creative and powerful use of public/private funds. We’re pulling for ya ACP!

    • Evan

      I don’t see anything wrong with this project, but I disagree that it is close to the beltline. It is >2 miles away from the Eastside trail which is only 2.3 miles long at this point in time. However, it’s less than a mile from Candler Park MARTA station, close to the Trolley Line Trail, and in a community that could use it.

  • Kirkwoodian

    I am glad ACP asked the neighborhood if they wanted another traffic nightmare. Ask the people on Arizona how they like the AYSA traffic when the soccer parents block all our driveways during the afternoons and weekends. It might be a good idea but it is the wrong location. There are a lot better locations for this.

    • Glen

      Really? The reason az is so crowded is because there are no alternatives. Would you rather a developer put up a 200 apt complex? You are short sighted. Move to the suburbs

      • Jim

        So if a neighbor doesn’t want a huge development next door to them they should move. That is fair.

        Rogers and Arizona streets are not designed to take the traffic generated by 26 acres of sports fields if the use is so great redevelop the Candler Park golf course. As residents of Kirkwood we have a right to say no to a massive development in our neighborhood. I bet a traffic study would show that the plan proposed will generate is the equivalent of 800-1000 apartments being built there.

        Kirkwood has worked with the city to create a future growth plan and this is not even close.

    • Former Arizona Ave Resident

      You are SO RIGHT. I lived on Arizona Ave for 5 years and this will be a traffic nightmare. I just hope they preserve the historic structures (doubt it) because they are beautiful and historically valuable. Fake grass won’t cover or protect kids from the possible chemicals left over from the weapons production during WWII… but then, there is a school right behind this, so what do I know? All I remember is that most residents behind the location won’t eat any vegetables from their yards. Yippee, fun. Good luck Pullman Yard! WE LOVE YOU!

  • Kirkwood Neighbor

    ACP’s proposal seems to benefit a small number of people tremendously. The surrounding neighborhoods would see little benefit from people driving in to play sports, then driving back home. Kirkwood already has a neighborhood park with two tennis courts, two basketball courts and a softball field. I live across the park and see those facilities used sparingly. I do however see the children’s playground used daily, as well as people walking, playing frisbee/what not with their dogs, etc. – i.e. very little organized sports. I suppose ACP would have a bigger draw, but again, the people who would benefit most do not live in surrounding neighborhoods. As a nearby resident I would like to see something that appeals/benefits a larger number of locals.

  • Earl Williamson, RN

    It’s significant to note that ACP has proven incapable of obtaining the support of the community it would (negatively) impact, failed to demonstrate adequate funding to implement, and failed to produce an effective plan for preservation of the core six historical structures on site. Indeed the ACP site only speaks of preserving one of those.

    There’s not a sport mentioned that does not already have adequate playing space in the 75+ acres of parks in NPU-O, nor is there a demonstrated shortage of playing spaces in the metro Atlanta Area, which begs the question: Why does ACP think it neccessary to create a duplicative recreation facility over the objections of the community it would impact, one incapable of meeting claimed (and undocumented) needs due to poor transportation connections and inadequate parking?

  • David

    To refute some of Earl’s comments, it is important to note that:
    1. ACP has hundreds of supporters from the Kirkwood area
    2. True, it is hard to get funding for a site when you can not get any kind of commitment from the owners.
    3. ACP will keep all historic buildings and this has been our commitment since day 1; I don’t know where he gets info on only keeping 1 building. We will preserve and highlight the buildings history while they will also act as shells for indoor sports, activities, and education.
    4. Our park space in Atlanta is barely enough for passive green space; anyone that plays sports in Atlanta knows that there is not nearly enough space to play many sports. No space for ultimate, lacrosse, hockey, and others. Limited space for all other sports. This is a FACT!
    5. We will not be duplicating anything; we will create a unique space to PLAY, learn, and socialize.
    6. As far as transportation, we will utilize the nearby MARTA stations for parking, the 3 PATH trails will connect through property, and we will bus kids from surrounding schools for after school programs.
    7. We will also make sure EVERY child in Kirkwood and Edgewood has an opportunity to learn several different sports and activities.
    Anyone interested in discussing the project, please contact us.