The battle over and through Home Park

Atlantic Station dividing neighborhood in more ways than one

Developers tout Atlantic Station as an Emerald City rising out of an abandoned brown field. But some residents living near the construction site are waking up to the possibility that the creation of Oz may be the destruction of their neighborhood.

"They are dismantling this neighborhood is what they are doing," says Home Park resident Dan O'Boyle.

"They" is Jacoby Development, the company building Atlantic Station, the $2 billion, 140-acre development that, when completed, will boast 2,400 housing units, 5 million square feet of office space, and 1.2 million square feet of retail space.

The project has created a rift within the Home Park neighborhood, with two factions emerging, each with different ideas about how to protect their neighborhood.

Home Park lies directly south of Atlantic Station. The only boundary separating the quiet neighborhood from what will be one of the largest mixed-use development projects in the Southeast is 16th Street, which will have at least seven entries to Atlantic Station, making it a prime entrance and exit corridor.

The Home Park residents most vulnerable to being overrun by Atlantic Station live on six residential roads that run between 14th and 16th streets. Some fear those cozy streets will become snarled with Atlantic Station traffic.

After studying the developer's site plans, O'Boyle claims Jacoby is planning to raise 16th street about 20 feet, and will turn what is now a quiet, 25 mph two-lane street into a four-lane, clogged nightmare accessible directly from 75/85.

He's also found schematics that call for shifting seven Home Park streets as much as 15 feet from their current location. And that, he fears, would mean the city would use the right of eminent domain to commandeer yards, and possibly homes, so the streets could be moved.

But Suzanne Wold, project manager for LAWGIBB Group, the engineering firm that was hired to design Atlantic Station, says parts of 16th street will be raised 20 feet, and other parts will be lowered. The street will connect to Techwood Drive just as it does now, she says, and won't be an exit, despite O'Boyle's claims.

She also says the map that calls for shifting Home Park streets by 15 feet came from a printing error. "When we found out about that, we immediately corrected that [map]," Wold says.

O'Boyle isn't buying it. "When we point out that there are inconsistencies in [the developers'] plans or projects they didn't tell anyone about, either the plan disappears, or gets altered. [Jacoby] feel they have carte blanche to do whatever they want."

Cole Cowden, another outspoken opponent of the Atlantic Station project, says, "These are sloppy plans and the city isn't doing its due diligence. In other words, they are submitting crap and no one is questioning them but us."

The group that's supposed to question the developer, O'Boyle and Cowden say, is the Home Park Community Improvement Association.

But O'Boyle, Cowden and about 10 other Home Park residents split off from the Home Park Community Improve-ment Association because they claim some leaders in the association seemed to be in bed with the developer.

Because Jacoby gave the community improvement association $10,000 for an $85,000 community planning study, the association has compromised its responsibility to represent the interests of actual Home Park residents, O'Boyle says.

Cowden also points to Shaun Green, an association board member who works for a subcontractor on the Atlantic Station project. Cowden's wife, Kathy Boehmer, asked the community association's president, Tim State, to recuse Green from all board matters dealing with Atlantic Station.

"There needs to be a serious effort to avoid even the appearance of impropriety," Boehmer wrote in an e-mail to State. State's response didn't mention Green.

State says he doesn't recall seeing any mention of Green in the e-mail. "If there is something I didn't address, she has not made that known to me," he says.

"Because of Green, Home Park is at the table in discussions where normally we wouldn't be. He's been at a number of meetings about the 17th Street overpass, realigning the [Downtown] Connector and the possibility of a 15th Street overpass. Without him, Home Park's interests would not be represented," State says.

There are 1,100 houses and apartment in Home Park, 75 percent of which are rentals. That makes it hard to say if the community improvement association, Jacoby Development or O'Boyle and his group qualify as the as the real representatives of the neighborhood.??