Supremes: Clark Atlanta’s lawsuit against city over Morris Brown properties can move forward

Where does that leave properties located in a historic neighborhood eyed for revitalization?

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A lawsuit over who owns key pieces of a historically black college in Vine City can move forward, the Georgia S upreme Court said March 7.

Clark Atlanta University claims it owns three properties at Morris Brown College the school sold in 2014 to Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, amid financial woes.

In 1940, Clark Atlanta donated the three properties totaling roughly 13 acres to Morris Brown. The deed to the properties stipulated the land would be used for “educational purposes,” specifically “undergraduate work in the fields of the Arts and Sciences” and graduate courses in theology. If those uses were to ever cease, the deed said, the land would revert to Clark Atlanta.

In 2014, amid bankruptcy and a loss of accreditation, Morris Brown sold the property to Invest Atlanta and Friendship Baptist Church to pay off debts. Clark Atlanta filed a lawsuit later that year, arguing the land was not Morris Brown’s to sell. Since the properties were no longer being used for educational purposes, it was therefore subject to the deed’s conditions.

A Fulton County Superior Court judge agreed. And on March 7, so did the Supremes. The justices say the original terms were “valid and enforceable” and applied to all three parcels.

So where does that leave Invest Atlanta, the city, and more importantly, the properties in a neighborhood at the center of a more than $100 million revitalization pegged to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium?

In a statement, Invest Atlanta President and CEO Eloisa Klementich said the agency is reviewing the Supremes’ opinion and looks forward to “resolving all legal issues regarding this historic property in a way that preserves the legacy of the Atlanta University Center and catalyzes the revitalization of the Martin Luther King corridor.”

The city and Invest Atlanta did not respond when asked why it bought the land without clear title. Because ouch. 

UPDATE: This post has been altered to correct an attribution error. A spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed provided the statement for Klementich.