Marietta moves forward with Elizabeth Porter, Custer parks
by Haisten Willis
May 19, 2014 04:00 AM | 3564 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta city councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly stands outside the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center at 370 Montgomery St. The center and surrounding area includes a total of six acres and will be transformed with $3.5 million in funding.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Marietta city councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly stands outside the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center at 370 Montgomery St. The center and surrounding area includes a total of six acres and will be transformed with $3.5 million in funding.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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Marietta City Councilmen Anthony Coleman and Grif Chalfant, along with parks and recreation director for Marietta Rich Buss, discuss the future of a group of apartment buildings next to Custer Park on May 16. Condemnation proceedings are currently under way for the 1.9-acre property at 500 North Fairground Street which contain the apartment buildings. The expansion of Custer Park will provide more parking for the main building and the nearby soccer fields.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Marietta City Councilmen Anthony Coleman and Grif Chalfant, along with parks and recreation director for Marietta Rich Buss, discuss the future of a group of apartment buildings next to Custer Park on May 16. Condemnation proceedings are currently under way for the 1.9-acre property at 500 North Fairground Street which contain the apartment buildings. The expansion of Custer Park will provide more parking for the main building and the nearby soccer fields.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
MARIETTA — The Marietta City Council on Wednesday authorized the city to move forward with spending $3.5 million on the redevelopment of the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center site and $2.6 million on Custer Park.

Funding comes from the $25 million parks bond issue Marietta voters approved in 2009.

Marietta City Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly, who chairs the city’s parks committee, said the renovations at both parks will mean a lot for the city.

“Elizabeth Porter Park will have a splash ground, similar to the water sprays at Centennial Olympic Park,” said Kelly. “It’s very interactive for kids … Custer Park will add a recreation facility through a building purchased from Turner Chapel AME Church. It’s essentially a recreation and community center as it is. We’ll go in and make it two full basketball courts. We’re also looking at a fitness center, workout rooms and other interactive features.”

Elizabeth Porter Park

The Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center, off Montgomery Street by North Marietta Parkway, was once home to the Cobb County Hospital, a hospital for African-Americans founded Feb. 18, 1946. It later closed after Kennestone Hospital integrated, said Rich Buss, the city’s parks director.

The building later became a recreation center commonly known as the “canteen” and served the former occupants of the Lyman Homes federal housing project and other nearby neighborhoods.

The city plans to raze the existing 10,000-square-foot building containing a basketball court, a large game room, a small meeting room, restrooms and offices.

“Many of these functions will be replaced at what we are calling the Custer Recreation Building at present, formerly the Turner Chapel recreation building,” Buss said.

The Porter Recreation Center’s original footprint was 1.9 acres. The city plans to expand the footprint to 4.8 acres and has spent $950,493 on property acquisition. It is also considering the use of condemnation.

Buss hopes the renovations will be finished by next summer.

Lose & Associates, of Lawrenceville, will complete design and construction plans.

Buss said the new splash pad will face North Marietta Parkway and span 2,500 square feet. Surrounding the splash ground will be a building with concession stands, restrooms, mechanical rooms and areas for seating and sunbathing.

Kelly said splash grounds are safer and cheaper to operate than pools and don’t require lifeguards.

“It’s very safe,” she said. “They’re becoming very popular across the entire metro Atlanta area … It’s really a theme park for Marietta.”

Buss said the entire playground will be an asset to the city.

“The playground will be unique to Marietta,” Buss said. “We will be working with a playground design professional with the intent that we can develop something that harkens to the fabric of Marietta’s history or landmarks and may encompass up to 10,000 square feet.”

Marietta Councilman Anthony Coleman grew up going to the old pool that used to be in the park. His district encompasses both Elizabeth Porter and Custer parks.

“As a little boy, when kids had nothing to do, they went swimming seven days a week,” he said. “I went there myself. There wasn’t a whole lot to do back then. When they tore down all the public housing, we didn’t have participation with kids we once had (with) people going swimming.”

Coleman said the splash park will give kids a new place to congregate during the summer.

Custer Park

Custer Park is located off Kenneth E. Marcus Way by Fairground Street.

Buss said the existing Custer Park building is 23,600 square feet, including 11,000 square feet of gym space and 12,600 square feet of multipurpose space used for classrooms, exercise areas, restrooms and offices.

“The building will be expanded so we can have two basketball courts instead of one,” he said. “There will be energy efficient upgrades in the insulation and lighting that were installed when the facility was constructed. New flooring will be installed in the gymnasium replacing the existing worn carpet that served multiple purposes when Turner Chapel used it for services, recreation and cultural activities.”

The 1.7-acre recreation building and parking lot cost $1.2 million. Condemnation proceedings are under way for another 1.9-acre property at 500 North Fairground Street to provide more parking for the building and nearby soccer fields.

Marietta hopes to start construction of the recreation center expansion in the next 30 days, followed by renovation of the existing gym and remainder of the building.

“We will be meeting with our design folks and developing the plans for the renovation beginning next week,” Buss said. “Demolition of the existing walls needed for the reconfiguration can start soon.”

Once finished, another 3,500 square feet of gym space will be added to Custer Park and the existing building will be completely renovated.

“That will allow for the installation of an elevator and complete reconfiguration of the floor plan to allow for expanded areas for fitness rooms and cardio and exercise machine areas,” Buss said. “The building will also have some multipurpose rooms that can be used for exercise, meetings, classes and camps.”

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Mary Chapman
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June 14, 2014
Before Elizabeth Porter is razed, I hope the "cornerstone" will be saved and made prominent in the new facility. It is a proud reminder of the early leaders of the Marietta Black Community.
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