More than a year has passed since Kirkwood's Pullman Yard has been a news topic, but one group that hopes to transform the abandoned, state-owned rail facility is keen on changing that. David Epstein, founder of Atlanta ContactPoint, tells Curbed his sports-focused non-profit for local youth will be "pushing hard for Pullman over next few months" by raising community awareness for his group's vision. In May, ACP plans to host two "Community Conversations" in Kirkwood as a lead-up to what they're calling a "Pullman Yard Showcase" festival in September. According to a promotional flyer, the festival will offer "sports, arts, games, fitness and performances" as a means of engaging neighbors and showcasing the site's "potential for enriching the community." ACP envisions a day when the long-vacant, 26-acre industrial site will play host to sports fields and indoor activity space — hosting everything from skateboarding to trapeze arts — in more than 100,000 square feet of historic structures. A developer, meanwhile, has unveiled a competing vision of townhomes and office space for the site, which some feel is among the last well-positioned, developable plots of this scale left in Atlanta. ACP hopes the upcoming meetings will reignite talk of Pullman Yard's rebirth. And Epstein added that a legendary Atlanta restaurateur is all aboard with their plans.
In what might be the most random pairing since Ludacris met Jeb Bush, ACP has enlisted the support of Dante Stephenson, the eccentric former owner of Dante's Down the Hatch, a fondue and jazz emporium that operated in Atlanta for decades. Stephenson, who is avid about historical preservation, counts himself a fan of the Pullman Yard facility and actually lives in an old luxury rail car in Buckhead, on land he leases from the railroad. After catching wind of ACP's plans, Stephenson has offered to donate to the project a 1915 Pullman lounge car, a caboose and a model train set used to make the burning of Atlanta scene in "Gone With the Wind." That's if ACP can buy the property from the Georgia Building Authority, which controls it.
And that's a big if.
Epstein said there's not much to update regarding a potential sale of Pullman Yard. The property was slated for auction two years ago, but the Georgia Building Authority postponed the sale at the last minute. (Its value, Epstein and others have noted, had dipped from $16 million in 2007 to $4 million but has likely risen since). In the meantime, the site has been a magnet for television and movie filming, including the "Hunger Games" last year. Rumor has it that production crews are drawn to the site for its urban grittiness — and also because the state rents it out for next to nothing.
The last time Pullman Yard made waves, Kirkwood's neighborhood planning unit had voted to support the plans of a development group led by Stan Sugarman. The developer told Curbed he was planning to retain the historical buildings while infusing the property with 100,000 square feet of office space, 165 townhomes, a restaurant and coffee shop. Sugarman cautioned that any plans for the property were preliminary at that point.
As for the Pullman Yard community meetings, Epstein said the first will be held at 7 p.m., May 21 at Le Petite Marche in the Kirkwood Village. The next happens at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 23 at Bessie Branham Park's rec center (1984 Hosea L. Williams Drive NE).