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Despite opposition, Grady High School lawn could be swapped with a parking lot

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Repurposing green space for the convenience of drivers could present safety problems, opponents argue

A photo of cyclists waiting for their turn at the intersection of 10th Street and Monroe Drive, a chokepoint for pedestrians.
The Beltline’s Eastside Trail at the corner of 10th Street and Monroe Drive, where a Grady freshman was killed by a car in 2016.
Curbed Atlanta

As Midtown’s Henry W. Grady High School’s student body swells, it’s a given that the institution will need to bolster infrastructure to keep up.

And as Grady’s campus expands over the next few years, it’s no surprise that parking capacity will follow suit.

Exactly how the Atlanta Public Schools system has opted to create those new parking spaces, however, has become a source of controversy.

The nearly 90 “much-needed parking spaces”—as APS put it—would be built upon what’s now the school’s front yard, a lawn along Charles Allen Drive.

The school expansion project is slated to begin in the winter of 2020 and finish in fall 2021.

Grady, which has a student body of almost 1,400, now has just 174 parking spaces, according to a report by WSB-TV. (The school expects to count closer to 1,500 students in four years, plus the additional teachers and staff needed for a larger student body.)

Paving green space to make way for more parking, of course, has drawn the ire of advocates for better transportation infrastructure in and around Grady.

Grady student Bria Brown, activist with the Grady Pedestrian Safety Coalition, told Curbed Atlanta she understands the growing school needs to expand its parking capacity, but “the addition of parking spots to the specific Charles Allen location would make the street very trafficked, when it’s currently the quietest street Grady sits on.”

In 2016, Grady freshman Alexia Hyneman was struck by a car and killed while walking her bike across Monroe Drive, leaving an after-school performance.

Today, organizers like Brown are vying to boost safety at the intersection of 10th Street and Monroe Drive, among other dangerous corners nearby, by lobbying for a “complete streets” conversion, which would create new light individual transportation (LIT) lanes.

Adding the new parking lot on Charles Allen Drive could make the intersection of 8th Street and Monroe Drive—on the south side of Grady’s campus—unsafe, too, she posited.

Rebecca Serna, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition executive director, backed the call for a complete streets overhaul at 10th and Monroe in an email to Curbed. Serna notes the intersection has recently been improved with the addition of a pedestrian scramble, “but it could be even better.”

“We’d like to see a raised intersection,” she said, nodding to a change that would essentially turn the corner into a large speed bump, “and the school zone extended to include the intersection of 10th and Monroe.”

Additionally, Maria Saporta, founder and editor of Saporta Report, wrote in a column that “Turning Grady’s front lawn into a parking lot is the totally wrong message for how we want to develop into a city with a high quality of life and respect of the natural environment.”

Saporta continued:

Grady’s front lawn—an attractive green space that’s bordered by mature trees—provides a wonderful park-like connection from the neighborhood to Piedmont Park. How could anyone believe that turning the front lawn into a surface parking lot is a good idea?

APS officials have not responded to questions about whether the school system had conducted transportation studies to determine how Grady students are currently getting to school.