The Summerhill neighborhood in Atlanta hit a homerun when Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the opening of a 50,000-square-foot Public grocery store, across the street from where the Atlanta Braves baseball stadium Turner Field was once located.
Bottoms joined an august body of dignitaries, including Carter development firm CEO Scott Taylor, Publix corporate employees and representatives from the Summerhill neighborhood, in the old Braves vast parking lot on Hank Aaron Drive to announce the construction of the grocery store and related development.
Bottoms attended the celebratory affair because she was instrumental in the creation of the strategic alliances that enabled this enormous and ambitious project to come to fruition.
It is also the fulfillment of Bottoms’ promise to further revitalize Summerhill after the Braves mass exodus to northern metro Atlanta. Part of Bottoms’ plan included the goal to eradicate the food desert in the area located just south of downtown and within eyeshot of the Georgia state capitol.
“When we embarked upon the transformation of Turner Field, the consistent plea from the community was access to fresh and healthy food options. With this grocery store, a food desert in the heart of our city has been removed,” Bottoms said before a battery of reporters, photographers, legislators and others from adjacent businesses.
Bottoms was the executive director of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority that oversaw the sale of Turner Field to Georgia State University in 2016. She is confident that the Publix store and other mix-use development will usher in “much-needed amenities” to the area undergoing an evolution after being racked with crime and blight for decades.
Construction on the Publix store is scheduled to begin later in 2021.
The Atlanta-based developer Carter also announced other construction projects around Publix in partnership with K. King & Co. and Healey Weatherholtz Properties. This will include banks, retail, restaurants, a fitness studio, and a pet supply store.
The current phase of development in Summerhill includes 105 single-family townhomes and 306 multifamily units within walking distance of Georgia State University’s baseball park.
Brenda Reid, the media and community relations manager for Publix, said the moment is steeped in symbolism for her personally. She is a 20-year resident of Summerhill and had just celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary the day before the Publix press conference. She provided a fascinating backdrop and historical perspective on why this Publix store and related development is so vital to this area.
She educated some and reminded others among the racially mixed crowd that day that Summerhill was formed in 1865 in the aftermath of the Civil War and the eradication of the institution of slavery. It was the place where freed slaves and Jewish immigrants first settled in the city.
“In 1867, the first rule for African Americans in Atlanta was the Somerville school. The first African American principal to work for Atlanta public schools, who worked at the Somerville school, and his name was principal CW Hill,” Reid said, adding that the legendary Herman J. Russell was also raised in the neighborhood.
“Summer Hill was home to the first retail district for African Americans in Atlanta. And for decades, the only one,” Reid continued. ” So, today is an important day in the history of Atlanta. Today, Summerhill no longer is a community play with blight, crime and neglect. Today Summerhill is no longer an FDA food desert. Today, through a public and private partnership, the hard work and the love of a community that has come together to build something great, not just our neighbors, but for our city.”
“Today, we are changing lives, we are rewriting history and we are making good on old promises.”