More than three dozen residents attended the first of two public meetings on designing and building a park on the former Pilgrim's Pride property on Pryor Street in Athens.
Monday night's meeting, held at Athens City Hall, was greeted with a mix of curiosity and enthusiasm by attendees. The public meeting was led by Farmer Morgan LLC, the Nashville-based architectural firm hired by the Athens City Council to design the 32-acre project.
Partner Ben Farmer described Monday's meeting as a beginning of the “visioning process.” Farmer Morgan associates were at City Hall Tuesday and planned to be there again from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today as part of a work session. The session is open for community input.
A final closing presentation and pinup review is set for 6-8 p.m. Thursday. It will also be a public meeting.
Athens native Will Hargrove, a landscape architect with Farmer Morgan, provided background on the project and explained it was recently designated as an Opportunity Zone. The program was established by Congress as a way to attract private-sector investment to low-income urban and rural areas. It is administered by the United States Department of the Treasury and provides federal tax incentives for those who invest in designated Opportunity Zones.
The Pilgrim's Pride site is also considered a “brownfield site,” meaning it may have been polluted by a hazardous contaminant. Athens paid $550,000 for the property and $600,000 to demolish the former Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant and remediate asbestos.
Hargrove said Farmer Morgan would “leverage community assets” as part of its mission. He said “community assets” are the citizens of Athens.
Farmer Morgan team members worked with groups of attendees, who were split into groups at tables, to find out what they wanted to see in the park. Attendees' ideas included trails, a splash pad and a dog park. Most agreed it had to be well-lighted and secure.
Concerns included traffic, parking and ensuring nearby neighborhoods weren't negatively affected by the park.
“It's going to be something people from the region can travel to and enjoy,” Hargrove said.