By John Schaffner

Atlanta Public Schools has dropped the Paces Apartments in the Buckhead Village as a possible location for the new North Atlanta High School and may now be focusing on the IBM properties on Northside Parkway.

In a letter sent Dec. 17 to John W. Grant III, owner of the Paces Apartments property, the school system said it was moving on—that after investigation the system determined it was not the right site.

It was an early Christmas present for Grant, who did not want to sell the property for use as a school, and surrounding property owners, both residential and commercial.

Sally Silver, the new chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit B which oversees development issues in most of the commercial district of Buckhead, confirmed that the letter was received by her friend Grant.

Silver stirred up a couple of months of controversy by announcing in October that Grant had been sent a letter by APS informing him the system was studying his property as a possible site for the school and even indicating APS would use its powers of eminent domain if necessary to acquire it if deemed a proper site.

The Buckhead Village site may no longer be in play, but APS is not saying what sites may still be under consideration. School officials have consistently said they will not discuss details of a site for the new school until they acquire the land. In order to remain on schedule for a 2013 opening of the new school, officials have said a decision on location needs to be made by the end of this year.

Since October, the school system and members of the Atlanta Board of Education have been bombarded with letters of protest over consideration of the Buckhead Village site and neighbors showing up at the board’s October meeting to speak out against it.

Many of the letters suggested APS consider either the IBM site in the northwest corner of Buckhead or the former Home Depot location off Piedmont Road at Lindbergh Plaza.

The school system has never confirmed an interest in the 50-plus acre IBM complex on Northside Parkway. However, it was reported by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in March that IBM might consolidate its Atlanta operations and possibly put that property on the market and in play. In October, Silver said the IBM site was one location being considered by APS for the new high school.

The IBM site is located off of a four-lane parkway, is not surrounded by dense residential or commercial neighborhoods and, because of its specious nature, would allow more space for athletic fields, parking, etc. There already are two buildings on the site that might be useable for the school.

The Paces Apartments site, located on the north side of East Andrews between Roswell and West Paces Ferry roads, was much smaller (30 acres), is heavily wooded and has streams running through it, would require the demolition of the apartment buildings, is surrounded by dense residential and commercial development and is in an area considered by most people to already be congested with traffic.

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.