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, who had mounted a letter and e-mail campaign against the Buckhead Village location for the school.

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 suggesting APS would condemn the property 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, however, School Board members have said a decision on location needed to be made by the end of 2010.

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.

There also have been some letters in support of the Buckhead Village site and opposing the location off Northside Drive. (See Letters to the Editor on page 6 and at

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 not 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.

In October, Silver said the IBM site was one location being considered by APS for the new high school.

Also, Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition and former Atlanta mayor, said, “The last we heard, and this is purely street talk, was that the board was shifting its interest to the IBM properties on Northside Parkway.”

The IBM site is located off a four-lane parkway (Northside Parkway and U.S. 41), is not surrounded by dense residential or commercial neighborhoods and would allow more room for athletic fields, parking, etc. There already are two buildings on the site.

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.

Gordon Certain, president of the North Buckhead Civic Association which represents one of the largest neighborhoods in Buckhead, said his members have been almost split in half over opposition or support for the East Andrews Drive location for the school.

“The IBM site is not close to any neighborhoods where families live,” Certain said. “It is not convenient for almost any students or parents involved with the school.”

He suggested it would be a long commute from his neighborhood across Mount Paran Road to the IBM site for parents and students.

However, Brian McHugh, who works for the Buckhead Community Improvement District and lives near Chastain Park, reacted to APS’s rejection of the East Andrews Drive site as “smart.”

He said the IBM site affords more space for the school and less traffic congestion.

“Furthermore there are already two usable buildings on the IBM site,” McHugh explained.

“Those buildings have open floor plans. You just tear down some dividers and put up some new partitions and you have space usable for classrooms,” the former Atlanta city planner said.