The prospect of building the new Brookhaven Branch Library in Brookhaven Park is again on the radar after the DeKalb County Library Board of Trustees recently reached out to the City Council asking the city to take a serious look at doing so.

Councilmember Bates Mattison, whose district includes Brookhaven Park, said the city is looking at other sites to build the new library, but no final decision has been made. He said he has heard from the Brookhaven Park Conservancy and the Parks and Recreation Coalition that they are opposed to building a library in Brookhaven Park.

City Councilmember Bates Mattison.

Their main concern is that nearly 5 acres of the 20-acre park was recently set aside for an off-leash dog park, Mattison said, and building a new library in the park would eat up more of its natural green space.

“It’s hard for me to align how the city has interest in expanding and preserving green space and how it aligns giving up park space for the purpose of a library,” Mattison said. “It’s hard to balance those conflicting interests.”

Other options include tearing down the current library and building the new one at that site, Mattison said. He also said other locations include Dresden Drive or Buford Highway, but gave no specifics of where.

Mattison said he supports building a new City Hall and the library at the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA redevelopment if it ever comes about.

“The citizens are very anxious to have their new library,” he said.

The DeKalb County Public Library Board of Trustees recently sent a letter to the City Council saying they were interested in building the Brookhaven branch at Brookhaven Park at 4158 Peachtree Road, according to library board member Joel Gottlieb.

“It’s being considered, but it is too premature to say,” Gottlieb said. “There are a lot of different possibilities, one of which is Brookhaven Park. That would require an agreement with the City Council and the county.”

Talk of building the library in Brookhaven Park goes back to 2006 when DeKalb County voters approved a $56 million bond referendum for library renovations and new library construction. The Brookhaven Library received about $4 million to be used to build a new library.

The city of Brookhaven was incorporated in 2012 and took over control of the county parks.

The Brookhaven branch of DeKalb County’s library system is located on just over 1 acre on a crowded corner with limited parking at North Druid Hills Road and Apple Valley Road. Built in the 1950s, it is considered a neighborhood library because of its size at just under 7,000 square feet. The new library is planned to be 12,000 square feet.

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader

The backdrop to where to build the new library is the city waiting for DeKalb County to finalize its sale of the 7.2-acre front portion of the park to the city, after the city and county agreed last year to a $2.2 million price. The money was included in the city’s $40 million parks bond approved by voters in November.

Finalizing the purchase of the front portion of Brookhaven Park would bring to close a six-year process of negotiations between the city and county.

The city purchased the back 12 acres of the park from the county in 2017 for $100 an acre.

The purchase of the front portion of the park does not include about 3 acres where the DeKalb Services Center and its parking lot are located. The DeKalb Services Center has been located on Osborne Road since 1978 and provides programming for adults with special needs.

“The issue is still the same as it has been all along,” Mayor John Ernst said of finding a location for the new library. “Nothing has been decided. The city right now is just trying to purchase the front portion of the park.”

When the $56 million bond was approved 13 years ago, the DeKalb library board was hoping to see the new branch constructed as part of a redevelopment of the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA Station. Plans for that development broke down, however, delaying any decision on the library’s location.

When MARTA began plans in 2015 to construct a transit-oriented development at the station, the idea of locating the library there was revived. But a bitter dispute between the City Council and MARTA officials over public financing of the project, among other issues, resulted in MARTA walking away from the project in 2017, erasing again hope of building the new library there.

Redevelopment of the MARTA station is still expected to occur,but when and what kind of redevelopment would take place remains unknown.
DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader noted that the Brookhaven branch is the last library scheduled to be built using the 2006 funding. “We want to obviously be consistent with the local government’s vision, but we also have an obligation to deliver the library voted for in 2006,” Rader said.

“I’m becoming more and more impatient to get it built,” he added. “The issue of where is mostly in the hands of the city … but the library board does have prerogative. We are waiting for the city to articulate a clear vision … that’s why I’m stressing the city come to a consensus.”

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.