The future of Pullman Yard 

Redeveloping Kirkwood's 26-acre former industrial hub could transform the neighborhood. But first, someone has to buy it.

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COMMUNITY HUB: Atlanta ContactPoint envisions repurposing the historic buildings and property into a community space promoting fitness, nutrition, and sustainability.
  • Atlanta ContactPoint/Lord Aeck Sargent
  • COMMUNITY HUB: Atlanta ContactPoint envisions repurposing the historic buildings and property into a community space promoting fitness, nutrition, and sustainability.

"The question is: Are [the buildings] really part of the design and its future? How well is it done? How well are they preserved? Are they publicly accessible? Are they done beautifully or interesting? Does it contribute to the cultural scene of the city or is it just another loft project?" Gravel says.

Redeveloping Pullman Yard presents an opportunity for Atlanta to move beyond its tear-it-down past and, provided the buildings can be saved, give the historic buildings a second life.

"I think that site is really significant, particularly when you look at our track record — this is a railroad town, it's still a transportation town," says Jackson McQuigg, vice president of properties at the Atlanta History Center. "And we've done a lousy job of preserving the rail stations that exist. Union and Terminal Stations are gone, which is unconscionable in today's age. What's left around town are things like Pullman [Yard]. It's arguably the most significant that's left."

click to enlarge WHAT’S THE USE: Architecture aficionados think the buildings, built large to handle train cars and manufacturing work, is well-suited to become a cultural arts facility, restaurants, or a number of other uses.
  • Joeff Davis
  • WHAT’S THE USE: Architecture aficionados think the buildings, built large to handle train cars and manufacturing work, is well-suited to become a cultural arts facility, restaurants, or a number of other uses.

In addition, McQuigg says the Pullman Company has important links to the Civil Rights Movement. A. Philip Randolph, who helped organize the Pullman porters and create the nation's first black-led labor organization, was an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and coordinated the March on Washington where the civil rights icon gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"There's a huge story that relates to Atlanta's history," he says. "It becomes so much more than about preserving some old buildings. And there are important reasons to keep it as intact as possible because some parts of it are already gone."

The question then is: What will the state do? GBA Spokesman Paul Melvin says the state agency understands the site's historical value and the neighborhood's wishes. Considering that there are plenty of parcels in Kirkwood and throughout Atlanta where someone could build a run-of-the-mill development, there are hunches that no developer would pursue Pullman Yard without wanting to maintain the buildings. That type of architectural authenticity is valuable in a city like Atlanta, Gravel says.

And judging by the success of the Goat Farm Arts Center, White Provisions, and the King Plow Arts Center, not to mention the anticipation building around Krog Street Market and Ponce City Market, it's hard to imagine that smart developers won't recognize that selling point.

"We all will benefit from something positive happening here," says Carey. "What that is ... I have no earthly idea."

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