Parking revenue at Turner Field funneled millions of dollars into a development fund
ATLANTA -- For much of his life, former state Rep. Douglas Dean has been the face of Summerhill -- the troubled neighborhood immediately beyond the gates of Turner Field.
For 17 years, Dean's nonprofit, the Summerhill Neighborhood Development Corporation, got a cut of parking parking revenue from the Atlanta Braves -- to advance the cause of the neighborhood.
"It added up to millions of dollars over a long period of time," Dean said. "The housing is a total success."
Others in Summerhill say the neighborhood's housing is far from successful, and question the priorities of millions spent by Dean's group. "Our fund was supposed to be earmarked for neighborhood improvement," said David Glass, an attorney who works with another neighborhood group called Organized Neighbors of Summerhill. "Not a lot of thought was put into how those funds would be distributed and accounted for."
Summerhill's needs remain obvious -- with boarded up businesses in the neighborhood's main drag, Georgia Avenue -- and an abundance of vacant lots and decaying homes.
But one of Dean's funding priorities was an annual festival called the Summerhill Reunion -- which he said spotlighted the neighborhood's history. "Every year, they would have a marching band. They would march through the streets on a Saturday morning," Glass said. " I don't see how that could advance any development in the neighborhood."
Dean says there is "no doubt" that the parking money was intended to help fund the annual festival. "We were trying to make Summerhill a liveable community instead of a parking lot for the Braves," he said.
Dean says the neighborhood is better off than it was before his nonprofit started spending Braves parking money in Summerhill 17 years ago.
"I think one day you'll see thriving businesses along Georgia Avenue and around the stadium," Dean said. "Everything takes time."