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Forest Park residents look to future

FOREST PARK — Forest Park is about four miles from the world’s busiest airport, and boasts a state farmers market and a former Army base with plenty of room for development.

So why isn’t it a flourishing, bustling metropolis teeming with young professionals eager to spend their disposable income on well-appointed homes inside modern subdivisions?

Well, Clayton County’s largest city has suffered from a negative public image for about eight years, said one resident. He described the handful of motels along I-75 as “crack-tels” and “weed-tels,” referring to the drugs widely thought to be sold and used there.

The man was one of fewer than 100 of the city’s estimated 18,874 population who gathered at City Hall on Monday night to hear an update on the Main Street project.

However, instead of city officials giving a slide presentation of the latest phase, technical issues put Mayor David Lockhart front and center in council chambers, offering a soliloquy on Forest Park, and fielding and answering resident questions.

Lockhart told the man with concerns about the city’s image that the police department is aware of the issues and is working on the drug problem.

The resulting informational session was mostly a hodgepodge of what those residents would like to see or not see happen to the city. A woman said the city has a problem with deteriorating apartment complexes.

“They look a mess,” she said.

One thing the majority seemed to agree on was alcohol would not be welcome at outdoor public events.

“I am opposed to alcohol at these events because they are mostly family-related,” Councilwoman Maudie McCord said. “I don’t think we need to start bringing in alcohol.”

Several residents talked about re-vamping the State Farmers Market, which is inside the city limits near I-75.

“The problem is, while it’s inside the city limits, it’s not a Forest Park market,” Lockhart said. “It belongs to the state and there is no money to make improvements.”

As an alternate, residents talked about an open air market elsewhere so Georgia farmers could sell fruits and vegetables, but that would attract other vendors, possibly live music, and pedestrian traffic.

Longtime residents reminisced about the past and what attracted them to Forest Park in the first place. They emphasized that, with the city’s proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, I-75, I-85 and I-285, Forest Park is a jewel waiting to be discovered.

Resident Ann Keith said she envisions a lively Main Street busy with patrons of all generations.

“I think it would be cool for a senior living center on one end of Main Street,” she said. “Farther up, in the old C&S Bank, you could have living, working and recreation with a younger crowd intertwined together. The young and old, it used to be that way. We could have Main Street rocking and rolling.”

Despite the plethora of ideas, the proposals all have one thing in common — a lack of funding.