Decatur’s $40 million purchase of the United Methodist Children’s Home in 2017 netted the city 77 acres of green space, 34 historic buildings, ample natural resources, and countless possibilities.
But it also came with obligations like ongoing management, maintenance responsibilities, and operational costs. Costs that require a revenue source beyond public funds.
That’s why the Legacy Park Master Plan envisions a future in which the assets of the park — its buildings and community spaces — generate the revenue necessary to sustain its ongoing operations.
Facing such a goal, Decatur officials sought an existing model to emulate and found one in Atlanta’s relationship with the Piedmont Park Conservancy, a nonprofit organization operating in partnership with the city to oversee the management, beautification, and programming of Midtown’s premier community green space.
Enter Legacy Decatur, an existing nonprofit established by Decatur in 2015 to facilitate the planning and fundraising efforts associated with the city’s 2023 bicentennial celebrations. With its growing board, expanded to include a wider array of Decatur residents, the organization was poised to assume a comparable role.
A Progress Report
In a Monday, May 16 work session preceding their regularly scheduled meeting, Legacy Decatur Executive Director Lyn Menne delivered a first-year progress report to Decatur’s City Commission. In it she shared news of a model already delivering on its promise.
The operations agreement between the City and Legacy Decatur stipulates a yearly management fee — $181,000 initially — to be reduced annually as the park becomes more self-sufficient.
In 2021, park operations were budgeted for a net revenue of $31,800. But thanks to a variety of factors — unanticipated filming fees and a healthy demand for nonprofit office space among them — actual revenue came in at just over $114,000, nearly four times projections. This allowed for the City’s support payment to be reduced to $66,400 for 2022, a reduction of over 60%.
Since the start of the agreement, Legacy Park has launched a wedding operation using the historic Moore Chapel and the Hawkins Dining Hall; added 10 new nonprofit tenants whose community-focused missions align with the park’s Master Plan; hosted multiple film shoots (including ongoing use in the production of ABC’s The Wonder Years); and completed a variety of repairs, renovations, and improvements at Legacy Park.
From festivals to weddings to community gatherings, event use continues to grow. Launch year revenues came in at $6,725 but now, in the first four months of 2022, a total of $20,206 has already been received or booked.
These growing revenues — which are added to a fund balance to cover building repairs, property improvements, and assist with larger capital projects — have allowed Legacy Decatur to continue its mission at Legacy Park: Protecting the environment while supporting recreation. Preserving history while pursuing affordable housing. Building community while generating revenue.
Coming soon, look for new wayfinding signage; further restoration work on the Dairy Barn; an all new, fully accessible playground; rollout of the Creative Village; and enhancements at Postal Pond.