Norfolk Southern has announced it has terminated plans to build a rail transfer facility on the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company in Atlanta.
“We accepted from the beginning that we had a special responsibility to develop this site in a socially and environmentally responsible way, given the atrocities that once took place there,” said James Squires, chairman, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern. “We believe our project presented an opportunity to create a long-overdue memorial to the painful legacy of the site, and at the same time reshape its future by building new river trails and putting the long-abandoned land back into productive use in a way that benefits the regional economy.”
Norfolk Southern’s decision comes after the city of Atlanta filed a petition for preliminary injunction last week with the federal Surface Transportation Board. Although the company believes the city’s action lacks legal merit, Norfolk Southern listened to the community and has no interest in protracted litigation if the city opposes the project.
“We pride ourselves on being a good corporate citizen in the communities where we operate,” said Squires. “In this case, that means walking away from the project despite our very best efforts to work with the community on the responsible development of the site.”
Throughout 2020, Norfolk Southern worked closely with local elected officials, held multiple meetings to listen to the concerns of community stakeholders, and incorporated that feedback into plans for the site.
Norfolk Southern had offered to work with community representatives to design and build a memorial, at the company’s expense, to ensure the history of the site is never forgotten. The company also expressed support–and conducted site tours with stakeholders–for creating public-access trails on the site along the Chattahoochee River and Proctor Creek, as many environmental and community groups advocated.
In addition to complying with rigorous environmental standards for site redevelopment, Norfolk Southern was working with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, through the voluntary Georgia Brownfields Program, to perform extensive environmental remediation of the property.
The company also engaged outside experts to perform an archaeological and historical survey, as well as archaeological excavation in certain areas. No evidence was found of a cemetery on the site, but given the site’s tragic legacy, the company committed to exercise great care as development continued.
The company will complete the necessary work to stabilize and secure the site and then withdraw.