The news that the former Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital property is up for sale has prompted the board of the Community Center of South Decatur (CCSD) to share our position on the possible change in ownership of this historic property.
Many long-time residents of Oakhurst are familiar with the work that the all-volunteer CCSD board has done to help restore and preserve The Solarium building and grounds, part of the historic Scottish Rite property, as a community gathering place.
As most people in the neighborhood know, the Solarium is frequently rented out for weddings and other special events. What many don't realize is that the CCSD is a non-profit organization that plows the income raised from those events into the maintenance of this special facility.
The Solarium also plays host or co-host to many community events, including:
· Free spring and fall jazz concerts on the lawn,
· Serving as volunteer headquarters for Decatur’s massive MLK weekend of service project,
· The annual BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival,
· A gathering space for community meetings, classes and special events.
In recent years, the Community Center of South Decatur has helped to raise more than $50,000 to fund grants that have gone to support the work of other Decatur community organizations.
The members of the CCSD board want to reassure the Decatur community that we intend to continue our work as stewards of The Solarium to ensure that it remains available as a public resource. In that spirit, we have informed Progressive Development, the current owners of the Historic Scottish Rite property, of our intent to exercise a clause in our lease that allows us to purchase The Solarium.
First, a little history.
When the former Scottish Rite Hospital closed in the 1970s, the buildings and property were abandoned and fell into decline.
After several years, the City of Decatur stepped forward to acquire the property and led efforts to rescue the multi-acre complex. At the neighborhood level, a group of volunteers came together in 1979 to form The Community Center of South Decatur as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the goal of saving The Solarium from destruction.
When Progressive Development took ownership of the Historic Scottish Rite complex from the city, the legal agreement included a lease and other documents giving CCSD operational control of The Solarium for the community's benefit. The lease continues through December 31, 2021, regardless of the ownership of the complex, ensuring that this public treasure will remain open to the public.
The agreement between the city, Progressive Development and CCSD also gives CCSD the option to purchase The Solarium if the Scottish Rite Property changes hands.
The CCSD has come a long way since that group of civic-minded Decatur residents gathered in 1979 to save these historic properties from the wrecking ball. Over the years, the board has raised and invested more than $100,000 into improvements and maintenance of The Solarium.
The CCSD’s mission is essentially the same today as it was nearly 35 years ago:
In the spirit of the founders of the first Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children, our mission is to preserve and maintain the Solarium as a community resource; and to offer programs, activities and services for the assistance, education and enjoyment of the entire Decatur community.