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Construction Moratorium Puts Gordon School Project in Jeopardy

Atlanta City Council imposed moratorium following South Moreland Avenue Livable Centers Initiative Study.

A $15 million redevelopment plan for the old John B. Gordon School in East Atlanta Village could fall apart if the Atlanta City Council doesn't act to lift a moratorium on new construction, a party to the project says.

Vinings-based Paces Properties has the former grammar school at 1205 Metropolitan Ave. under contract. As planned, it would replace the school with a three-story structure of 125 to 145 apartments.

But it could back away from the deal since the moratorium prohibits the company from demolishing the building, which is falling apart, Larry Culbertson, a broker with KW Commercial Atlanta Midtown, told East Atlanta Patch.

The issue stems from the 2008 South Moreland Avenue Livable Centers Initiative Study that sought to establish development guidelines for the corridor south of the I-20 interchange.

Subsequently, the Atlanta City Council placed a moratorium on tearing down existing structures along select stretches of Moreland while reviewing the LCI and looking at ways to incorporate its findings.

But for some reason — and it's not clear why — the moratorium extends eastward into the East Atlanta Village business district.

Though the city council can lift it at anytime, the moratorium is set to expire at the end of the year.

Still, the city council could renew it.

If that happens, Paces will walk away from the deal, Culbertson, who represents the Gordon property's current owners, said.

When the two parties entered into the agreement, there was no indication that there was a potential block, Culbertson said.

"We weren't notified; there's noting attached to the deed," he said.

The 41,000-square-foot building sat unused for the last 19 years.

With holes in its roof allowing rain in, floors buckling and trees literally growing inside it, Culbertson said engineering studies his firm has commissioned say it's not salvageable.

The East Atlanta Community Association, which supports the project and its potential economic benefits to the Village, says it's pushing for a solution.

"EACA is not in the position to lift the moratorium as only the city council has that authority," Lewis Cartee, the neighborhood association's president, told Patch.

"However, EACA has been in ongoing communications with East Atlanta's councilperson, Ms. [Natalyn] Archibong, demonstrating the need for this piece of property to move forward in the development process by whatever means is possible through the actions of the council.

"East Atlanta, specifically the Village, would benefit from the increased density that a multi-family project would bring given it is constructed in a manner that is consistent with the desires of this community, and it is EACA's hope that some form of council action would be taken to give this development every opportunity to succeed."

Archibong did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As it happens, Councilwoman Carla Smith and Councilwoman Joyce M. Sheperd are hosting a series meetings, including one Sept. 6, at the Martha Brown United Methodist Church, scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

They will provide residents with updates on the proposed zoning changes.

The meetings follow Smith's Aug. 15 ordinance proposal to rezone some properties on Moreland Avenue to the suggested recommendations as outlined in the LCI study.

Jason in GP September 07, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Judging by their website, Paces is equally capable of good and bad. Are there any renderings yet of their intentions here?
Lewis September 07, 2012 at 01:56 AM
To the question of renderings...no. However, hard to believe money would be spent on an architect until more assurance is given the project will be allowed to move forward.
Steve Devore September 07, 2012 at 07:53 PM
It will be a travesty if a "construction moratorium" kills this project. As a strong proponent of development, which is particularly needed in East Atlanta, those two quoted words rub me the wrong way. Any person can view this tract and see that it cries out for redevelopment. Any "ban on demolition" which did not allow for exceptions for cases of obviously blighted tracts (at a minimum) was not thought through thoroughly enough.
Webb Roberts September 29, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I urge the City Council to encourage development instead of crushing it due to some undefined motive. As a 25 year resident of the neighborhood I'm tired of that structure crumbling and blighting the area. Get out of the way government!
Cate Short February 27, 2014 at 11:23 AM
Use what you've already got! There's no sense in tearing down a structure that could be repurposed. The interior is likely beyond repair, unfortunately, but this old school's bones are strong! Before demolition comes into the picture, see if there's any way that this building could be classified as historically significant in any way, and if so, if it qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places. Then, I believe, you may actually receive financial help for the rehab/restoration from historical societies and various other sponsors.

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