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Boyd Coons of the Atlanta Preservation Center on Saving Architectural Gems

The APC's executive director explains why saving architecturally and historically important buildings is critical to Atlanta.

Historic preservation.

In a city so rich in history and events that served as milestones in the local and national timeline, Atlanta’s success at saving what came before is mixed.

But preservationists can take heart in recent victories.

In March, they saved Sweet Auburn’s Atlanta Daily World building from the wrecking ball.

Last week came a crucial victory with the Urban Design Commission voting against the Georgia Tech Foundation’s application to tear down most of the Crum & Forster Building, the Midtown, a 1928-era Renaissance façade structure.

Preservation-minded Atlantans watched that case closely because it dovetailed with an earlier proposal by City Councilman Kwanza Hall to de-designate parts of the property a national historic landmark.

Left unchallenged, preservationists feared it would render Atlanta’s Historic Preservation Ordinance toothless.

The greater fear is that it risked the identity and integrity of several historic neighborhoods known for their preservation-minded approach to growth and development, including Inman Park and Grant Park.

It explains why key neighborhood activists such as Inman Park’s Regina Brewer and organizations such as the Grant Park-based Atlanta Preservation Center were at the forefront of saving the Crum & Forster Building.

This week, East Atlanta Patch sat down with Boyd Coons, the Atlanta Preservation Center’s executive director, to discuss the significance of last week’s victory and why preservation is so crucial for Atlanta not only from a historical standpoint but an economic one.

One doesn't need to come at the expense of the other, he told Patch.

“Most great cities are not made in a moment," he said. "They are made over a long period of time and they usually incorporate the best of successive periods of the city's history."

Boston and Savannah are two examples of cities that show how preserving their historical architectural landscapes work to their economic advantage, he said.

"Preservation creates a sense of place," he said, adding in Savannah has made it work to its economic advantage, something Atlanta could just as well, if not better.

"We're all for redevelopment, because preservation is not about freezing something in amber and making it this inert museum-like phenomenon," Coons said.

"The best kind of preservation is proper redevelopment of infill and then adaptive reuse of buildings that are designated for that purpose."

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