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Sweet Auburn Fights To Save Former Atlanta Daily World Building

Historic 1930s building earmarked for demolition by developer.

An Atlanta-based developer's plans for new residential housing in the Sweet Auburn corridor is leaving some in the community with a sour taste over what they see is an erosion of history.

The wants to demolish the old Atlanta Daily World building at 145 Auburn Ave. NE, just off the southwest corner of Piedmont Ave. NE.

In its place, housing geared toward Georgia State University students.

Integral Group — does not own the property — it still belongs to the Atlanta Daily World newspaper, which now has its headquarters in East Point.

But Integral Group's Valerie Edwards, an executive vice president with the company, made a presentation Feb. 22 before the 11-member Atlanta Urban Design Commission that sought that body's approval to tear down the building, which dates back to 1930.

The Atlanta Urban Design Commission has deferred further discussion until March 28, after a three-member panel studies the impact of the proposal in detail and comes back with recommendations.

Founded in 1928, the Atlanta Daily World is a newspaper focused on issues of importance to black Atlanta.

The media company was headquartered at 145 Auburn until the tornado of March 14, 2008 that ripped through Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Atlanta Daily World publisher and chief executive M. Alexis Scott, grandniece of the publication's founder, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday.

An Integral Group spokesman said the company does not own the property and referred inquiries to Scott.

GSU officials say it has no involvement in the proposed project.

"We don’t own the property and we haven't had any discussions about it," GSU spokeswoman Andrea Jones told East Atlanta Patch Wednesday. "This was a surprise to us."

Meanwhile, the Historic District Development Corp., a non-profit group that advocates for balanced preservation and revitalization of Sweet Auburn and the greater Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, launched a petition that seeks to impress upon Integral Group officials the building's significance.

HDDC also sent a letter dated Feb. 29 to Georgia State University's president, Mark Becker, to make the case.

The Sweet Auburn corridor long served as the central district for black business and commerce in Atlanta. A key part of that was the Atlanta Daily World, Jesse Clark, HDDC's executive director told East Atlanta Patch.

"It's definitely a contributing structure to the historic district and a part of the story of Auburn Avenue," Clark said. "If the Atlanta Daily World and other historic buildings are demolished on Auburn Avenue, what will be left of its cultural significance?"

Indeed, the Grant Park-based Atlanta Preservation Center last year listed Sweet Auburn as one of 19 most endangered spots in the city.

The APC noted Sweet Aurburn's National Historic Landmark designation in 1976 and its link to the city-designated Martin Luther King, Jr. Landmark District.

"Despite its historic significance, the district has had multiple demolitions in recent years, from redevelopment, neglect, the expansion of Georgia State University and the tornado in 2008," APC wrote in its 2011 report. "The proposed Atlanta Streetcar travels on these streets and could have a tremendous impact on the neighborhood."

HDDC is not opposed to revitalization projects, Clark said. But consideration ought to be given to incorporating existing facades into new construction, similar to efforts undertaken by New York University and the Savannah College of Art and Design.

He added Integral's attempt to distance itself from its initial proposal is nothing short of finger pointing among three parties that all have a stake in what happens.

"Georgia State University is providing the students and the demand for this; it's the catalyst for this," Clark said, noting the university's property acquisitions in recent years. "They do have a role in this even though they want to wash their hands of this.

"Everybody is pointing fingers and that's a convenient way to pass the buck."

Chris H February 29, 2012 at 10:51 PM
The application says they want to demolish the building because of "unreasonable economic return". What does that mean?
Péralte Paul (Editor) February 29, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Basically, the building as it is now, even with rehabing it, wouldn't make economic sense. They're arguing that building something new for a more intensive or different use on the site, would make more sense from an economic investment standpoint.
Taximan Steve Lindsey March 01, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Why is saving black heritage such a "burden?" But people will rally to save a once white, owning-class mansion with "This Place Matters" placards. But of others' history? Always seems to be the way. Hon. Steven W Lindsey State rep Ches-3 Keene, NH
Péralte Paul (Editor) March 01, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I don't know it's so much a black vs. white issue, Taximan. Atlanta is known for wanting to replace the old with the new (http://patch.com/A-hXjl).
Kirkwood Resident March 01, 2012 at 01:10 PM
That area needs as much help with revitilization as it can get. A new building, more positive growth, would be a great thing fro Auburn Avenue. If you ever drive down that street you would get a better understanding of the need for newer structures. This is one of the main corridors to MLK's site. It should be a beautiful stretch from downtown Atlanta to honor this man. It is currently a dilapidated, crumbling stretch filled with homeless and the destiture.
Noah Booter Brown March 01, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Yet another example of the systematic cleansing of any semblance of history in Atlanta. As a Georgia State student I spend quite a bit of time at the Curb Market and in that area of Auburn/Edgewood. This is the only enclave of Atlanta that can lay claim to a history and culture that is wholly unique to our city- a history and culture that MUST be preserved and celebrated. As such, I absolutely agree that the area needs to be vitalized. I believe it should be priority-one as far as the city is concerned. Tearing down the building and replacing it with another eyesore and slapping a plaque on the front that reads "Former site of Atlanta Daily World" doesn't cut it. This does not have to include- as I said- another example of the cleansing the architecture of the city and replacing it with boring constructions that become stylistically obsolete and eyesores in 20 years time. Atlanta has enough of that. At least give us one place that we can stop, admire and appreciate a little piece of history that was once at the center of the greatest social struggle of the 20th century. Maybe I'm romanticizing this a bit but, dammit, at least let us have that. In a city that is defined by failed sports franchises, poor (or non-existent) urban planning, and by being, in general, a cultural wasteland I believe that we native Atlantans deserve a small slice of something that we can claim and celebrate as a history that belongs to us and as something that we can be truly proud of.
Kirkwood Resident March 01, 2012 at 06:10 PM
While I agree that we need to take care our historic buildings, the economy is not the best and this area needs help. The more demands we place on builders, the less likely they will build. This is especially true in poorer areas with abandoned store fronts. Not too many people are banging on doors to build along Auburn Avenue. Hopefully that will change with the new trolley system. A good example is that historic structure at the 75/85 interchange on Peachtree (where a large billboard had been placed on it and then removed). That is a really beautiful building, BUT the cost to renovate it has not been worth it for many years now for any developer to take it over. So there it stands, empty, rundown, and an eyesore.
Nick March 01, 2012 at 08:01 PM
+1

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