Atlanta Blocks Demolition of 80-Year-Old Building
By Stephanie Smith | Online Only | July 17, 2008
One of midtown Atlanta's most cherished buildings is closer to safety this week during a heated debate over a university's plans to demolish the 1928 structure.
Last week, the city's Urban Design Commission denied the Georgia Tech Foundation a special administrative permit that would have allowed the demolition of the Crum & Forster building, which it bought last year.
The city also notified the foundation of its intention to nominate the building to the city's landmark register, providing additional protection against demolition.
One of the city's few examples of Italianate architecture, the three-story, brick-and-limestone building was designed in part by Ernest Ivey and Lewis Crook, both alumni of Georgia Tech.
According to foundation president John Carter, the foundation hopes to expand the university's Technology Square, a complex that has helped revitalize Atlanta's midtown area in the last few years.
The plan to replace the building with open space was required to go through a public-review process. Last month preservationists and members of the Georgia Tech community, including alumni and faculty, spoke out against the plans.
"Not since the Fox Theater have so many Atlantans come forth to speak about the fate of a historic building," says Mark McDonald, president of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
In response to public outcry over its possible demolition, the foundation has hired an architectural firm to "further study the potential rehabilitation of the building and the possibility of incorporating it into the Technology Square expansion," according to a statement on its Web site, though they continued to pursue the demolition permit.
Local architects Laura DePree, who is a granddaughter of Lewis Crook, and Jonathan LaCrosse collected nearly 2,000 signatures on an online petition that they presented to the foundation and the city. "I don't think it ever occurred to them that people cared," DePree says. "People are, just in general, tired of losing these old buildings with character."
DePree says that the community was particularly concerned that the foundation didn't have long-term plans for the site. "What's mainly appalling is that Tech does not have a master plan for the area."
Occupied until early this year, the Crum & Forster Building is in good condition, though in need of some upgrades. Carter says that reuse was an option when the building was purchased, and that the foundation has already carried out asbestos abatement.
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