by: Tony Thomas Updated:ATLANTA —
An Atlanta City commission has denied a developer's plans to demolish a
century-old building on Auburn Avenue and replace it with a new 91-unit residential complex.
Preservationists are calling the decision a key victory in their efforts to revitalize the street best known as the home of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.
The building at 145 Auburn
Ave. is the former home to the Atlanta Daily World, the nation's first African-American-owned daily newspaper and a huge voice in the civil rights movement.
The paper still exists, but has been sold and moved to another location.
is now vacant and sustained damage from the 2008 downtown tornado.
The owners said they don't have the money to remodel the building and wanted to sell it to a local developer. The sale was contingent on the city giving its approval for demolition.
However, the city's Urban Design Commission voted 9-0 against the plan Wednesday.
"I think sometimes in crisis there can come an opportunity," said Jesse Clark,
executive director of the Historic District Development Corporation. His nonprofit group is trying to preserve and rebuild Auburn Avenue with its history in mind.
"There's a better way to do it. That's the easy way to do it, is just to demolish it and see what we can build new," Clark said.
Instead, he and other preservationists want to try and find a developer who will keep the
building's historic aspects while still turning it into a profitable residential or commercial building. They said they have no company in mind presently but are determined to find someone.
"Why not save it? This is part of history, not only African-American history but American history," said Pamela Moss,
president of the Old 4th Ward-Sweet Auburn Neighborhood District.
The developers did not attend the commission's meeting and no one at the meeting spoke in favor of the plans.
Preservationists said they've already lost 13 buildings along Auburn Avenue in recent years and losing this one may have been the tipping point. Lucky for them the commissioners agreed.
"It almost brings tears to my eyes to see what's gone because I remember Auburn Avenue in its heyday," commission member Freddie Styles said just before the vote.
A joint statement from Alexis Scott, Publisher of Atlanta Daily World, and Valerie Edwards, The Integral Group, said, "The Atlanta Urban Design Commission (“UDC”) denied the demolition application Integral submitted on January 31, 2012. We appropriately respect the board’s research, deliberations, and decision concerning the former home of Atlanta Daily World newspaper. Neither seller nor buyer plans to appeal the UDC’s decision.
"As longtime residents of the Sweet Auburn community, we are especially encouraged by the recently conveyed commitment to preserve the building that formerly housed the Atlanta Daily World, as expressed by certain government leaders and historic preservationists.
"As these individuals and groups bring forward practical solutions to the sale and restoration of 145 Auburn Avenue, we look forward to working with them.
"Integral remains committed to its projects in the corridor and the former home of the Atlanta Daily World remains available for purchase.
"The Sweet Auburn District was Atlanta’s original Live, Work and Play community. It once embodied an economic vitality that we all should seek to restore."