Houses on Euclid Terrace as photographed in November 1982 for Candler Park's listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Candler Park is digging deep into the possibility of joining the ranks of Atlanta neighborhoods protected by some type of official historic district.

A Historic Designation Committee of the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization (CPNO) was scheduled to hold the first of four “deep-dive” community meetings about the concept on Sept. 7. Committee chair Emily Taff says it will be a while before community input hashes out a particular idea and CPNO holds surveys and votes.

“I’m really trying to emphasize to the neighborhood that this is really a conversation right now, even though it’s a really in-depth conversation,” Taff said. The overarching question, she said, is “how do we have more control over development in our neighborhood… just what can we do to plan for our future better in general?”

The neighborhood began as part of Edgewood in the 1870s, which was its own city until 1909. The Candler Park area took on its current name after the establishment of its namesake park in 1922.

Candler Park is among the many neighborhoods honored as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, where it was listed in 1983. It’s also among the neighborhoods facing development pressures that contribute to the loss of historic structures. 

A 2005 update of the National Register district extended its boundary but still reported a net loss of historic structures considered “contributing” to the district. The update added 71 structures with the boundary increase and identified 14 additional contributing structures within the original district. However another 99 structures in the original district were reclassified as no longer contributing due to changes or demolition. The original district had 1,324 contributing buildings or sites, while the 2005 update had 1,310. Of course, nearly 20 years have passed with more development and changes.

National Register listing comes with no restrictions on demolitions or alterations. The City offers its own “historic” and “landmark” district designations that provide some legal protection to historic structures and reviews of changes to them, with varying degrees of restriction. Many neighborhoods have such designations, such as Adair Park, Cabbagetown, Castleberry Hill, Collier Heights, Druid Hills, Grant Park, Inman Park, Oakland City, Poncey-Highland, Whittier Mill Village and West End.

Many others don’t and are considering the benefits. But even raising the idea can be fraught with tension between property rights and preservation. Ansley Park descended into a lawsuit last year over its neighborhood association’s historic district proposal, which ended after an unfavorable poll. 

Taff, who previously served as CPNO’s president, says her neighborhood has such tensions, but also an interest in discussing the possibilities. “This idea has never gotten off the ground because there’s so much animosity against it, which is understandable because it’s really scary…. We’ve been moving very slow just to make sure everybody hears about it.”

After lengthy CPNO discussions and a community survey last year, the organization held a vote in March about whether to proceed with a formal process to review possibilities and come up with a concept suitable to the neighborhood. That vote passed with roughly 62 percent of the vote, according to Taff. She said she thinks that does not reflect the current level of support for a district but does show the interest in having a conversation.

The group hired consultant Aaron Fortner of Canvass Planning Group to lead the process. Fortner, who did not respond to a comment request, is also a consultant to the City on its update of the zoning code. With that quality of advice, Taff says, the process will “definitely” be a long-term benefit for the neighborhood’s planning regardless of whether a historic district moves forward.

The existing Candler Park Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, as updated in 2005. Properties with a dot are considered “contributing” to the district, while those with an “X” are not.

Next comes the series of meetings about how historic districts work, what the possibilities are, and how they would affect both historic and non-historic structures. The consultant would then draw up draft regulations for community review. CPNO would then vote on whether to submit it to the City. If it got as far as a formal proposal, the City’s process includes more public reviews and, ultimately, a vote by the Atlanta City Council. 

The first meeting was originally scheduled for Aug. 24, but a “family emergency” forced a delay and shifting of the entire series, according to Taff, which will now extend into November.

Among the basic questions yet to be answered is what a Candler Park historic district’s boundaries would be. The neighborhood is generally bounded by Clifton Road and DeKalb, Moreland and North Avenues. The existing National Register district covers most but not all of the neighborhood, omitting various northwestern blocks and commercial areas. An issue in one major recent redevelopment controversy about historic properties, a now-defunct plan that called for demolishing the Star Community Bar, was that it straddled the neighborhoods of Little Five Points and Candler Park. 

Taff says at this stage, the commercial buildings along Moreland almost certainly would not be included in any district, and those on DeKalb likely would not be, either, as they have an existing neighborhood master plan. 

In terms of tailoring ideas to local concerns, Taff says that Candler Park is a bit different from some other neighborhoods where opposition to more multifamily housing has been key to preservation debates. Candler Park residents, she says, are interested in how to  “increase density without reducing what brought us here in the first place. We don’t want to see that [historic character] lost for the sake of growth, but we want to have that growth, too.”

Taff emphasized that the consultant’s process will include reviewing pros and cons while promising the community meetings will be “really interesting and fun and engaging.” For more about the process and how to join in, see the CPNO Historic Designation Committee website.

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