Column: Community Foundation moving to 191 Peachtree Tower

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on February 20, 2015

When is an office lease so much more than just a lease? When it’s The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta signing a lease to move from downtown’s The Hurt Building to the One Ninety One Peachtree Tower.

It is a multi-layered Atlanta story that spans at least three generations of leaders, and one that completes the shift of the center of gravity of the city’s nonprofit sector.

Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation, called it “a truly Atlanta story.” Although a lease for 18,000 square feet usually is not significant in real estate terms, “the roots and ties this represents go back over 60 years.”

During the early days of the Community Foundation, one of the long-time trustees in the 1950s and 1960s was L.L. Gellerstedt Sr., who was the Atlanta president of C&S National Bank.

In the 1980s, Larry Gellerstedt Jr., CEO of Beers Construction, was chairman of the Community Foundation’s board–”serving as one of my treasured mentors,” Philipp said.

At the same time, developer Tom Cousins established the CF Foundation as a supporting organization of the Community Foundation. The partnership between Gellerstedt Jr. and Cousins was part of the glue that kept Atlanta strong during that era–the two were the guiding force behind the creation of the Georgia Research Alliance.

The two of them also teamed up to develop and build the 191 Peachtree tower. Cousins was co-developer of the building; and Beers was the contractor.

“Having the Community Foundation move to One Ninety One is really special from both a personal and business perspective,” said Larry Gellerstedt III, who today is the CEO of Cousins Properties Inc. “Beers Construction Co. built One Ninety One for Cousins. Our headquarters was down the street at the house on 70 Ellis St. Dad and I would walk to lunch together once a week and check on progress.”

Gellerstedt III succeeded his father, who has since passed away, as CEO of Beers, which has since been sold. After a couple of different executive positions including starting his own development company, Gellerstedt joined Cousins.

By that time, Cousins had actually bought the building–at a low point when most of the key tenants had moved to Midtown.

“It was special to buy the building as part of Cousins and bring it from 20 percent occupied to over 90 percent today with both businesses and an amazing roster of philanthropic organizations,” Gellerstedt III said. “It epitomizes the best of Atlanta with business and philanthropic leadership working hand in hand on a daily basis.”

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and its related family of foundations were among the first philanthropic tenants to move from the Hurt Building to One Ninety One. The Coxe Curry & Associates fundraising firm followed. Then the Georgia Research Alliance also moved. The Community Foundation was one of the last key nonprofit tenants still based at the Hurt Building.

The historic Hurt Building previously had been owned by Atlantan Richard Courts of Atlantic Realty, who appreciated the role that the building played as a major crossroads of the city’s nonprofit sector. Courts then sold the building to out-of-state owners.

Gellerstedt, who said he was not involved in the negotiations any of those leases, said that “I think that at the end of the day, local ownership does mean a lot with that customer base.”

For Philipp, the Community Foundation will be rejoining its philanthropic colleagues and reinforcing its deeply-seated Atlanta roots.

“Somehow it all seems so right!” she said. “I just have this image of Larry Gellerstedt Jr. smiling down on the Community Foundation that has grown to $950 million in assets and gave away $107 million in grants last year and now moving to One Ninety One.”

The Community Foundation will move to One Ninety One in September. By the way, Cousins has just decided to hold off selling half its interest in the building.

C.T. Vivian honored by Hyatt Regency

Fifty years ago, C.T. Vivian was standing on the courthouse steps of Dallas County in Selma, Ala., getting beaten for just trying to register to vote.

“Those awful, awful, awful people just beat him,” Xernona Clayton, a legend in her own right, recalled Feb. 17 at the 13th Annual Heritage Celebration at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. “If you saw the blood rolling down his face, there’s no way you wouldn’t go and vote.”

The Hyatt Regency Atlanta honored Vivian with its Heritage Award for his life-long work for civil rights and justice.

At 90, Vivian looks decades younger. As he took the stage, he giggled and said: “Hello good people. I’m so glad I came to this city.” Vivian said that Atlanta–through Martin Luther King Jr.–became the place to show “there’s no way that violence can solve problems. We can change social issues and solve them without shooting and hating.”

Vivian then said he had to talk about King–a close friend. He had served as the civil rights leader’s lieutenant during the movement.

“He is the most important person in this whole century, and he did it for us,” Vivian said. “We didn’t even like ourselves before Martin came along. He gave us the means and a method. He was the man. All the hard work he did. He left the rest for us.”

Clayton also remembered working with King. She had planned a dinner for King at another downtown hotel a few blocks away where blacks and whites would be dining together. Although she had worked through every detail, “everything went wrong.” So Clayton and King asked for the general manager.

The manager then bluntly told them that he didn’t want their business. And then he added: “I hope I didn’t insult you.”

“Oh no,” King responded. “You have inspired me. When I leave here I’m going to see to it that every hotel in this city and America will serve blacks and whites.”

At the time, the Hyatt Regency was coming out of the ground. “I guess we have to look at that hotel as our hope that they’ll do the right thing,” King told Clayton. A few months before he died, King hosted a convention at the Hyatt Regency. “It happened to have been Dr. King’s last convention,” Clayton said, adding that the hotel proved King right by doing the right thing.

Doug Dillard and Pursley Friese

The law firm of Doug Dillard, a well-known land-use and zoning attorney, has teamed up with Pursley Friese Torgrimson, an Atlanta-based law firm that helps commercial real estate and business clients resolve issues.

As a result of Doug Dillard, Julie Sellers, Jill Arnold and paralegal Dotty Duarte joining the Pursley Fries team, it positions the expanded firm to serve as a single legal source for all real property matters–from condemnation and eminent domain, real estate litigation, transportation, leasing, acquisitions, dispositions and now zoning and land-use for both commercial and residential clients.

“The challenges our clients face in commercial real estate often involve zoning related issues,” said Christian Torgrimson, founding and managing partner of Pursley Friese Torgrimson. “Our new zoning and land use practice leverages the proven track record of Doug, Julie, Jill and Dotty that spans every zoning level – local government administrative process, public hearings and superior court proceedings — to successfully obtain variances, permits and zoning changes for clients.”

Dillard’s team has litigated and won many of the landmark zoning cases decided by the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. It has been involved in helping get zoning decisions that allowed the development of Phipps Plaza, Cox Communications, Stonecrest Mall, Atlantic Station, Monarch Plaza Buckhead, Tower Place as well as Prospect Point, which paved the way for today’s Avalon.

Louis Sullivan

Atlanta’s own Dr. Louis W. Sullivan has received another national award.

Sullivan’s autobiography, which he wrote with David Chanoff, has won the NAACP Image Award, which celebrates the accomplishments of people of color in literature, film, television and music as well as honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors.

Sullivan’s autobiography “Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine” chronicles his rise from a childhood in the Jim Crow South to become a physician, founding dean of Morehouse School of Medicine – the first predominantly black medical school established in the 20th Century – and to serve as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Cabinet of President George H.W. Bush from 1989-1993.

Winners in the 46th NAACP Image Awards literary categories were announced at a gala dinner in Pasadena, Calif., on Feb. 5.

 

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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