Column: Georgia Tech, SunTrust deal helps historic building

By Maria Saporta
Friday, February 18, 2011

The fate of the historic Crum & Forster building at 771 Spring St. in Midtown is looking a bit brighter.

The Georgia Tech Foundation, which has been unsuccessful in getting a demolition permit for the 1928 building, has just gained ownership of the SunTrust Banks Inc. branch on the same block.

“Now that we have obtained the SunTrust property, we are in the process of pursuing a mutually agreeable resolution to the future of the Crum & Forster building,” said John Carter, president of the Georgia Tech Foundation.

The transaction, which closed earlier this month, involved the foundation swapping the property that used to house the former Atlanta Opera for the SunTrust branch. SunTrust will be relocating its branch to the former Atlanta Opera property, which is on the adjacent block along West Peachtree Street.

“The new branch office is scheduled to open around the first part of August,” said SunTrust spokesman Hugh Suhr. “Midtown has continued to be an important banking market. We worked with Georgia Tech to reach an agreement that was economically feasible for both parties with one of the key considerations being that we maintain a good strategic location.”

Now that the Georgia Tech Foundation owns the entire Midtown block, it will have greater flexibility to design a new development in a way that keeps at least most of the Crum & Forster building.

Georgia Tech has been expanding its Midtown campus. The university bought the Crum & Forster building with the intention to have land for future expansion in Midtown.

But when it sought a demolition permit for the historic building, preservationists and neighborhood leaders launched a campaign to save the building.

The Atlanta City Council ended up giving the building landmark status, which helped protect it from being demolished. Georgia Tech has been appealing that decision.

Wells Fargo doing good

Wells Fargo is letting its community presence be felt, according to Jerome Byers, the bank’s Atlanta regional president.

Byers outlined the bank’s community involvement during a Feb. 15 breakfast meeting of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Wells Fargo & Co. Inc. contributed more than $8 million in Georgia last year. Through its Community Support and United Way campaign, the bank raised $877,000, a 42 percent increase over the year before.

Byers also stressed to the group how important the Atlanta community is to the bank. It has 200 “bank stores” in Atlanta, and Byers said it has the most retail deposits of any bank.

“In all, we are 5,000 team members strong in Atlanta,” said Byers, according to his written speech. “In one way or another, we serve every other Atlanta household, or more than 2 million customers.”

Wells Fargo entered the market by acquiring Wachovia Bank, and last year, it changed the name of all its branches to have one uniform brand.

Among some of the other gifts the bank made last year included $500,000 to Grady Memorial Hospital, $200,000 to Resources for Residents and Communities for foreclosure prevention, and $175,000 to the Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity.

Byers said that 300 groups in the Atlanta region benefited by Wells Fargo’s philanthropy. But Byers added that it was not just about giving money. Wells Fargo’s employees gave more than 11,000 volunteer hours, and they participated in “three signature events,” — Earth Day, the summer food drive and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Strengthening nonprofits

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has announced $2 million in grants to dozens of nonprofits in the 23-county Atlanta region.

“We recognize that the best way to improve our communities is by strengthening those nonprofits doing smart, innovative work in our region,” says Alicia Philipp, president of The Community Foundation, in a statement. “These nonprofits selected for funding represent the most effective, high-impact organizations in metro Atlanta, and our general operating support investments will help them better serve those in need.”

The Community Foundation also announced that 2010 was a record-setting year. It received a total of $138 million in gifts from donors and other funders, the most in its 60-year history.

It also gave away $99 million in grants to organizations, the third-highest amount it has given on record. More than 87 percent of its 2010 grants were through the foundation’s donor-advised funds.

Wall Street also has been kind to the foundation. Its investments grew by more than 40 percent, which restores the foundation’s endowed assets to the $700 million level, where it was before the economic downturn.

“It’s clear that philanthropy is alive and well in our Atlanta region,” Philipp said. “We’re grateful to the individual and family philanthropists who work with us to get better connected to the issues and organizations making a difference.”

Favorite Reader

The votes are in.

Paul Wood, president and CEO of the Georgia Electric Membership Corp., has won the second annual Favorite Reader award from the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy.

Wood and five other CEOs competed in the contest, where they were part of an online video battle to get the most votes for their skills in reading to young children. Robin Ferst, founder of the foundation, presented the award at the Atlanta Kiwanis Club luncheon on Feb. 15.

In accepting the award, Wood said that the honor touched him because he grew up as part of a “poor family” from Louisiana. But reading was an integral part of his early memories, and he credited that with helping in his professional success.

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.

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.