MLK Historic District to be bolstered as AHA plans tear-down of building

By David Pendered

The proposal to demolish a building owned by the Atlanta Housing Authority in the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District is advancing even as the city expects to enact in May a set of new zoning regulations to create an entire landmark district in the area.

Front of The Atlanta Daily World

The building that once housed the Atlanta Daily World newspaper, protected in 2012 by Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission, is located in an entire commercial corridor that will be protected if Atlanta enacts the proposed Martin Luther King Jr. Landmark District. File/Credit: Donita Pendered

The AHA-owned building is located along Auburn Avenue in the heart of the proposed commercial and institutional section of the landmark district. Fulton County property tax records list the owner as Westside Revitalization Acquisitions, LLC. AHA’s report to HUD lists the building as one of its potential tear-downs.

This particular structure, built in 1981, may not be worth saving – an economic review panel will help determine the building’s fate. But the proposed demolition does raise the question of protecting and promoting the King historic district as it is poised for revitalization spurred by the Atlanta Streetcar.

For several years, a comprehensive effort to update the zoning classifications in the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District has been fostered by Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall’s office, Sweet Auburn Works, Inc., Atlanta’s planning office and Central Atlanta Progress.

The purpose is to update zoning regulations that have been on the books since 1989. That’s when the Sweet Auburn commercial corridor and some of the nearby residential areas were rezoned as a historic district under the city’s Historic Preservation Zoning Ordinance. Only a few significant alterations have been approved since 1989, according to legislation pending before Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission.

Click on the map to see a larger version of the proposed zoning uses envisioned in the proposed Martin Luther King Jr. Landmark District. Credit: http://www.atlantadowntown.com/mlkzoning

Click on the map to see a larger version of the proposed zoning uses envisioned in the proposed Martin Luther King Jr. Landmark District. Credit: http://www.atlantadowntown.com/mlkzoning

In 2010, UDC began a citywide review of its landmark and historic designations. The MLK district was in the group.

The work in the MLK district has involved representatives of the National Park Service, local community development corporations, and business associations. The discussion among these groups is still ongoing, according to the pending legislation.

The discussions have been fruitful. A proposed rezoning for the entire MLK district has been drafted and vetted through the relevant NPUs and other interested organizations.

However, the most recent schedule is running a little late.

The timeline posted on CAP’s atlantadowntown.com website predicted the UDC would approve the zoning proposal Wednesday and send it to the council’s Zoning Committee for consideration at its April 30 meeting. That schedule would enable the city council to vote on the matter at its May 5 meeting.

However, the UDC staff recommended that the design commission defer a vote while some final touches are applied to the proposal.

The fascade of the 4B9 Building covers a new structure intended to complement the archtecture of the Auburn Avenue commercial district in this photo from 2012. Credit: Donita Pendered

The fascade of the 4B9 Building covers a new structure intended to complement the archtecture of the Auburn Avenue commercial district in this photo from 2012. Credit: Donita Pendered

Incidentally, the CAP website has an extensive array of documents, maps and previous plans that have influenced the zoning proposals now under consideration.

As for the building owned by the Atlanta Housing Authority, the property is located at 333 Auburn Ave. – across Auburn Avenue from the collection of buildings that house the SCLC national headquarters, SCLC Women Training Center, and Thelma’s Kitchen.

The staff of the design commission recommended that an economic review panel to be created and determine the owner’s claim that the property is, “incapable of earning a reasonable economic return in the absence of the requested demolition.”

The site encompasses about a quarter of an acre on the southwest corner of Auburn Avenue and Hilliard Street. A structure built in 1981 served as a fast food restaurant that was owned for a time AFC Enterprises, the parent of the Popeye’s brand of chicken and biscuits.

Westside Revitalizations Acquisitions, LLC. bought multiple parcels on Dec. 30, 2010 for a sale price of $623,232, according to tax records. The assemblage amounts to about a quarter-acre, tax records show.

The company listed no officers on papers filed with the Georgia Secretary of State’s corporations office. The first filing is dated April 16, 2007.

AHA’s report to HUD lists two parcels at 333 Auburn Ave., and well over 100 other parcels, under this statement:

  • “These properties are all candidates for demolition and/or disposition or will be used to expand AHA’s real estate portfolio, provide affordable and/or mixed-income, mixed-use housing opportunities, and support local revitalization initiatives to stabilize local neighborhoods.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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