Ten neighborhood groups call on next planning commissioner to support historic preservation
By John Ruch
Ten neighborhood groups across Atlanta have signed a letter calling for historic preservation to be a priority in selecting the next City planning commissioner.
“HISTORIC PRESERVATION WORKS FOR ATLANTA!” declares the July 18 letter, which was sent to Mayor Andre Dickens and all City Council members. “We understand our city is undergoing major changes on multiple levels – and more development is coming. Historic preservation should be recognized as a key tool to direct growth and development in ways that will result in a sustainable quality of life for city residents of all income levels, by enhancing the exceptional places that have given Atlanta its identity.”
The letter aims to influence Dickens’ choice of a replacement for Tim Keane, who left as commissioner of the Department of City Planning exactly five months ago. The City did not respond to questions about the timeline and priorities in naming a replacement. Janide Sidifall is serving as interim commissioner.
The signers include:
- Adair Park Today
- Atkins Park Neighborhood Association
- Collier Heights Neighborhood Association
- Druid Hills Civic Association
- Grant Park Neighborhood Association
- Inman Park Neighborhood Association
- Oakland City Community Organization
- Poncey-Highland Neighborhood Association
- West End Neighborhood Development
- Whittier Mill Village Association
The letter went out on the letterhead of the Atlanta Preservation Center (APC), a nonprofit named as “allies” in the request and a point of contact for the organizations.
“We are using this letter — with the support of our neighborhoods — [and] community leadership to ask our city to be what we know it is,” said APC Executive Director David Yoakley Mitchell.
The letter was the brainchild of Jeanne Mills, the co-chair of Adair Park Today’s Historic Preservation Committee. She wrote an early draft that circulated among neighborhood associations, gaining enthusiasm and momentum.
“Preservation is no longer a little blip on the radar,” said Mills in a phone interview. “It is a very significant part of Atlanta and it needs to be in the planning process in a more substantial way.”
She noted the City Charter’s job requirements for the commissioner specify various urban planning credentials, but not historic preservation.
The final version of the letter notes that Atlanta has 20 historic or landmark districts that are home to more than a quarter of its residents, and more than 130 designated historic sites and buildings.
“Atlanta must have a commissioner who understands the value of historic preservation as a tool for planning and community building,” the letter says.
The letter also alludes to the City’s status as a host of some of the 2026 World Cup soccer tournament games, a major TV show and tourist attraction. “This city has chosen to ask the world to come here in 2026 and experience what we are — who we are — and see what this amazing city is,” the letter says. “Our hope is that they will see a city of the past, present and future — one that remembers thoughtfully and includes wisely. They will see we did not fear our challenges but embraced them.”
The full text of the letter follows. Click here for a copy of the original.
Dear Mayor and Councilmembers,
We are sending this letter to document our concern and establish the importance of Historic Preservation in the current search for a new planning commissioner. We would request that knowledge of, and supportive experience in, preservation be a necessary criterion for every candidate. Atlanta must have a commissioner who understands the value of historic preservation as a tool for planning and community building.
There are currently 20 recognized historic or landmark districts in the city, collectively housing more than 25% of residents. Several more districts are expected to be formalized in the near future. Atlanta has more than 130 designated historic sites and buildings. Historic district residents tend to be some of the most active and dedicated citizens of Atlanta; historic housing and commercial buildings are some of the most desirable spaces in the city.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION WORKS FOR ATLANTA!
We understand our city is undergoing major changes on multiple levels — and more development is coming. Historic preservation should be recognized as a key tool to direct growth and development in ways that will result in a sustainable quality of life for city residents of all income levels, by enhancing the exceptional places that have given Atlanta its identity. We beseech each of you to be mindful of contemporary urbanism and the demands that will be placed upon this new commissioner and that is why they will need to be a constant voice for the inclusion of historic preservation as we continue to grow.
These neighborhood groups, named below, represent Atlanta historic district residents, and they support the call for historic preservation to be a priority in our planning department. This city has chosen to ask the world to come here in 2026 and experience what we are – who we are — and see what this amazing city is. Our hope is that they will see a city of the past, present and future – one that remembers thoughtfully and includes wisely. They will see we did not fear our challenges but embraced them. Historic preservation is not the desire of a particular mindset; it is the courage of many that wish to speak visually by including what we have accomplished with what we continue to achieve. We love this city – please help us make sure that the new commissioner will share this same feeling. We thank you for your attention to this concern, and we welcome any and all questions and interactions.
Our collective group can most easily be reached through our allies at the Atlanta Preservation Center. Director, David Mitchell, can be reached at (404) 688-3353, ext. 13, or David@PreserveAtlanta.com.
It appears more than a few community associations were left out of this laudable effort, including East Atlanta, which – after a years-long effort – unceremoniously received district designation from the National Register of Historic Places only last June. .Report
These are all the neighborhoods in the city that have local landmark district designation, which installs a historic preservation zoning overlay that regulates building placement, height, massing, materials, etc. as well as potential demolition of a designated property. National Register historic districts like East Atlanta or Kirkwood do not have any controls over private use.Report
Which is all the more reason that such non-landmark intown neighborhoods have an interest in our city having a planning commissioner who is not merely visionary, but sticks to their vision (and context sensitive planning principals) in the first-place. East Atlanta Village is a perfect example of the Atlanta Way of looking-the-other-way when it comes to adhering to zoning aimed at contextually maintaining and improving the neighborhood. Where slap-dash SAPs have not only run roughshod over NC-2 zoning, but disenfranchise public involvement almost entirely. Arguably, landmark districts have less to lose than others when zoning protections are enforced.Report