Jul 26, 2014

Landmark Midtown Building Facing Possible Wrecking Ball

Permit application filed by the Georgia Tech Foundation, Inc., to demolish approximately two-thirds of the Crum & Forster building.

Landmark Midtown Building Facing Possible Wrecking Ball Landmark Midtown Building Facing Possible Wrecking Ball Landmark Midtown Building Facing Possible Wrecking Ball Landmark Midtown Building Facing Possible Wrecking Ball

An application to demolish portions of the Landmark building, the Crum & Forster building, was filed last week and will be heard by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission on May 9.

The building, located at 771 Spring Street, was built in 1926 and is located across the street from the . The application filed by the Georgia Tech Foundation, Inc., which purchased the building in 2007 to expand nearby Technology Square, is for a permit to demolish approximately two-thirds of the building.

The Foundation applied for a Special Administrative Permit, a pre-requisite for applying for a demolition permit, with the intent to use the site for surface parking. This was denied by the Office of Planning in July 2008. The Georgia Tech Foundation’s appeal of this decision made to the Board of Zoning Adjustment was also denied.

After its appeal was denied, the Foundation purchased the nearby branch of Sun Trust Banks Inc. “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,” John Carter, president of the Georgia Tech Foundation, said at the time.

But now it looks as if the wrecking ball could still swing the Crum & Forster building's way. How do you feel about this?

Georgia Tech has said before that it would like to build a High Performing Computing Center, a potential 24-story, 680,000 square foot public-private development, on the block. The Crum & Forster facade and possibly the entire front portion of the building could be preserved.

A school representative told the SaportaReport last fall that the High Performing Computer Center “has the potential to enhance economic development in the Technology Square area as well as create new construction jobs and employment opportunities generated by the technology companies that might eventually locate in the vicinity.”

In a release, the Atlanta Preservation Center (APC) indicated it is assessing the developments and would soon be announcing advocacy efforts to save the building. The "destruction of the integrity of the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance" is being threatened according to the APC.

The APC was involved in the effort to establish the building as a locally designated Landmark. The Atlanta Urban Design Commission’s process for this effort was followed and Landmark designation was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the city council on August 17, 2009 and approved by the mayor on August 25, 2009.

The Georgia Tech Foundation sued the City and the Board of Zoning Adjustment challenging the Landmark designation by the City as well as the Board of Zoning Adjustments’ decision. The APC provided defense in support of the City’s decisions. The case is still pending in Fulton County Superior Court.

In addition to this challenge, the APC believes that further actions are threatening the survival of this Landmark building and the City’s preservation process. Last week, District 2 Councilman Councilmember Kwanza Hall introduced legislation to de-designate portions of the Landmarked property.

The Crum & Forster building was designed and built by New York’s Helmle, Corbett and Harrison in association with Ivey and Crook of Atlanta in 1926. Ed Ivey was the founding student of the Georgia Tech College of Architecture.

The three-story structure is built in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. Its most striking architectural feature is a façade with three soaring arches, supported by two columns that accentuate the front entrance.

Built for the Crum & Forster Insurance Company, the site according to the APC is significant in establishing Atlanta as a regional center for insurance firms. Crum & Forster was the first national insurance company to open their own house in Atlanta.

- The Atlanta Preservation Center contributed to this report

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