Local
12:00 am
Mon October 22, 2012

Preservationists Ready to Sue City to Save Building

(Note:  Original story updated to include statement from the City of Atlanta and follow-up response from Attorney Mary Huber)

A four-year fight to keep the Georgia Tech Foundation from demolishing the historic Crum & Forster building in Midtown moves forward today.   

Attorney Mary Huber says she’ll file notice of ante litem Monday on behalf of five Atlantans who believe the City is ignoring its own preservation regulations. [Georgia law requires the notice, which tells a local government of the intent to sue.]

“The lawyers for the Georgia Tech Foundation and the Deputy City Attorney entered into a deal to ignore all the processes and direct the Board of Zoning Adjustment to issue a demolition permit,” Huber says. 

By the City of Atlanta directing the demolition, Huber says the move goes against outcomes of multiple city hearings.  (City spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs later disputed Huber's assertion, writing in an Email that the City of Atlanta is not directing the demolition.  A full statement from Jacobs, as well as follow-up from Attorney Mary Huber, are at the end of the article.)   All hearings have favored preserving the 1928 building.  

Atlanta Preservation Center head Boyd Coons says the city’s ordinances are there to ensure “sensitive" and "contextual" development.

“And that’s what we feel is not happening here,” Coons says. 

A hearing is scheduled in Fulton Superior Court for Nov. 1st. 

WABE's attempts to contact officials with the Ga. Tech Foundation and the City of Atlanta on Sunday were unsuccessful; however, late Monday, Mayor Reed's spokeswoman, Sonji Jacbos, provided the following statement: 

“The City seeks a balanced resolution that would preserve a portion of the Crum and Forster building and support the construction by the Georgia Tech Foundation of a high tech computing center --- a $100 million investment in Midtown.  In the best interest of the city, the case was settled in an effort to allow for the opportunity to continue the dialogue with the Foundation to reach a balanced resolution that would preserve a portion of the Crum & Forster building:  the front façade and approximately 1/3 of the building. Georgia Tech Foundation has always had the option to transfer the property and building to the State Board of Regents which would have the ability, as a state agency, to completely demolish the building since it is not subject to the City’s zoning ordinance, preventing the preservation of at least a portion of the structure. The consent order does not authorize a demolition permit or a building permit, but simply a special administrative permit, a procedural step applicable to most development in Midtown.”

Attorney Mary Huber provided the following follow-up statement (emphasis her own):  

SAP means “Special Administrative Permit”

 SAP-08-024 was a request for a permit to allow the demolition of the Crum & Forster building & replace it with surface parking.  The Office of Planning denied the permit.    The BZA  the denied the appeal from the denial.   In 2009 the Foundation filed an appeal from the decision of the BZA to the Superior Court of Fulton County.  On September 24, 2012, the date that the Foundation’s appeal finally was set for hearing the City attorneys agreed with Tech attorneys as follows:     “[a]t its next regularly scheduled hearing, the BZA shall order, with or without conditions, not inconsistent with this Order, the Director of the Office of Planning to grant SAP-08-024 within 10 days of its hearing.”    In other words, grant the permit that would allow the demolition to go forward & replace the building with a parking lot.    So, technically, City is not directing the demolition, it is directing the BZA to direct the Office of Planning to issue the permit that will allow Tech Foundation Real Estate Holding Corp. to demolish the building.

(For more background on the complex and ongoing fight, check out Maria Saporta's detailed article from Oct. 5th, published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle and reposted on SaportaReport.com)