Community-minded neighbors in Capitol View sense that a rare opportunity is coming to take control of a landmark commercial asset in Southwest Atlanta, and they’re putting their money where their mouths are in an effort to seize it.
Whether the grassroots activism—and cash stockpile—will be enough remains to be seen.
Neighbors in Capitol View and Capitol View Manor have formed a Community Investment Group in hopes of buying a mostly vacant, former Masonic Lodge built in 1924 at 1331 Metropolitan Parkway.
By word-of-mouth and online pledges alone, the group recently raised $188,000 in four days. “[That was] without any type of formal campaign,” organizer Christie Peters, a past Capitol View Neighborhood Association president, tells Urbanize Atlanta.
Problem is, the three-story, 15,000-square-foot classical structure is scheduled to be sold during a two-day auction beginning Tuesday—with bids starting at a minimum of $300,000.
Metropolitan Parkway might not be Peachtree Street in the eyes of Atlanta investors, but the temple is located only about a block from the development magnet that is the BeltLine. The Southside Trail section over Metropolitan Parkway is expected to open this summer, with an ADA-accessible ramp leading down to the street, making pedestrian connections from the Masons hall property a breeze.
Competition could be fierce. Five days out from auction, the property’s LoopNet page has tallied more than 800,000 views.
Auction organizers Vantage Realty Partners and Ten-X Commercial have not returned requests for comment. Peters says commercial brokers are aware of what neighbors in the area are trying to pull off.
Plans are still nascent, but Peters says the local investment group has tapped residents who are construction estimators and licensed architects to draft adaptive-reuse floorplans of the building’s spaces for overall community benefit—a rebuttal to the typical ills of gentrification and displacement.
“Our goal for this acquisition,” Peters wrote in an email, “is to address the way development is typically done in gentrifying communities and create an entirely new model.”
Per LoopNet, the building is 7 percent leased now. The two tenants are a barbershop and mosque. Auction materials describe the Capitol View location as an “up-and-coming area of Atlanta [that’s] become extremely desirable” with “a flood of revitalizing development.”
Peters’ group acknowledges that a “renaissance” is underway, but it’s the type of situation that typically excludes longtime residents from “appreciation in values and wealth building activities” happening all around them.
“Residents who have weathered the more trying times, particularly African-Americans, deserve to share in the prosperity that comes along with redevelopment,” reads materials the group has distributed. “We see this being achieved through having true ownership in the commercial assets of one’s own neighborhood.”
On that topic, members of the investment group, Peters says, have agreed to a structure of $1,000 buy-ins per share, with $250 of that going to long-term, low-income residents in the area once equity can be pulled from the property.
Equity shares are available only to members of the community, Peters notes.
Beyond the acquisition costs, the neighborhood group estimates that renovations aimed at sparing the structure from decay could exceed $3 million. Tax credits, grants, and an “alliance” with “impact investors offering patient capital at below market rates” will be required, they foresee.
Their vision for the property, in a nutshell, would include:“…retail suites, a restaurant with a learning kitchen component in partnership with the culinary arts program at Atlanta Technical College, a games lounge, coworking office space, and a theatre for a community makers’ market and arts programming.”
Constructed in 1924 by the Masons, the Robert Smith Pringle-designed brick temple served as a communal hub for decades.
Officials with the Atlanta Preservation Center and Easements Atlanta have reached out to pledge support for the neighborhood group.
According to APC executive director David Mitchell, the National Register of Historic Places considers the building a vital component of the Capitol View Neighborhood Historic District.
“We would love to see that space activated for that community,” says Mitchell. “It belongs to them, and by them having it and being able to [renovate], it allows the City of Atlanta to have more diverse spaces for people to go.
“They have a plan,” Mitchell notes of the grassroots group. “They’ve got a lawyer, a bank, a lot of things going for them.”
• BeltLine's Southside Trail is getting a new bridge, eyeing summer debut (Urbanize Atlanta)