The latest twist in the story of two well-known Midtown buildings fronting Ponce de Leon Avenue has come with preservationist group Historic Atlanta withdrawing its support for landmark designations, as ironic as that may sound.
One of the properties in question—a late-1800s, formerly residential building that’s been home to gay bar Atlanta Eagle since the eighties—could mark the first LGBTQ landmark designation in the Southeast.
Like the club, the circa-1905 Kodak building next door is considered by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to be in peril.
A process to declare the neighboring structures historic landmarks kicked off in December when Atlanta Mayor Kiesha Lance Bottoms announced that doing so would help lift up the Atlanta Eagle during post-COVID-19 recovery and prevent development from wiping it out. (Eagle ownership has pushed back plans for a 2021 reopening until next year—but that might need to happen in a new location, pending the outcome of the preservation saga.)
Earlier this month, Atlanta’s Zoning Review Board swiftly approved ordinances declaring the two properties as landmarks. That advances the proposal to the Atlanta City Council’s Zoning Committee, which could stamp its approval as early as Monday and forward the proposal to the full City Council next month. The only remaining hurdle, as Project Q reports, would be Bottoms’ rubberstamp of approval.
But not so fast, says Historic Atlanta.
Charlie Paine, the group’s LGBTQ Historic Preservation Advisory Committee chair, is arguing that boundaries established in current paperwork illustrating which portions would be protected aren’t expansive enough.
Passing the legislation as is would render the historic designations “meaningless,” as Paine argues in letters provided to Urbanize Atlanta today. As such, the group has decided to yank its support of the city’s pursuit for landmark status.
Specifically, Paine writes, modifications to earlier proposals that would allow developers to remove portions of the Atlanta Eagle building’s roof and build around and on top of it would compromise historic integrity. Similarly, Historic Atlanta feels that all portions of the Kodak building should be preserved—not just its recognizable façade and sign.
The vacant Kodak building, as it’s colloquially called, has been the subject of redevelopment talks for years.
The modified structure, crowned by a crumbling but iconic KODAK sign, was formerly a Star Photo camera shop but has been abandoned for decades, aside from a stint as former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s campaign headquarters in the early aughts. (That Franklin became the city’s first female mayor is cited by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation as further proof it’s historically significant.)
It sold along with the Eagle in a three-parcel, nearly $2 million deal in 2016. The owner, Dr. Shahzad Hashmi, had plans for a wellness facility drawn up by Atlanta-based Xmetrical firm that would incorporate historical aspects of the building, including the Kodak signage, but that didn’t materialize.
Hashmi has retained Xmetrical for a new, taller development vision for the site, but we’re told it’s too early to discuss specifics. Word on the street is that neighborhood groups in the vicinity are none too pleased with relatively dense proposals emerging on that stretch of Ponce.
On a Midtown parcel across the street to the west, Capital City Real Estate is planning a project called Midtown Medical on Ponce to replace a car-detailing business and empty lot. Plans call for 80,000 square feet of Class A medical office space to rise in seven stories, opening in the first quarter of 2023.
According to Project Q’s reporting, Hashmi’s attorney, Dennis Webb, has called the city’s preservation compromise a “win-win” that will allow for the owner to pour between $20 and $25 million into a project encompassing both the Kodak and Atlanta Eagle properties.
• Recent Midtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)