Decatur City Commission Votes For DDA to Purchase Scottish Rite

The City just sent out this press release…

Decatur,Ga. – ­Last night, the Decatur City Commission unanimously adopted a resolution outlining their full and active support for the purchase of the Historic Scottish Rite Hospital property in Oakhurst by the Decatur Downtown Development Authority (DDA).  The DDA will purchase the property from current owner Progressive Redevelopment, Inc (PRI). The City Commission originally approved an urban redevelopment plan for the property in 1999.

“The City Commission determined it was in the best interest of the City to promote the health, prosperity, safety and welfare of the community by supporting the continued viability of the Historic Scottish Rite Hospital,” said Decatur Mayor Jim Baskett. “Adopting the resolution shows our belief that this property is a unique local landmark and community resource that will continue to benefit the Oakhurst neighborhood and all of Decatur for years to come.”

“Due to the devastating effect of the recent economic recession on real estate values, PRI is no longer financially able to sustain the debt owed on the Historic Scottish Rite Hospital property,” said Lorri Mills of PRI. “DDA’s plans to purchase are really a best case scenario for everyone involved. We applaud the City Commission’s support of this plan.”

“This is exciting news for us,” said Scot Hollonbeck, board president of the Community Center of South Decatur. “We believe the purchase of this property by the DDA will secure this historic community resource and make it possible for us to continue to support community programming and activities at the Solarium .”

The Historic Scottish Rite Hospital property was the first Scottish Rite Hospital for children.  Built in 1920, it was designed by noted Atlanta architects Neel Reid and Hal Heinz and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Decatur Commission to Vote on Parkwood Historic District This Evening

parkwoodPrior to being annexed by Decatur, the Parkwood Neighborhood in unincorporated DeKalb County was within the Druid Hills Historic District.  After the neighborhood was annexed into Decatur, many neighborhood residents requested to retain their historic designation according to a note to the City Manager from Planning Director Amanda Thompson.

Decatur’s Historic Preservation Commission took up the application at their June 30th meeting, according to Ms. Thompson’s note and the Decatur City Commission is set to vote on it this evening.

According to the designation report, the proposed district “is bounded by West Ponce de Leon Avenue, the railroad, East Lake Road and includes West Parkwood Road, East Parkwood Road, and 5 parcels on Parkwood Lane.”

Map courtesy of Parkwood District Designation Report

Decatur Cemetery Emily Pittman Gravesite Restored Thanks to Volunteers


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Chris writes in…

The beautiful Victorian gravesite of Miss Emily Pittman in the City of Decatur cemetery was rededication on Mothers Day, May 12. Cathy Vogel, David Crenshaw, Victor Donham, Nancy Sill and others from the Friends of Decatur Cemetery organization have worked for years to restore the gravesite. With funds from the Decatur Beer Festival, and the expertise of master blacksmith Ray Bowen, the site is now restored to its original look.

A wider shot of the gravesite and some of the volunteers who restored it, after the jump…

Continue reading “Decatur Cemetery Emily Pittman Gravesite Restored Thanks to Volunteers”

Cakes & Ale Wins Georgia Trust Preservation Award

As pointed out by the Atlanta Business Chronicle this morning, Cakes & Ale is among the 23 recipients of a the state-wide Georgia Trust Historic Preservation Award for the rehabilitation of their new spaces along Sycamore Street.

Skimming through the press release, it seems that C&A was the only recipient in the metro Atlanta area.  (Correct me if I’m wrong about that.)

Thanks to the readers who pointed this out to me this morning!

Photo courtesy of Cakes & Ale blog

Decatur Old House Fair Returns for It’s 5th Year This Saturday

Decatur’s Preservation Planner Regina Brewer writes in with this announcement about this year’s Decatur Old House Fair

Given the number of times the dear readers of DM have debated “old versus new”, this event with the theme “Something Old, Something New” should satisfy all.  It’s the Decatur Old House Fair and it’s the one event where no one will look at your strangely when you utter words like “muntin” and “corbel” in the same sentence as “energy efficiency” and “low flush toilets ”.  In fact, you will be among many people who are currently pumping out the water from their basements and are eagerly looking forward to the session on “Mastering Moisture and Water Problems” (soon to be a movie with Kevin Bacon and filmed in any neighborhood with old houses!).

Continue reading “Decatur Old House Fair Returns for It’s 5th Year This Saturday”

City Presents “Original Green” Author

What is “green?” Bamboo floors and photovoltaic roof panels? Sleek LEED buildings and EnergyStar appliances? Granola and weed?

That’s something the city’s looking to explore tomorrow by hosting Steve Mouzon, author of “The Original Green,” for a free public lecture at Agnes Scott. (Full disclosure: I helped with some of the organizing.)

Looking back through history, when people lived sustainably not because they chose to but because they had to, Steve offers a compelling alternative to the idea that high-tech solutions are the only path to sustainability.

As he puts it:

Before the Thermostat Age, the places we built and buildings we built had no choice but to be green. Otherwise people would freeze to death in the winter, die of heat strokes by summer, starve to death, or other really bad things would happen to them. Today, as we are working to re-learn how to live sustainably, much of the focus is on the gadgetry of green: Gizmo Green. This notion that we can simply invent more efficient mechanisms, and throw in some bamboo to boot, is only a small part of real sustainability.

Instead, Steve looks at the lessons of the past — sustainability practices that evolved, as opposed to being invented — and examines how they might be incorporated into our future.

What wisdom lies in pre-1900 design and building practices? Join us to find out, 11:30am to 2pm, at Agnes Scott’s Evans dining hall. Get lunch upstairs, then bring it downstairs for the lecture.

Green on!

Historic Preservation: Taming the “Four-Headed Monster”?

Owlish points to this thought-provoking op-ed in the New York Times from a few days back by the architecture critic for The New Republic, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, responding to architect Rem Koolhaas’ recent accusations that preservationists “cherry-pick the past”, “destroy people’s complex sense of the urban environment” and all too often are caught snogging with developers.

Here’s a blurb from Koolhaas’ exhibit description on the New Exhibitions Museum website…

Koolhaas seeks to find what the future of our memory will look like, and how our obsession with heritage is creating an artificial re-engineered version of our memory. Lacking a set of coherent strategies or policies and generally not engaged by architects and designers, preservation is an under-examined topic, but increasingly relevant as we enter an age of “Cronocaos,” in which the boundaries between preservation, construction, and demolition collapse, forever changing the course of linear evolution of time.

Hmm…I wonder what Koolhaas would say a natural, non-“re-engineered” memory looks like.

Williams argues that while there’s some truth to Koolhaas’ critiques – and I would perhaps add a dash of “Hello Pot, my name is Kettle!” – preservation is not actually the cause these problems.  Instead, it’s a stop-gap measure acting as a very blunt tool in lieu of more comprehensive city planning departments, which should be considering preservation and development in the same breath.

She goes on to give an insightful and concise history of the preservation movement – including when things came to a head in the mid-1960s when the public decided it had had enough with urban renewal projects blindly tearing down their physical history (see NYC’s Penn Station above) – up to the present day when in many cities around the country “decisions about managing urban development are frequently framed as decisions about what or what not to preserve, with little sense of how those decisions affect the surrounding neighborhood.”

She concludes…

Instead of bashing preservation, we should restrict it to its proper domain. Design review boards, staffed by professionals trained in aesthetics and urban issues and able to influence planning and preservation decisions, should become an integral part of the urban development process. At the same time, city planning offices must be returned to their former, powerful role in urban policy.

We can argue all day about the “proper” role of government in urban planning, but it’s hard to argue that preservation ordinances all too often step in to fill a larger policy void in the present day.  Decatur has had its fair share of examples of historic districts spurred on mainly to impose height of size limits  – from Old Decatur’s historic status stemming from the never-built condos on Hillyer to the Oakhurst kerfuffle over whether it should become a historic district due to the number of tear downs and larger new construction.

The 2010 Strategic Plan task 3a aims at tackling some of what’s lacking in our current planning, by adopting “new transitional design standards to integrate commercial, mixed-use, and residential districts.”, while Goal 4 looks to “encourage the preservation of neighborhoods and appropriate
reuse of historic structures.”  It will be interesting to see how an if these policies combined will create an even more precise and acceptable preservation policy going forward.