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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.

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

Marc Acampora April 24, 2012 at 01:47 AM
We still haven't grown up. Atlanta will never be a world class city if we keep erasing our history.
Marc Acampora April 24, 2012 at 01:54 AM
What is baffling is why historic buildings are targeted while empty lots or Arby's are preserved.
Nicholas Wolaver April 24, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Georgia Tech, for the love of architecture, give us a break and find something else to demolish. How about some of those ghastly "historic" dorms that were the shame of the Olympic Village in 1996? Leave this beautiful and truly historic landmark building alone, or better yet, get creative and fix it up!
Chris R April 24, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Who actually considered this a historic building before Tech wanted to tear it down? Who actually knew it existed before 2 years ago? Pick one .... 3 floors of an abandoned falling apart building with a nice fancy cake frosting surrounded by surface parking lots with the corner of 4th and Spring appearing on an episode of Cops a while back, or a 26 floor full block building leading to millions of dollars of local and regional return, hundreds of long term jobs, and further investment into a dark corner of Midtown. The choice is obvious: Progress.
Tammy April 24, 2012 at 01:06 PM
"The choice is obvious: Progress." I sure am happy that I never get to see the following in person: Atlanta Union Station Atlanta Terminal Station Atlanta Arcade Old Governor's Mansion Loew's Grand Theatre
Marc Acampora April 24, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Chris R, the problem with your position is that there is so much vacant land and crap in that area that could be developed as you describe. It's the same as with the building that was torn down on Peachtree at North, and is now a vacant hole. They had to have a Peachtree address, while a block away are vacant lots and low density crap. Great cities build new next to old, fill in empty spaces, and preserve history. Your position may begin to make sense when we start running out of land in Midtown, or even just a few feet from this building. But, that is a long way off.
Nicholas Wolaver April 24, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Chris, this building and its preservation has been in the news for more than 15 years -- it was in the news before the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Thankfully, concerned people in the neighborhood (including several folks posting comments here) want to see other vacant properties developed BEFORE a historic landmark is torn down. I agree with Tammy -- it sure would have been nice to experience her listed landmarks that were torn down in the name of "progress." Georgia Tech has an opportunity to get creative redirect its energy and resources to solve a different problem (i.e. vacant cement lots) before bulldozing the building in question.
Patch April 24, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I don't know enough about this area, but this building is not dense enough to fit in the Midtown blueprint; but the Midtown vacant lots should be filled first before tearing down additional buildings. The worst decision was to blow up the Wachovia buildings in 2006 (Peachtree and Ponce), which is still vacant in 2012. Also, taxes/fines should be assessed to discourage empty lots and encourage development. Midtown does not need additional surface parking lots.
foxmccleod April 24, 2012 at 02:09 PM
As I understand it, they are planning to demolish the rear 2/3 of the building, saving the front portion and incorporating it into the new development. Images incorporating the front of the building can be seen here. http://www.realestate.gatech.edu/hpc/index.php
Henry Batten April 24, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Based on the plans shared by foxmccleod, there is no need for them to have to tear down any of the Crum building. The terrible TVS plan can be altered to incorporate the entire Crum building. Personally, I would prefer to see TVS design something that is more complementary to the Crum building. Why can't a new building recall the Italian Renaissance style instead of being ultra modern? TVS can do better than this.
Ron Warren April 24, 2012 at 03:38 PM
We've lost so many of our historical building in Atlanta I find it inconceivable that anyone would even consider destroying this architectural gem. What is it with this city’s obsession for new buildings that don’t’ come close to comparing to the beauty and majesty of some of these old treasures. Peachtree Center is a prime example of how this city in the name of so called “progress” allowed that eye sore to be built. It’s not about progress at all it’s all about who holds the purse strings and has the political clout to get away with destroying this city’s history. Loosing this building would be a crime and GA Tech should be ashamed of even thinking about tearing it down.
AlwaysGettingBetter April 24, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Tech has enough money to relocate the building, brick by brick, and renovate the interior while they're at it. I think their true "sensitivity" to these issues is revealed by their twice denied initial plans..."surface parking lot." Large institutions, especially public ones, must be guided by principles of cultural and community stewardship. A "surface lot" really borders on contempt for these principles.
Brian P Sullivan April 24, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Exactly. Tech Sq is adjacent to a huge lot already vacated (next to Centergy) that is for sale. Why not purchase that building that is already zones and ready to go.
Tim April 24, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Please look at the website provided by foxmccleod. It appears in the plan that the rear 2/3 of the building wuill be removed and the front 1/3 incorporated into the design. Is the back 2/3 historic and of value, or is most of the value and historic design in the front 1/3? Also, if the whole building is in fact truely historic, then GA Tech has plenty of space in their plan to save the whole building if it makes sense, and just add space/floors above most of the rest of this plot where it is only a few stories high.
Bryan Farley April 24, 2012 at 09:30 PM
EXACTLY!!
Bryan Farley April 24, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Please tear it down and get over trying to make EVERY old building historic. That's why when you go downtown at the corner of Alabama and Forsyth you see that old horrible ragedy building sitting there that is a complete eye sore. I can't think of what use to be there but it gone. If this is the case lets keep every old building in the downtown/midtown area. Forget the beautiful skyscrapers that the city has that have shown growth and made ATL what it is to day. Let's look at the old unoccupied buildings forever and ever! As Chris R stated... PROGRESS!!
James April 25, 2012 at 02:10 AM
I'm torn but I fall firmly on the side of supporting this project. The beauty of the building is all in the facade. There is nothing particularly historic within the building itself although I'm sure it could be beautifully restored. Besides, this is the way beautiful old buildings are built into new projects in big cities with a lot more history than Atlanta.
Tammy April 26, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Look what cities like Cincinnati have done to save their historic areas. We could really take a few notes. http://www.3cdc.org/
JonC April 26, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Even though I would like to see the plan tweaked to allow for the full preservation of the building, I think demolishing only the rear is a good compromise. Most of the design merit is in the front 1/3. If that's what it takes for this lot to be fully utilized, so be it.
Hunt Archbold (Editor) April 27, 2012 at 06:11 PM
At Thursday's Midtown Neighbors’ Association Board of Directors meeting, the board voted to officially oppose the recent application for the two-thirds demolition of the Crum & Forster Building. The MNA Land Use Committee will be drafting an official Position Statement opposing this action.
ER April 29, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I hope your kidding. With students' tuition already rising it would be ridiculous and irresponsible to do that. To spend any money on a building that nobody can use is ridiculous; people just want it to sit there so they can drive by it every now and then and think about how insurance agents used to come work in it every day. Honestly its baffling to me.
Plank April 29, 2012 at 08:06 PM
I'm not sure I understand the need to demolish the building to accomplish what Tech wants. It reflects the early design of GATech's campus (Tech Tower, some of the older buildings) and was designed by the person that FOUNDED the School of Architecture! I would think that should hold quite a bit of value to the university. I'd refurbish it and turn the bottom floor into a University museum and gift shop. Put some of the miscellaneous offices on floors 2/3 that are taking up too much space on the main campus. I'm sure they exist--their current spaces can be used for more pertinent things while they move out to Tech Square. Even if this building doesn't hold particularly large historic value, every building we tear down is a just a waste, and this one, given its roots, is especially historic as relates to the university. The new building can simply surround this plot and go up 24/26 stories as they planned.
Bee Mack April 30, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Well said, Tammy. Colleges are a menace to our history & built environment. Fight Back !
snic-alum June 27, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I agree this historic building and its location make a perfect spot for a much needed Georgia Tech Museum of Art and Technology. It would honor the past while showcasing Tech as a leader in new technologies. A museum would incorporate art/culture into the university and draw not only from the school but from the community. Georgia Tech has done a fabulous job expanding into Midtown, and their current plan will enhance it even further, upgrading the use of the property and bringing best minds to the area. It seems to me that compromising by restoring the front 1/3 of the building while expanding the high tech development works for the best interest of all. Keep in mind that Ga. Tech has architects to do this in an excellent way, and digital media/computing folks who can enhance historic display to capture the past in ways far better than leaving an old building sitting vacant with accessibility to no one.

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