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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Judge: Fox 'phantom' can stay put

Posted By on Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 1:16 PM

Joe Patten, the 83-year-old Midtowner affectionately known as the "Phantom of the Fox," will remain in the apartment tucked away in the historic Midtown venue until the legal issues surrounding his lease are resolved.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter this morning helped Patten, who's lived rent-free in an apartment he renovated inside the Fox since 1979, and Atlanta Landmarks Inc., the venue's nonprofit owner, strike a deal that prevents ALI from evicting the theatre's former caretaker.

Patten, who decades ago helped save the theatre from the wrecking ball, filed a lawsuit in early September against ALI claiming housing discrimination after its board voted to terminate his lifetime lease. ALI wanted Patten to sign a new lease — or "occupancy agreement," as it's called — that included provisions his supporters criticized as disrespectful. The board also gave him an Dec. 1 deadline to do so or face eviction.

"It has and continues to be the intent of Atlanta Landmarks to allow Mr. Patten to live in the apartment as long as he is able," a Fox spokeswoman said in a statement. "The parties also agreed to discuss concerns about security and management in and around the apartment. We hope that today’s proceedings will lead to a mutually beneficial resolution, which has always been our desire."

Emmet Bondurant, Patten's lawyer, tells the AJC that today's agreement wasn't an outright victory. His client's 1979 lease still stands — provided the Fox doesn't try to terminate it once again.

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