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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sweet Auburn named one of country's 'most endangered places'

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 at 10:17 AM

Sweet-Auburn_Stan-Kaady.jpg
  • Stan Kaady/National Trust for Historic Preservation
For the second time in 20 years, Atlanta's historic Sweet Auburn district has earned a spot on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of 11 Most Endangered Places.

Despite its rich historical and cultural significance, the historic commercial district dominated by Auburn Avenue, once known as "the richest Negro street in the world," spiraled into decline in the 1980s. The National Trust first named Sweet Auburn to its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 1992. Despite the remarkable turnaround of the residential portion of the Sweet Auburn Historic District - thanks largely to the efforts of the Historic District Development Corporation, Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Atlanta Preservation Center - the commercial area concentrated on Auburn Avenue has not fared as well. Two decades after the National Trust first helped bring national attention to the area's plight, Sweet Auburn continues to be in need of a preservation-focused commercial revitalization plan to avert deterioration and inappropriate development that will gravely impact its historic character.

You'll recall that preservationists and developers recently butted heads over plans to demolish much of the former Atlanta Daily World headquarters on Auburn Avenue. The Atlanta Urban Design Commission in late March voted against the proposal.

"The rich history of Sweet Auburn and its inspiring preservation efforts should be celebrated," said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "Since the National Trust first named the neighborhood to our endangered list in 1992, local preservationists have been successful in revitalizing the residential portion of Sweet Auburn. Now, we must work together and match that success by transforming the commercial areas of the neighborhood, thereby ensuring that Sweet Auburn fully returns to its former glory as a thriving community."

The nonprofit aims to raise awareness and help preserve or save the places with its annual round-up of the country's "architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage." Other places on this year's list: Joe Frazier's gym in Philadelphia, which isn't protected by a historic district; Texas' courthouses, which are deteriorating; the last surviving boyhood home of Malcolm X in Boston; the Ellis Island Hospital Complex in New York; and others.

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