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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Court order calls for preservation of Crum & Forster building's historic front, remaining parts to be demolished

The arduous and drawn-out battle to preserve Midtown's Crum & Forster building may soon be over after a decisive court hearing yesterday.

Fulton Superior Court Judge John Goger signed an amended consent order that calls for the front third of the historic Midtown building to be saved, allowing the remaining portions of the structure to be razed.

The agreement was reached following negotiations between the Georgia Tech Foundation, which first purchased the building in 2007, and the city of Atlanta. According to the consent order, claims filed against the city and its Board of Zoning Adjustment would be dismissed provided that it acts upon the terms outlined in the agreement.

"This matter is hereby remanded to the BZA for further consideration at its next regularly scheduled hearing," Goger wrote, "and the BZA is directed to render a decision consistent with the findings contained herein."

Saporta Report has posted the nine-page court order, which includes a thorough summary of the events leading up to yesterday's hearing. In addition, the document contains a building diagram showing which sections of the building will be saved and demolished.

Last November, the BZA voted to ignore a previous consent order that stemmed from a past agreement between the city and the Georgia Tech Foundation. BZA members claimed that the consent order fell outside of their duties as a quasi-judicial board. Because of that, they didn't think they were required to adhere to its terms. If the BZA doesn't act upon the latest agreement at its next meeting, however, the court could possibly take further enforcement actions against its members.

Goger also denied a motion from five citizens who had hoped to step into the case, saying that the dispute "has gone on way too long." CL reached out to Mary Carole Cooney, the attorney at the hearing who represented the interveners, to comment about their next steps, but we have not heard back yet.

Looking forward, the ruling brings the Georgia Tech Foundation one step closer to constructing its state-of-the-art High Performance Computing Center. Regarding that eventual plan, which would include replacing the demolished portions for the Crum & Forster building with parking, Midtown Patch writes:

It would appear now the path is much clearer for the GTF to continue further with its plans at the 771 Spring St. property for a High Performance Computing Center for Modeling and Simulation, a 24-story, 680,000 square-foot private and public development that would support the economic development of area through creating jobs, new tax revenues and a technology cluster.

The City has said that GTF is competing with other cities for a $100 million investment in the high performance computing center.

In addition to Cooney, we've also reached out to Atlanta Preservation Center Executive Director Boyd Coons for comment. If we hear back from either, we'll post an update.

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