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Historic preservation of Pullman Yard optional as state markets property

Kirkwood and East Lake

Historic preservation of Pullman Yard optional as state markets property

The Pullman Yard in Kirkwood. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

The Pullman Yard in Kirkwood. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

In late November the Atlanta Urban Design Commission backed away from a proposal that would’ve given Kirkwood’s Pullman Yard landmark status.

The designation would’ve required any developer to preserve historic elements of the property. Weeks later, the state put the 27 acre site on the market for sale to the highest bidder. The state is not requiring that the buildings on the property be preserved, though the bid documents note the historic nature of the site. To see the bid documents, click here.

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Decaturish has learned that the state pressured the Urban Design Commission to drop its proposal, saying it was immune to any actions taken by the city to preserve the structure. The Georgia Building Authority declined to comment on the pending sale and said there is no way for the public to share its views about what should be done with the property. The minimum bid is $5.6 million.

Councilmember Natalyn Archibong, who supported a resolution giving the property landmark status, said she’s committed to doing all she can to preserve the site.

“The legislation unanimously approved by the City Council in August of 2016, continues to define the position of the City relative to its desire to have these buildings designated as historic,” Archibong said. “Although the state has exercised its right to preempt the city, I look forward to pursing the historic designation once the property becomes privately owned.”

Preservation advocates are alarmed by the state’s move to sell the site without any restrictions on development.

Charles Lawrence, founder of the Atlanta Preservation Alliance, said the state warned UDC it would challenge any attempt to classify the property as a landmark. Lawrence has worked with one group, Pullman Historic Development LLC, that has floated a proposal to develop the site by preserving the existing structures.

“There is currently no protection whatsoever for the historic buildings and really the significance of this property in terms of its history cannot be overstated,” he said. “It’s the last undeveloped industrial property in Atlanta.”

Lawrence said the property is “zoned in such a way that it has unlimited potential” for any developer who wants to by.

“At the end of the day, the plan that will make the most money is the one that removes the buildings and puts the highest amount of density on the site,” he said.

Lawrence added that the property ultimately belongs to the people of Georgia and said, “The state is being really irresponsible” by marketing the property to the highest bidder.

According to the bid documents, The Pratt-Pullman Yard – originally farmland purchased in 1904 by the Pratt Engineering Company for a sugar and fertilizer processing plant – was used for munitions manufacturing during World War I. It was purchased in 1922 by the Pullman Passenger Rail Company and used as a rail car service and repair facility. Southern Iron and Equipment Company used it from 1955 to the 1970’s. The facility was closed after the federal court order split up the Pullman Passenger Rail Company. Georgia Power used the facility for its fleet of Trackless Trolleys, a name for electric buses. The Georgia Building Authority bought the property in 1990. It was briefly used as part of the New Georgia Railroad, a dinner train running from Underground Atlanta to Stone Mountain. In recent years, it has become a popular filming location.

Prior to the property going on the market, there were two proposals for the site. One, by Pullman Historic Development LLC would turn it into town homes. The other, pushed by Atlanta ContactPoint, would  turn it into multi-purpose fields, office space and greenhouse space.

Both development teams expressed an interest in submitting a bid. Both were concerned by the possibility of losing the structures on the site.

Stan Sugarman, with Pullman Historic Development, said his team has always been concerned about preserving the buildings as part of any development. He said the state’s move to market the property without any restrictions to protect the buildings is a concern for him.

“The property is worth more without those buildings,” he said.

David Epstein, executive director for Atlanta ContactPoint, is worried about the fate of the buildings, too.

“It is a very big concern for us,” he said. “We’ve lost faith in the state when they decided to go with the highest bidder. The state is not planning on looking at any of the bids to see if there’s any community benefit whatsoever. They told us they are looking at the highest bid.”

Sealed bids are due by April 4, 2017.

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