A close-up look at the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s expansion map – SaportaReport

John Rouch

The expansion of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is one of the acts of Atlanta’s political gods, presented from their heavenly perspective as they color a relatively blank spot on the map. But on a human scale, many details are fluid and in transition.

There are displaced businesses that may or may not succeed elsewhere. There are historical buildings that are preserved and others that are subject to demolition. There are gigantic self-storage facilities that may disappear and gigantic cell antenna towers that never go away.

A map of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens showing the general area of ​​the planned expansion.

The trade-offs range to an unusual mix of behind-the-scenes project dealings and planting public flags. An expansion of the gardens and a separate but related plan to grow Piedmont Park was created in secret between big business and city hall more than five years ago. Mayor Reed announced the plan at a press conference, but much of the land was still privately owned. It undoubtedly sent property prices skyrocketing, but at least it alerted tenants and the public, and probably scared off commercial developers.

Top-down planning was described by Reed and Garden at the time as necessary to essentially defeat the city’s own planning and zoning policies and the mega-development they are causing along the Atlanta Beltline. . park. The bottom line is that if the land doesn’t become parkland, it will undoubtedly become something else that could block access to existing green space, a particularly unpredictable impact. Although we have announced further progress, the rationale remains the same.

“If we don’t invest in this expansion now, Garden will be cut off from our city’s main pedestrian and bike-friendly thoroughfare by concrete warehouses and skyscrapers,” said Garden spokesperson Danny Flanders. Or worse, .

But then again, it’s a detail that’s invisible from a very high issue, and one that’s currently bigger than how the plans themselves to build concrete warehouses elsewhere on the beltline are demanding. No. Critical to the expansion and its beltline access is the elimination of self-storage facilities. The only way to do that is with a land swap announced last month to build a new self-storage facility along the Virginia Highlands Beltline just outside the park. Call it a lesser trade-off, but neighbors called it inappropriate and were furious that the plan was dropped in a classic move of power when everyone was distracted over the Thanksgiving holiday. doing.

The Garden is a private, non-profit horticultural organization known for its gardens, greenhouses, and topiary-like botanical carvings. Formed around existing garden space in the 1970s, it now occupies approximately 30 acres northwest of Piedmont Park on Piedmont Avenue and is under a long-term lease with the city dating back to 1980.

The Fulton County property documents an aerial photograph of Piedmont Park below and the garden extension area, which includes the triangle of Piedmont Avenue, Westminster Drive and the Atlanta Beltline. The large building in the center is self-storage, which is key to the plan.

The expansion will add nearly seven acres to its footprint, according to Gardens. Plans also include further expansion into the Northwoods area of ​​the park and into a triangular land bordering Piedmont Avenue, Westminster Drive and the Beltline. This is where the Northeast Trail and the Piedmont Park Trail of the Beltline, which is under construction, meet. It’s also just steps away from the intersection of Piedmont and Monroe Drive, where the park’s expansion is planned. That plan remains a mystery, but Garden recently acquired Monroe’s fortune as a contribution of sorts.

The Garden aims to complete the expansion by 2026, when it celebrates its 50th anniversary, and Atlanta will host matches for the World Cup soccer tournament. Aside from the goal of a striking new entrance for Beltline, the concept remains preliminary and conceptual. However, it is not expected that there will be any major changes to the existing gardens, where features such as the Piedmontese main entrance and the Prado Museum remain.

A conceptual drawing of the new entrance to the expanded area of ​​the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, where the self-storage facility now stands. (Image courtesy of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.)

“While we are not yet in the design phase, we do not expect the expansion to impact the current design, amenities or functionality of the existing 30-acre gardens,” said Flanders.

The Garden’s current 50-year lease went into effect in 2017, and Flanders said it is not expected to require modifications for expansion.

That part of the park is heavily wooded, attracting wildlife to the larger area. On a recent Saporta Report visit, a hawk swooped close to the ground in Westminster and perched in a tree on the border of the park.

As for that Piedmont/Westminster triangle, it includes some businesses and some vacant lots. Garden has already purchased all of the properties, except for the self-storage facility, which is owned and operated by California-based Public Storage under a real estate acquisition firm called Pine Deer Creations.

Some of the glades are wooded and littered with trash and rubbish, especially along Westminster. Most of the trees look relatively young, but a few large trees stand out, including the oaks on the central driveway known as Piedmont Way.

A large oak tree on the Piedmont Way. (Photo by John Lucci.)

In terms of garden redevelopment, all properties except Self Storage already have one owner, James B. Cumming. He purchased them all in October 2019 for a total of about $6.8 million, according to Fulton County estate records. The self-storage land swap will cost about $44 million, Garden said.

Besides self-storage facilities, three commercial buildings line the Piedmont triangle. At 1447 Piedmont is Boy Next his door menswear store, which was also previously home to a saloon that has moved to another location in Midtown. Another 1433 Piedmont has a Fashionaid dry cleaner. His third in 1425 Piedmont has two of his stores. One has remained vacant since the restaurant Eclectic closed months before the property sale in 2019, and is now used as storage by The Garden. Another is a public relations firm called Blue Hominy. is.

Boy Next Door and Fashioned are established businesses that have been around for decades. Both said Garden had been open with them about the property purchase and their eventual move from the beginning, but that the move was more important to Dry his cleaner than the clothing store. it is clear.

Boy Next Door has lived in the building since 1980 under various owners and will move in later this year, according to Jeff Giles, who has partnered with one of the current owners to sell products through the shop. It’s a schedule. Giles called the move “bittersweet,” but it was a “game-changer.”It was because the store, which caters to a gay clientele, moved to his 1000 Piedmont Avenue, at the intersection of 10th Avenue and Piedmont. because Piedmont is the heart of Atlanta and, in many ways, the LGBTQ community of the entire Southeast.

A historic building in 1447 Piedmont will be preserved as part of the expansion, says the gardens. (Photo by John Lucci.)

“There’s nothing negative about this, except for the pain of the mod,” he said. “So far, all of our customers say they’re super excited about where we’re moving. They all live there. Midtown has changed dramatically.”

“It’s bittersweet. I have to leave the space that has been here for 42 years,” he added. “But in the end it’s a shell. Memories stay with you and you make new memories.”

At Fashionaid, which has been in operation for nearly 30 years, owner Christina Park declined to comment on the record, but said she had spoken with Garden about helping find a new location.

Blue Hominy could not be reached for comment.

Boy Next Door is leaving, but Garden says the historic building will remain. It is a quirky wedge-shaped brick building with architectural details such as leaded glass windows. Online property records date back to 1920, but are not always reliable sources. Giles says the shopkeeper believes it dates back to his 1890s. Flanders said he doesn’t know what the garden will do with the building, but he wants to keep it.

Cell antenna tower remaining in the extended garden. (Photo by John Lucci.)

“It’s such a charming little structure…it would be a shame not to somehow incorporate it into the plans for the new garden,” he said.

Other buildings are scheduled to be demolished, but they are also relics of the past. Property records attribute Fashioned to his 1920 and 1425 Piedmontese building to his 1945. Another relic at this site is a stone wall in the vacant lot of 244 Westminster, which may have been part of the foundation of a demolished building.

Assuming the land swap deal goes well, the self-storage facility will be the largest demolition at the site. Built in the early 1990s, it incorporates a warehouse dating back to 1949. This is a series of concrete blocks featuring a decorative lighthouse, a standard symbol of the warehouse business.

Removing that facility is key to the garden’s vision of the Grand Beltline Entrance, but there is another structure right next door. It is a cell tower about 70 feet high and surrounded by a chain link fence covered with barbed wire.

As Flanders puts it, “cell phone base stations will remain.”

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