Atlanta Branch Saved from Developer’s Shopping Mecca

Atlanta Branch Saved from Developer’s Shopping Mecca

Trustees of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library voted 8–0 February 27 to keep the system’s distinctive Buckhead branch and reject a developer’s offer of $24 million to raze the building to make way for an eight-block commercial redevelopment. The branch, built in 1989 by avant-garde architects Mark Scogin and Merrill Elam, does not fit into the upscale Streets of Buckhead shopping and residential project envisioned by developer Ben Carter, who proposed relocating the library to a mixed-use tower where users would reach it by elevator.

“The Buckhead library, for better or worse, represents a piece of what Atlanta was as the 20th century drew to a close,” board Chairman John Thomas said in the February 28 Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We have a chance to begin a trend of saving similar structures.” AFPL Director John Szabo said that buying land and constructing a new building would take most, if not all, of the money Carter had offered.

The Buckhead branch has drawn both praise and criticism for its unusual slate-colored exterior and airiness. In 1991, it received a Library Building Award from the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association’s Library Administration and Management Association. Others see it as an eyesore. “That library, to my way of thinking, was an abortion the day it was dedicated,” Fulton County Commissioner Tom Lowe said in the February 11 Journal-Constitution.

But Elam described its look as “emblematic of open book, open thinking, open-mindedness.” Atlanta architect David M. Hamilton wrote an opinion piece in the February 18 Journal-Constitution, remarking that the “destruction of this landmark piece of architecture would make it harder for us to attract the kind of national talent that we need to remain competitive.”

Although the library board voted against it, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners will make the final decision about the branch’s future.

Posted on February 29, 2008. Discuss.