Jan 12, 2022 - News

Atlanta Public Schools halts plan to demolish historic school

The historic Lakewood Heights School in Atlanta.
Atlanta Public Schools has paused plans to demolish the historic Lakewood Heights school. Photo courtesy of Atlanta Preservation Center

Atlanta Public Schools will hold off on a plan to demolish a historic school in the Lakewood Heights neighborhood.

Why it matters: A proposal to tear down the old Lakewood Elementary School would remove a structure with a more than 100-year history in a district recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

What they're saying: Atlanta Board of Education chair Eshe Collins told Axios that the district will hold a facilities master plan retreat on Jan. 20 to get a better idea of its student enrollment projections and growth in Atlanta to determine which properties it will need for the future.

  • Collins said the district also wants to get more community input about the site, which was up for sale at one point, but had no buyers.

Catch up quick: The original building opened in 1915 as Lakewood Heights School and was renovated in 1932. The renamed Lakewood Elementary School closed in 2004, and since it “became a blighted site due the area's decline, the school has become unsafe,” a Department of City Planning report states.

  • However, the staff's analysis notes it would “be shameful to have that history erased by demolishing this building.”

David Mitchell, executive director of the Atlanta Preservation Center, told Axios that it was troubling to see APS consider demolishing the school and that the organization wants to see alternative options explored.

Context: The Lakewood Heights Historic District was added to the National Register for Historic Places database in 2002. According to organization documents, the community began as a suburban enclave for working class white families.

  • In the 1910s, its main attraction, Lakewood Park, began hosting the Southeastern Fair in direct competition with Macon's large agricultural fair, the National Register states. The area eventually became home to the Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood.

Mitchell told Axios that the imminent threat of demolition may have lessened now that a new city administration is in place.

  • “You may have a fresh approach and a more broad understanding to make sure properties like this will be more [of a] community discussion as opposed to looking at it as a real estate issue,” he said.
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