Aug 11, 2022 - News

Sweet Auburn building saved from demolition, for now

229 auburn building

The vacant building at 229 Auburn Avenue once housed the Atlanta State Savings Bank and the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Credit: Atlanta Preservation Center

Developers of a project along Auburn Avenue have reversed course and say they now intend to preserve the building where Georgia’s first Black banking company was established.

Driving the news: Joel Reed of Gorman & Company, a partner on the Sweet Auburn Grande Project, told the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association on Tuesday that the team would explore how to incorporate the three-story building at 229 Auburn Avenue into the project.

Why it matters: The announcement provides a glimmer of hope for preservationists who advocate for maintaining Atlanta's dwindling stock of historic structures.

Catch up quick: The project would transform most of Auburn Avenue between Jesse Hill Jr. Drive and Bell Street into a massive mixed-use structure.

  • That would have included demolishing the building in the Sweet Auburn Historic District, which was once celebrated as the "richest Negro street in the world."
  • Alfonza Marshall, chairman of the Butler Street Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit entity that owns the property and is spearheading the redevelopment, previously told Saporta Report it was "too expensive" to save the building.

What they're saying: Reed said Tuesday that the team "got off on the wrong foot" by saying the building needed to be demolished.

  • He also said the team is considering reducing the amount of parking in its plans to make room for additional housing units, a potential win for urbanists.

Yes, and: David Y. Mitchell, executive director of the Atlanta Preservation Center, said the organization applauds any attempt to retain part "of our history that is critical to our collective experience."

  • He also said the structure is an example of how a building "can be the reason we remember our identity."

The 229 Auburn building was constructed around 1908 and was home to Atlanta State Savings Bank, the first chartered bank for Black people in Georgia. In 1926, it became home to an Atlanta Life Insurance Company branch office.

The side of the building at one point had a mural that featured the Gold Dust Twins, an advertisement that used racist stereotypes of Black people to sell soap made by the company N.K. Fairbank.


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