City plans to sell South Downtown’s historic Atlanta Constitution building

Who wants to one of Atlanta’s rarest and most beautiful modern ruins?


Want to own one of Atlanta’s most beautiful modern ruins? Pull out your checkbooks and prepare to make a bid on South Downtown’s former Atlanta Constitution building.

The city this week will start the process to prepare the 67-year-old building, considered the city’s last surviving art moderne building of its size and scale, for sale. Mayor Kasim Reed is expected to ask the Atlanta City Council for cash to clean up decades of trash and God knows what else remains the property - a task that could cost as much as $300,000. On Monday, Council will be asked to declare the site as “surplus” and place it on the market.

A source who works with Atlanta’s homeless community tells CL that city workers have recently toured the building, which is located across the street from MARTA’s Five Points station. While there, they told the men who live inside the structure that the city planned to sell the property in the coming months.

Built in the late 1940s, the seven-story brick structure at the corner of Alabama and Forsyth streets is considered one of the Atlanta’s first forays into modern architecture. It first briefly housed the offices of the Atlanta Constitution until the paper merged with the Atlanta Journal. Georgia Power occupied the office building from 1955 to 1972. The city bought the building in the 1990s, made some repairs, and aimed to rent it during the Olympics. But aside from becoming a canvas as part of Elevate Atlanta, the city’s arts program focused on Downtown, the building has sat vacant, a refuge for some of Atlanta’s unsheltered population and stray cats. Trees can be seen growing out of the roof.

But preservationists and Downtown residents have a special love of the property. The long-discussed plans to build a downtown train and bus terminal in “the Gulch” included demolishing the building, leading architectural buffs including DOCOMOMO’s Georgia chapter to urge for the city to preserve the structure. (City officials in the last nine months were reconsidering spending as much as $2 million to raze the structure.) Some of those fears were eased when project officials said the terminal could co-exist with the building. But now that the multi-billion dollar transportation project is on the back burner, anything’s possible.

“Today, it’s a blighted property and that’s not good for Downtown,” says Melissa Mullinax, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said in an email as to why the city’s selling the building. “The Mayor supports the resurgence in Downtown development and re-development. This property is listed as one of the Top 10 opportunities for redevelopment in downtown by Central Atlanta Progress.”

The building is the latest city-owned property that the mayor wants to sell. Other properties include the Atlanta Civic Center and, most recently, Underground Atlanta. Reed wants to get the parcels back on the tax rolls and free up cash for next year’s infrastructure bond referendum. Those properties are being transferred to Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, which can solicit requests for proposals. The agency can then vet those proposals and select which one is the best fit.

But from what we understand, that’s not the case when the city deems a property as “surplus.” According to Mullinax, the city must accept sealed bids - and choose the highest offer. Should the new owner want to demolish the structure they’ll probably be able to do so.