For $2 million, the Southern Manufacuturing property can be yours.
You'll get 18 acres of land near the CSX railroad line, almost 190,000 square feet of space and even a water tank. You'll be buying an abandoned industrial site, on the edge of the Boulevard neighborhood, where Athenians started making fabric in 1900. And you'll be buying an opportunity to renovate and remodel historic structures into something that can provide an environmental, economic and cultural benefit.
Because that's what historic preservation, done right, provides to a community. So said Donovan Rypkema, principal of Place Economics in Washington, D.C., and one of the speakers at Saturday's symposium on the Southern Mills. The all-day event was sponsored by the Athens Clarke Heritage Foundation, which holds easements on the building facades.
The manufacuturing facility, on Oneta Street, off Chase, was last owned by John Wilkins and his family. In 2000, Atlanta-based Aderhold Properties bought the property, intending to construct a residential community. For a number of reasons, said Tom Aderhold, who attended the Saturday event, those plans never came to fuition, and now the place is one again for sale.
Aderhold Properties has successfuly developed several Atlanta historic buildings, including the Fulton Cotton Mill in Cabbagetown, the Muse's Block in Woodruff Park and the old Girls High into the Roosevelt in Grant Park.
Initially, said Aderhold, the Southerm Mill complex was zoned for 224 apartments, "but I'm sure that number could be renegotiated." He looked at one of the three bricks buildings on the site and said, "This thing could be incredible."
In his presentation, Rypkema made a convincing case for why renovating an older, existing building is better than tearing it down and building a new one. For starters, demolition wastes energy, generates pollution, contributes to climate change and fills landfills unnecessarily.
Renovation and reuse creates "measurable benefits," adding 18 jobs for every $1 million of investment. It increases the quality of life in a community--which is one of the biggest draws for "knowledge workers," people who usually work from home and who can live anywhere.
Another speaker, Tom Liebel, is a Baltimore architect whose firm designed Miller's Court in Baltimore. Now housing apartments for public school teachers and office space for educational non-profits, Miller's Court was the site of the H.M. Miller factory that manufactured tin cans and cardboard boxes. Its renovation has had a positive effect on the surrounding neighborhood.
At the end of the month, Fed. 24-26, there will be a chance for Athens residents to talk about how the Southern Mills property could be developed. Faculty and students from the UGA College of Environment and Design will work with the foundation over a few days on a design charrette, during which people can brainstorm about possible uses.