In Decatur, big development ideas are clearly old hat. For Exhibit A, see this 1966 newspaper article in the Decatur Stockholder Report, relayed this week by Decatur Metro, which sounds like the source of today's New Urbanism philosophies. Way back when in Decatur, the "central city" was taking on a new look as part of an "Urban Renewal program" that had started as early as 1960. The program encompassed 100 acres and aimed to overhaul the western business district and raze homes (and displace families) in "the Beacon Hill section." The most prominent change would have been a 20-story office building and "shopping mart" planned for West Courthouse Square by Gwinnett Industries Inc. The glassy edifice would have dwarfed the sparkly new First National Bank Building, standing 11 stories on West Ponce de Leon Avenue.
For one reason or another, the project never materialized. But the 10-story, marble-faced DeKalb County Courthouse previewed in the article did, replacing "a group of small, outmoded business buildings" on another downtown block. In lieu of the 20-story tower, Decatur got what's now the DeVry University Decatur Campus, rising about eight stories on the same site. Which raises the question: Were these twists of fate good or bad for the Decatur of today?
· West Courthouse Square: The 20-Story Office Building Never Built [Decatur Metro]