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Atlanta church preschool is ‘latest victim’ of ‘condo invasion’

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Officials: 1950s church on Ponce De Leon Avenue will be redeveloped as condos

A longstanding preschool at the intersection of several tony eastside Atlanta neighborhoods is being unwillingly displaced by the city’s booming real estate market, its leaders contend.

Druid Hills Preschool, which has operated in a towering church building at 1200 Ponce de Leon Avenue since 1982, is “fighting to find a new place to call home” after the property was purchased by developer Minerva, according to a document obtained by Curbed Atlanta titled, “EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION THE LATEST VICTIM OF INTOWN CONDO INVASION.”

According to school officials, the former Druid Hills United Methodist Church building — and possibly more nearby property — is slated to be redeveloped as condos, continuing a church-conversion trend seen in other intown neighborhoods such as Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward.

School leaders say DHUMP, as it’s colloquially called, is a Druid Hills staple whose displacement will negatively impact early childhood education in the city. Its roster includes 180 students and 36 staff members, who are actively searching for a viable new location nearby.

“We have a robust enrollment, healthy operating budget, and huge community support. But real estate prices make it difficult for even the most established preschools to compete,” wrote Margaret Waterbury, Druid Hills Preschool director. “The ability to walk to mixed-use developments is great, but it takes more than that to make a livable community.

“We keep tearing things down to make room to move young families to our area. But in the process, we’re pushing out the community resources these same young families need,” Waterbury said.

We’ve asked Minerva for more details and renderings on the redevelopment and will post any further information that comes. The company is behind a host of multifamily ventures in Atlanta, including the Axis condos and townhomes in Candler Park and 17 upcoming tonwhomes near Edgewood’s MARTA train station.

Druid Hills UMC’s pastor, Mimi Walker, told Baptist News Global in early 2015 the church had sold three acres to a developer. Church membership had dwindled to about 100 people, making upkeep of the historic structure difficult, Walker said. CORRECTION: This article was in reference to different Druid Hills congregation.

DeKalb County property records don’t yet reflect a sale.

Druid Hills UMC vacated its longtime home earlier this year to merge with Epworth UMC in Candler Park, forming a congregation temporarily called “New Church,” according to the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.

The circa-1954 structure was the congregation’s third home.

“Despite the sight of paint peeling from the ceiling and other signs of aging, Druid Hills UMC still holds within it an unmistakable beauty,” reads a NGUMC story announcing the move in March.

A beauty that’ll soon be home to multifamily dwellers, it appears.

Below are some vintage glimpses of the church and surroundings via the Crook Churches website — named for the architect, Buck Crook, who designed it and roughly 20 other churches around Atlanta in the Greek Revival style.