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Atlanta YMCA’s HQ moving to Westside pending demo of significant former school

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Move could be boon for neighborhood, but some argue preservation and facility can coexist

The design for YMCA’s new headquarters.
The design for YMCA’s new headquarters.
YMCA of Metro Atlanta via WABE

In news that should be a victory for Vine City, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta has announced that it will move its headquarters to the Westside.

WABE reports the organization is not only planning a $20-million headquarters, but also a Leadership and Learning Center just blocks from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

While the construction of the facility could be a big victory for the neighborhood just north of Atlanta University Center (AUC), concerns about the Collins Cooper Carusi-designed facility — and the building it is slated to replace — are cropping up.

The proposed headquarters building would require the demolition of the former Edmund Asa Ware Elementary School, one of the first schools for African American children in the city, which was named after the first president of Atlanta University.

The ill-fated school sits just blocks away from the new stadium.
Google Maps

After the school was closed, the building was used by Morris Brown College as Jordan Hall until financial troubles forced the facility to be auctioned off.

Advocates say that many structures around the AUC — such as Gaines Hall, which is experiencing demolition by neglect at the hands of the city — are important in telling the story of the neighborhood and are worth preserving.

Architect and former AIA Atlanta President Melody Harclerode recently wrote a piece for Atlanta INtown about how a renaissance in many of Atlanta’s downtrodden Westside neighborhoods could be helped along, and enhanced, through preservation.

The area is already known for dilapidated and vacant buildings, leaving many to question why a perfectly solid structure with a storied civic past is being replaced.

Journalist Maria Saporta echos the sentiment, noting, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Y and community leaders could find a way to preserve the area’s past while welcoming the future?”

The old elementary school — nothing special, but a great opportunity for adaptive-reuse rather than demolition, perhaps.
Google Maps

Pending the issuance of permits and demolition of the old school building, the new YMCA could be open in the summer of 2018.