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Atlanta’s Adair Park school conversion stalls again, this time over name

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For more than two years, developers have been trying to transform the century-old building, but disputes have staved off progress

A three-story classical brick building, with windows boarded up.
The Adair School, seen in 2012.
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Adair Park, on the southwestern side of the city, was first founded in the late 1800s by neighborhood namesake George Washington Adair.

For many decades, the neighborhood languished like many other intown areas as residents fled to the suburbs. The neighborhood’s classical brick elementary school, dating back to 1912, was closed in the 1970s when enrollment diminished, and has stood vacant ever since.

But the Beltline is pushing through the area, and new residents are flooding in, transforming once dilapidated homes and spawning new commercial developments.

With the renewed interest in Adair Park, developers in recent years have eyed the school for conversion into residences and commercial space. However, a dispute between the city and the Atlanta Public School System about ownership and money left the deal in limbo for more than two years.

Matters were complicated by issues of affordable housing, but finally, in January, the city and school system reached an agreement allowing for the sale of the property to the developer.

While that seemed to mark the saga’s end, a new issue has arisen that’s threatening to delay the adaptive-reuse project.

Construction of an addition on the school in the 1930s.
UGA Special Collections

According to the Atlanta Preservation Alliance, the Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) for the area has recommended a denial of the zoning variance requested by the developer. The issue stems from the plans to retain the name of the building, despite the fact Adair was reportedly a member of the KKK.

Ultimately, the Zoning Review Board (ZRB) can accept or override the NPU’s recommendation, meaning that things could potentially move forward as is.

If approved, the project could bring more than 35 “small, affordable residential apartments” and 10,000 square feet neighborhood-scaled retail development to the old building, according to the NPU agenda.

Additionally, the developer is planning to provide just two parking spaces on site, a reduction of 100 spaces compared to what is required.

According to one of the development team members, there were no concerns expressed except for the name.

The ZRB is slated to vote on the project in May.