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Petition against Margaritaville aims to protect birthplace of country music

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The 21-story project could bring urban timeshares to downtown Atlanta

A picture of 152 Nassau Street, an aging grey brick building with a black awning, looking small in the shadow of a downtown skyscraper.
Preservationists say destroying this building would damage Atlanta’s musical legacy.
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Detractors say there’s something bizarre, in general, about the idea of plopping a Margaritaville-branded resort in the heart of an urban environment. But plans to do just that in Atlanta are more than simply unorthodox.

If Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville high-rise resort proposal is carried out, a humble downtown building that many regard as the birthplace of country music would be demolished, and historic preservationists are furious.

In response, Kyle Kessler, an Atlanta architect and preservationist with advocacy group Historic Atlanta, has launched a petition seeking to protect downtown’s 152 Nassau Street—part of the proposed project site—from its potential demise.

A rendering for a planned 29-story Margaritaville resort hotel recently unveiled for New York City near Times Square. Atlanta’s incarnation would be a few floors shorter.
A rendering for a planned 29-story Margaritaville resort hotel in New York City near Times Square.
Margaritaville Blog

Atlanta might not be famous for its country music roots, unlike Nashville or Memphis, but the city is believed to have hosted the very first country recording back in the early 1920s.

“In June 1923, Ralph Peer and engineers from Okeh Records came down from New York to Atlanta to record Southern musicians—black and white,” Kessler wrote in the online petition. “This was the first time vernacular musicians had ever been recorded on ‘location’—before New Orleans (1924), Memphis (1927), Bristol (1927), or Nashville (1928).”

At that time, the genre didn’t yet have a name, but “Fiddlin’” John Carson’s The Little Old Cabin in the Lane—recorded at the Nassau Street studio—became the first hit of its kind.

If the 21-story Margaritaville tower project successfully uproots the historic structure—as well as a nearly century-old building believed to have housed film exchanges from the 1920s through 1940s—it would supplant a part of a musical legacy that includes the nearby iconic music venue The Tabernacle.

Last week, the development partnership of Wyndham Destinations and Margaritaville Vacation Club filed requests for demolition permits with the City of Atlanta.

Should the project proceed and the landmarks fall, the high-rise resort could bring 200-plus “vacation ownership units”—which sounds like code for urban timeshares—and a two-story, 14,000-square-foot Margaritaville restaurant.