Published on September 8th, 2014 |8
Garden Hills strip center, vacant since Dec. 4 fire, may soon be demolished to await new tenant
Although Michael Hoath, president of property owner Brand Properties, emailed Monday, “No demolition permit has been issued and we have not applied for any building permits,” BuckheadView heard Friday that a
demolition permit has been applied for through the city of Atlanta.
UPDATE AS OF 9/9: Although BuckheadView was unable to find reference to the demolition permit on the City of Atlanta’s online permit listing service, reader Steve Whitlock added a comment to this story (at 3:35 Tuesday morning) after it was originally posted stating: “I found the permit on the online system. Applied for for 8/11. No buildback.” This confirmed a demolition permit had been applied for.
Also on Tuesday, Sept. 9, real estate blog Skyline Views, following up on BuckheadView’s story of Monday, Sept. 8, reported that “Rex Bray, president of Planners & EngineersCollaborative of Norcross, filed the permit” for Brand Properties. Skyline View also had an image of the permit application. (Click here to see that article.)
One source emailed BuckheadView on Sept. 5 saying he had heard from a Park Atlanta contact that a demo permit for Brand Properties had been issued for the strip center building that was severely damaged by a fire
Dec. 4 of last year and has had vacant stores since then. That prompted BuckheadView to spend hours to track down the validity of the information for a story.
Then later Sept. 5 , the same source, who apparently talked directly with Brand Properties CEO Brand Morgan, said he had been told the demo permit had been applied for and they would start demolition as soon as the permit was issued by the city.
The source, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote BuckheadView that he has been told the space, the addresses of which are 2815-2839 Peachtree Road N.E., “would become a ‘grassy area’ (not necessarily a park) until they secure a tenant. At that point, they would redevelop the site.”
The Brand Properties commercial site was the topic of discussion at two monthly community meetings last week, the Sept. 2 meeting of the board of Neighborhood Planning Unit-B and the Sept. 4 meeting of the newly formed Buckhead Condo Alliance, which considers the appearance of the center since the fire to be an eyesore.
At the NPU-B board meeting, the discussion came up because a Garden Hills resident had heard that there was some activity underway to deal with the fire damaged building, but did not know what that activity was.
In his email to BuckheadView on Monday, Hoath wrote: “The insurance company has declared the building a total loss. We have received extensive interest from retailers for a signature presence on Peachtree, but we have not firmed anything up at this point.”
The fire, which broke out in the store of Peachtree Bikes around 8 p.m. on Dec. 4, caused about $1.4 million in damages, according to early estimates, including smoke and water damage to five neighboring business in the Garden Hills strip shopping center. All the affected businesses were closed at the time of the fire.
According to the battalion chief, the fire was confined to the retail space of Peachtree Bikes, however neighboring businesses were also affected, including longtime upscale leather
goods merchant Flemings, a chocolates retailer Cacao, dog retail shop Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming, Witzlib fitness center and SixT car rental agency.
All of those businesses have been closed at the shopping center location since the fire.
BuckheadView reported in a June 2 story: “A disappointing slow response by the company that carries the insurance on the Garden Hills strip shopping center is what is keeping Brand Properties from even making basic cosmetic repairs to the property after the Dec. 4, 2013 fire uprooted six businesses for six months now.”
“We are very disappointed with the response time that we have received from our insurance company,” Hoath told BuckheadView at the time. “We view the time they have taken to resolve this matter as unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to expedite the process.”
Hoath added, “We have been told to not make any repairs or improvements to the property until after the claim has been settled. We are pressing daily to have this matter resolved.”
Finally, nine months after the fire and almost eight months after the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department declared the cause of the fire an accident, Hoath tells BuckheadView “the insurance company has declared the building a total loss,” which now permits Brand Properties to deal with the eyesore.
Brand Properties, which owns all the strip center except for the La Fonda and Fellini’s restaurant buildings, had never said whether it planned to just repair the property to a similar status to what it was prior to the fire or has some other plans for the property.
“The cause of the fire was the failure of an extension cord inside the bike store,” Captain James Oliver, of the AFRD’s Fire/Arson Investigations division told BuckheadView via email in June.
Capt. Oliver also said in his June email, “As with all fire losses of this magnitude, the insurance companies will conduct their own investigation using private fire investigation firms. “I do not know the status regarding the insurance company’s investigation, but as far as AFRD Fire Investigations is concerned the case is closed with the fire being ruled as accidental” on Jan. 27.
The question now remains whether or not this might be the catalyst for redevelopment of the strip center into a multi-use center, which was planned before the recession set in around 2007. The center had continued to have a number of empty retail spaces, including the former Garden Hills Cinema site.
Peachtree Bikes owner Mike Wagaman told BuckheadView earlier this year it had not been confirmed to him that Brand Properties will proceed with repairing the damage to the stores in the center or will redevelop the property itself or try to sell it to another developer.
If the plan is to demolish the building and leave it as a grassy strip until a major new tenant is signed, then it would seem that the leases that Brand Properties had with the store owners who occupied the center at the time
of the fire would be terminated and those businesses will likely either continue to operate at their new locations or close for good.
Peachtree Bikes has relocated a short distance up Peachtree Road to a two-story house which had been vacant some time at 2883 Peachtree and spent about $50,000 to renovate that house. However, the Garden Hills shopping center had been its home since the business started and owner Mike Wagamen may want to move the business back there someday.
Flemings has temporarily moved to a new location at The Factory, 2148 Hills Avenue, , Suite M, near the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center. Cacao is directing its customers to its Virginia Highland store location. SixT car rental agency has been operating out of a trailer in the parking lot behind the shopping center, but is rumored to be moving further up Peachtree Road to a hotel location. Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming has just remained closed all this time.
BuckheadView has been unable to locate any applications for permits—including a demolition permit—for the property on the city’s online system, which is designed to allow citizens to track such building activities.
However, a source in the city’s Office of Planning told BuckheadView that the last permit application he could find that Brand Properties made for the tract at 2815-2839 Peachtree Road N.E. was in the spring of 2010. He said that plan looked very similar to what existed at the site prior to the fire, including having a theater element as part of the plan.
The Office of Planning source also told BuckheadView that the 2010 plan included a number of conditions to the development, including the types of tenant uses. BuckheadView, however, could not find a copy of that application at the city’s online service site.