the ATLANTA URBAN DESIGN COMMISSION.
For class we are required to attend a Historic Preservation Commission meeting or a meeting of the National Register nomination team or some such. So I went to Atlanta’s City Hall 3 weeks ago to get the assignment out of the way. I was hooked. Two weeks later, i attended the next scheduled meeting of the Atlanta Urban Design Commission and just this evening i went to a third. Actually though, i wasn’t being the perfect student, i had ulterior interests on the 2nd and 3rd visit.
But to the beginning. On my first attendance of an AUDC meeting back in September, I was impressed by some of the expertise exhibited by commission members.The landscape architect in particularly really knew, and has proven since then, to really know his stuff. He asks good questions and offers good advice without being pushy. He knows how to communicate well with the applicant or presenter. But he doesn’t beat around the bush either. In a matter of playground equipment he was quite blunt in informing the presenters that a kid was going to fall and break their arm on this equipment. While the previous meeting he had asked questions about the regrading of a yard and agreed that it was good but IF you went about this way you could avoid this problem altogether and get the task done cheaper with less intrusion. It sounded good to me even though i had no idea was “fall” was. Other architects and the preservationist on board are also pretty vocal in their questions, opinions and advice and, honestly, i’m wondering how i can get in on such a task, getting to dole out professional opinion on a bi-weekly basis—does it pay i wonder??
So they impressed me, all of them, i liked the reasonable tone they took with applicants, the commission, being professionals in other fields and mostly lay persons in the world of Preservation themselves, are good at understanding what an applicant is going through and how to communicate with them. On week 2, even though the 2 properties I had staked my interest in were slated for deferment (hence the 3rd visit), a VERY interesting case came up at the end. A very typical and interesting case, where the contractor and builder had begun work on a house in the West End historic district without pulling the proper permits at all. They were tearing out windows and doors and doing your basic remodel, without permits at all, because to do anything you need permits, to do anything that affects the exterior in a historic district you need a Certificate of Appropriateness to GET those building permits and for THAT you have to go through the Planning office, staff review and come before the Commission. These guys had no clue and they were adamant that what they’d done so far had to be done. The preservationist on board requested a sort of moratorium (unofficial maybe) and that the builders not throw ANYTHING else away until this matter had been settled and plans approved, no matter HOW far deteriorated or unimportant they considered the material. Meanwhile, the president of the the West End Neighborhood historic district something got up to “testify” against the fellows. contentious. So, exciting!
Today, I was hoping to hear some exciting stuff about the Castle in midtown (near the Woodruff Arts Center). Unfortunately the applicant or owner got up to speak he really didn’t know what he was doing. Apparently the only possibly contentious part of the plan is the glass elevator going up the outside on the front porch which is, as you can imagine, pretty significant. Anyway, for everything else and EVERYTHING it sounds like they are trying to properly preserve and restore the place. So he didn’t really know how to go about this business and instead of addressing the conditions (regarding the elevator) the staff had laid before him) he proceeded to read the Sec of the Interior’s Standards of Rehabilitation to the commission so they’d understand that he understood and was trying to do it right. ok, got it, move along now. It was excruciating and i wanted to jump up and help him. I stayed a bit longer, to understand that he was a bit lost as to what to do here, that the website wasn’t clear at all… he did a good job of keep his cool so i believe he has good intentions and was not mad, but I wanted to jump up again and say “you were confused? then CALL SOMEONE! pick up the dang phone and call the office of planning that you just submitted your plans to and ask them for a lengthy explanation of the process from here on out! instead he waited to get before the commission to tell THEM he was confused and would they please explain what they wanted from him.
sigh, the battles of preservation.
I think that’s my last meeting for a while, i’m going to stop looking at the Agendas so i don’t get drawn in.