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GSU wants to demolish historic Bell Building; tentative plan calls for temporary parking lot

Historic preservationists argue building could be adaptive reuse project

Auburn Avenue's historic Bell Building, once home of the Southern Bell Telephone exchange, could soon be wiped off the map. 
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? Last November, the Woodruff Foundation gifted Georgia State University $22.8 million to liven up some of the school's Woodruff Park facilities. Most of the cash will be used to transform the former SunTrust building on Edgewood Avenue and Park Place into a state-of-the-art digital media center.
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? But a large chunk of the foundation's grant is earmarked for demolition of the Bell Building, which has been standing since the early 1900s. Tentative plans for the property after the wrecking crews leave call for leaving the lot open for parking space while Georgia State officials decide what facilities to eventually build on the site.
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? Some historic preservation advocates are riled up about the university's plans for the building. Downtown resident and ATL Urbanist author Darin Givens created SaveTheBell.org to call awareness to "an incredible adaptive reuse project waiting to happen." He thinks it could complement nearby successes such as the Flatiron Building, Candler Building and Olympia Building.
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? "We want to showcase how the buildings benefit the urban fabric of this block that’s otherwise blighted by these parking decks," says Givens, who launched a petition on Monday to rouse an explanation from university administrators. "The Bell Building is a great opportunity to join in the trend of other buildings downtown that have been saved and reused." 
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? Georgia State officials claim renovation is out of the question. "It would be cost prohibitive for the Georgia State Foundation to try to retrofit the building," says Georgia State Spokeswoman Andrea Jones. "But we do plan to build on it in the long term." 
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? The GSU Foundation secures and oversees private funding and gifts to the university, such as Woodruff Park's contribution. But an official at the foundation could not tell CL why the price tag for renovation would cost so much.
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? Givens says the building has "untapped potential" for expansion.
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? "The construction engineering for the structures was intended to allow for vertical expansion of another four or five floors on top in the future," he notes.
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? While the Save The Bell organization pushes for more petition signatures and recognition from administrators, Georgia State is looking for qualified demolition companies to level the structure.




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