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Buckhead Library Rebuild - Developer Offers to Build Replica of Buckhead Library

Updated on June 10, 2008

Buck Head Library Rebuild

A local developer is so keen to acquire a downtown site occupied by the acclaimed Buckhead library that he has offered to rebuild it in another location.

His latest offer is to build a copy of the building at the northeast corner of East Paces Ferry Road and Maple Drive, several blocks from its current site, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"Most of the commentary was not over having a new library, it was that building," developer Ben Carter said. "There seems to be more opposition to losing that architecture than the functionality of the library."

The alternative site, just under two acres, is east of the US$1.5 billion Streets of Buckhead project, which covers eight blocks. Carter said he doesn't own the corner lot but the owner is willing to sell.

Carter has offered about US$24 million for the existing library because he considers it in the way of his project. He said that's more than enough money for the land, construction and furnishings at a new library.

The Fulton County Commission has approved a resolution that directs staff members to analyze Carter's proposal. The county commission will hear their recommendation next month.

"Is an offer of $300-a-square-foot worth taking a look at?" Commissioner Tom Lowe asked in an interview. "I say yes." Lowe, who once called the library "an abortion the day it was dedicated," offered the resolution.

"Ben told me, ‘Hell, I'll build the same damn library at the other site,' " Lowe said. But with US$24 million, Lowe added, the county could build "a bigger, fancier library."

"It's time to get rid of the emotion and look at it in the light of day as a business proposition," he said.

Designed by Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam, the Buckhead library is distinctive for its black slate tiles and jutting angles. It's been dubbed a "slate dragonfly." Architectural students make pilgrimages to Atlanta to study the building, which opened in 1989.

John Szabo, the library system director, said it's doubtful US$24 million is enough to build a new library in pricey Buckhead.

"I don't think creating a duplicate library would in any way ease the concerns of those who want to preserve the existing building," Szabo said. "I don't think that is their point."

The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library trustees recommended spending US$1.9 million to renovate the library but not change its look.

Ben Carter, developer of the Streets of Buckhead, has proposed to demolish then build a replica of the Buckhead Library. He's offering $24 million.

To bring everyone up to speed, the Streets of Buckhead is the alleged and now under construction "Rodeo Drive" of Atlanta. The Buckhead Library, one of the most significant buildings in our city, sits right in the middle of it.

Several months ago, Carter offered to tear it down, but was met with staunch opposition.

What if this weren't Atlanta? What if Carter went to another major city and offered to tear down some of their best architecture but then build a replica of it?

It would be a joke. It should be a joke here.

I've got a better idea-clearly, the Fulton County Commission is interested in the $24 million that Carter is offering, and, um, for good reason. That's a lot of money.

Is there any reason that Carter can't buy the land immediately surrounding the library (the parking lot), and build right up to the edge of the library?

That way the library stays, the parking lot goes, and the Streets of Buckhead is much better off by providing a development that is walkable, diverse, and has at least one thing that is architecturally significant.

In the long run, not only will the library be a valuable commodity for Carter, but it will also attract investment and customers to a neighborhood that doesn't feel so much like Disneyland.

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