Witnessing the robust redevelopment underway throughout Atlanta’s Westside, it would seem business owners and residents have taken to heart author Horace Greeley’s famous quote, “Go west, young man.” The area, west of Midtown and Buckhead along the Norfolk-Southern rail lines, once served as the center of the community’s livestock and meat processing industries, and for decades remained a somewhat gritty industrial district characterized by warehouses, processing plants, factories and food storage facilities. But now, Atlanta’s Westside “is quickly becoming a pedestrian-friendly community featuring a diverse and eclectic blend of exclusive dining establishments, specialty shops, professional firms and unique, cutting-edge residences,” according to the West Midtown Business Alliance.
What distinguishes this community’s redevelopment from that of neighboring areas is the creative adaptive redesign of many of the existing structures. Business owners, developers, and architects are preserving the characteristics of this once working-class area by repurposing industrial buildings into shops, restaurants, residences and even churches. Some of the facilities, such as a brew-pub and cidery, still have an production aspect to their use.
Jerry Spangler, director of architecture at TSW, a Midtown-based architecture, planning, and landscape architecture firm, is helping to transform the area. A resident of Westside, Spangler appreciates the historical context—while recognizing the need for a place where people want to live, work, shop, dine and play. He and his firm have worked on Westside projects including a brewery, cidery, gun shop and firing range, and a church.
The entrepreneurs transforming Westside “are creative, driven business owners who are passionate about what they do and have strong ideas about how they want their buildings to look and function,” Spangler says. The projects bringing new life into unique industrial buildings include:
“We worked with the owners to locate the space and were very pleased with this site on Trabert Avenue next to the Atlanta Water Works,” said Spangler. “We designed within the existing layout to create a true production facility in the back, and tasting room and office in the front. The long, slender loading dock was turned into a long, slender patio, replete with all manner of fun games. The design is minimal, being true to and showing off the industrial flavor of the location. This is augmented by a new concrete bar with glazed roll-up doors to the patio, raw wood and copper sidings, painted mesh rails, Edison bulbs, and plenty of comfy furnishings. Perhaps the best interior feature is the ‘tie wall’, which was the owner’s idea. Kudos to him for coming up with such a simple, yet dramatic visual to reinforce the idea of taking off your tie and enjoying a beer any night of the week.”
Brew tasting room.
The design converts a former 30,000 square foot plumbing warehouse on Bishop Street into the first indoor shooting range in Atlanta—along with a gun shop, clothing outlet, and training facility.
“The original barrel vaulted warehouse offered a variety of creative possibilities for the building’s new incarnation as a shooting gallery and retail establishment,” said Spangler. “Our design repurposes what were once the warehouse’s front offices into the entry space, classrooms and a member’s lounge, while the larger space contains a soaring retail shop. The 24 shooting lanes are built of cast-in-place concrete walls, CMU walls, and post tensioned concrete roof all within the former warehouse. Old loading docks, steel arched framing and steel sash windows have all been preserved and refurbished to create a unique experience.”
This church operates out of an industrial park on DeFoors Hill Road. Based on recent and expected continued congregational growth, the church needed options for expanding both within their existing home and potentially purchasing a neighboring building. TSW conducted site studies and created schematic plans for both options.
“Trinity Anglican Mission is a young congregation, comprised mostly of 20 and 30 year olds, so they knew they would need additional children’s classrooms, along with more seating in the sanctuary,” said Spangler. “Our initial design work focused on expansion within the industrial building the church currently owns, but later, we were invited to also provide both site studies and plan schematics for a two-building concept. The church recently purchased the building immediately to their north, so we are now beginning preliminary design development for the new space, which will serve the congregation’s youth and provide considerably more casual fellowship areas. The congregation plans to break ground on the new expansion in the spring of 2016.”
Trinity Anglican entrance
Billed as Atlanta’s first cidery, Urban Tree Cidery on Howell Mill Road is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015 in a 4,500-square-foot building that will include a tasting room, live entertainment space and a production facility for crushing apples and manufacturing hard cider.
“This building had been underused, but the owners saw its potential since a portion of the Beltline is expected to be built next to the structure. In addition to design work, we worked with the city to amend parking regulations, since many of the cidery’s future customers will probably arrive via bicycle or on foot, thanks to the Beltline,” said Spangler.
Before undertaking a repurposing project, Spangler advises entrepreneurs to work with an architect or engineering group to thoroughly examine all building structures and systems prior to purchase or lease. Knowing in advance what works and what doesn’t from electrical and plumbing to floors, walls, and roofs is crucial. Likewise, zoning codes, parking requirements, and other regulations must be analyzed.
“Part of the inherent value of these old buildings is the character of the space,” Spangler said. “It’s this very quality and richness that probably attracted the entrepreneur in the first place. But old buildings always surprise you. Renovating them requires time, care and flexibility. Knowing there will be unexpected discoveries, I always recommend building an adequate contingency within the budget. And, when an outdated structure is given new life through vision, design and careful restoration, it’s a win for the owner and the community as a whole.”