Value engineering history (updated)

I’ll make another comment about value engineering. It’s not just the numbers, but it is what we’ll be doing as far as memorializing a very important piece of history in the city of Decatur. And while there are opportunities for cultural gatherings and so forth, this will be a very specific one that has a very specific history and is someplace that needs to be noted as to what the Bottoms and the segregation of the City of Decatur and how far we’ve come. So thank you for your care in maintaining that piece throughout this project. — Decatur City Commissioner Kecia Cunningham.

The video is adapted from the March 18, 2013, Decatur City Commission meeting. For background information about the demolition of the Beacon property, read Separate and unequal: Preserving Jim Crow.


Update (Oct. 16, 2013)

In all of its coverage of Decatur, Ga.’s, Beacon Municipal Complex redevelopment project the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes the undertaking as an “adaptive re-use.” Folks who work in and around historic preservation know the difference between adaptive use/re-use and demolition:

Adaptive use (left): rehabilitated shoe factory (Atlanta, Old 4th Ward), now a green transitional housing SRO. Demolition (right): Decatur's Beacon and Trinity schools site.

Adaptive use (left): rehabilitated shoe factory (Atlanta, Old 4th Ward), now a green transitional housing SRO. Demolition (right): Decatur’s Beacon and Trinity schools site.

What the City of Decatur did at the Beacon complex with the help of a federal Historic Preservation Fund grant is not adaptive use, no matter how liberally you apply the term.

John Keys is a Decatur resident and a former Decatur Historic Preservation Commission member. Outraged by the AJC’s coverage of the Beacon project, Keys wrote this letter to the paper. It is reprinted below with his permission:

From: “John Keys”
Subject: “Adaptive Reuse” at Beacon Hill in Decatur?
Date: October 11, 2013 7:05:07 AM EDT
To: <>
Cc: “‘Fred Boykin, Jr.'” <>, <>, “‘Alan Clark'” <>

Dear Bill Banks:

You reported on the captioned story in yesterday’s (October 10) edition of the AJC in the “County by County” section.

A copy of that piece is attached. It deals with the new City of Decatur Beacon Municipal Center. You should drive by and pay this site a visit….

While your coverage was thoughtful, it should be noted that anytime a structure is obliterated, the lot completely scraped, and all that is left of the original structure (which in its original form was a landmark building in the City’s African-American community) are two small walls…..well, that ain’t “adaptive reuse”  as that term is recognized in the historic preservation community.

What’s happening at Beacon Hill is “total destruction,” and the City of Decatur is simply trying to put lipstick on a new $30.6 million pig and dignify it by calling it a politically-correct term.

The City of Decatur should be ashamed to call this abomination “adaptive reuse,” and should also be ashamed to have let this happen to a truly historic structure!

John Keys
Decatur, GA 30030




Keys was one of several people who wrote to the AJC to express concern over how the paper is covering Decatur’s Beacon project. Unknown to Keys, I wrote a similar letter to the AJC the day the newsbrief ran. The paper declined to publish it, too:

In its coverage of the City of Decatur’s Beacon municipal complex redevelopment (“New Central Office Should Open on Time”), reporters repeatedly describe the city’s project as “adaptive reuse.” The city has not adaptively reused any of the historic buildings at the site; they demolished them. According to federal regulations (36 CFR Part 67) that define adaptive reuse, the term applies to projects that “sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property.” Please report the facts and not what Decatur city officials want people to believe about the project.

David Rotenstein
Atlanta, Ga.


Note: Bill Banks is the AJC freelancer who covers the City of Decatur.

One thought on “Value engineering history (updated)

  1. Unbelievable. The great “progressive” enclave in Georgia has so much to be ashamed of, and needs to redress….but no doubt won’t!!!

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