Adair Park Historic District - What to tell Urban Design Comm.?

10 Replies | Atlanta, Georgia

Hi all,

I bought a 1925 duplex on Metropolitan next to "the green store."  It's in the Adair Park Historic District.  After a car crashed into the front of it, I decided to try to lump all exterior changes I might want into one permit, while the insurance company is paying for permits to be pulled anyways.  I called the Urban Design Commission and talked to Matt to try to get a general idea of what to expect.  

I'm writing the email below to try to get some clarity, but I'm not sure how pedantic they might be.  I'm also worried it may be a slippery slope that changes some simple repairs and upgrades to a train of highly paid engineers, architects, and inspectors crawling all over the property, which I don't have the time or budget for.  

I moonlight in real estate investing, so I really don't have to time to deal with a lot of business-hours tasks.  Whatever projects seem like they are going to be a massive hassle, will probably just get sidelined entirely until I have the time to deal with it.  

Is the email below a huge mistake?  Has anyone else navigated similar processes and could help me understand what to expect?  Thanks in advance!


Hi Matt, Pat, and Susan,

I live in Adair Park and bought 881 Metropolitan Pkwy as a side project. I'm enthusiastic about historic properties as the son of an architect and having owned a 1918 condo in a Leila Ross Wilburn building at Piedmont & 3rd Condos (where I was HOA president), as well as a bungalow in Adair Park and one in Pittsburgh.

As I discussed with Matt, I'm in the planning stages for 881 Metropolitan and I want to get input from you all at this early stage for determining budgeting and feasibility. I plan to keep the property as a duplex and I am hoping to bring back the original tenant who lived in one side for 48 years, once repairs are complete.

The following is a high-level overview of exterior work I am considering:

  1. Car crash damage - 2 weeks ago a car crashed into the front of the duplex damaging the column, masonry, and railings. I am working with my insurance adjuster and a contractor to restore this to as close to original as possible, reusing original bricks.
  2. Roof replacement - the structure urgently needs a roof replacement and my roofing contractor (Craftsman Contractors) will start the permitting process any day now. The replacement is a charcoal black architectural shingle, with no changes to the structure. The roofer will include a like-replacement of the rotten fascia board on the front facade as part of the scope.
  3. Gable resurfacing - the gable currently features tar paper, amateur trim work, and an ineffective plastic gable vent with no architectural significance. I would like to clad the gable area in cedar shake shingles and replace the vent with a wooden window matching the style of the original windows (venting will be replaced with ridge and soffit vents by roofer), to match the style of like structures in the district. The original corbels would not be impacted.
  4. Front porch enclosure - this area has heavy urban street activity and I have had multiple instances of theft from the front porch in the short amount of time I've owned it. I'd like to frame and screen in the porch, while not obscuring the columns or masonry and include a double screen door for access, similar to this:
  5. Fence - I'm considering a low picket fence immediately in front of the structure to the sidewalk for security and to allow for landscaping. Example:
  6. Side entrances - I am considering replacing the dilapidated concrete side entrance steps and landing with a conservatively styled wooden staircase and a small wooden deck landing with railings. Depending on historic guidelines and budget constraints, I may just patch the cement and repair the railings.
  7. Windows - a number of the windows on the property are not original and do not match the original style. I have recovered 4 original wooden sashes from the property, which can be restored and installed on new jambs matching the originals. For the remaining windows, in less-conspicuous locations, I am considering installing new double hung wooden windows matching the style and compatible with the dimensions of the originals, for example:
  8. Doors - The front exterior doors are deteriorated and the security doors do not match. Security doors are a mandatory security requirement for this area. I'd like to install the following matching security and doors (although no trim of jamb will be removed or impacted) similar to these: and
  9. Paint - I plan to paint the exterior in a historically appropriate 3-tone color scheme, likely white with grey trim and black sashes.
  10. Siding repair - the 1x8 wood siding has minor rot in a few small inconspicuous areas, that I plan to replace by weaving in appropriate new wooden planks matching in dimension.

Except for the roof and car crash damage, I plan to do most of the work myself on a tight budget. The interior work is mostly minor plaster repair, paint, and flooring, thankfully. Based on the wording of the website, I'm a little unclear on how the repair spend thresholds work in a historic area and what permit I would need, depending on which projects I decide to take on (windows/doors, decks, fences, roof, appear to require a permit in any situation).

I really appreciate any recommendations or direction you all can provide, so I can make the process as smooth as possible. Please don't hesitate if I can provide any additional information or if you would like to discuss.



Nearby structures on Metro:

No advice; I just wanted to say good luck and what a cool project!  I looked at buying a very similar house on 991 metropolitan pkwy, also a duplex that had been converted to a rooming house/SFH.  I bet they have the same builder.  That one has a pending offer - perhaps you could get in touch with the buyer to see if they want to offload any of the original architectural elements as it also needs a full renovation.  If they choose to update rather than restore the structure, it could be a good source for your needs.  

@Nicholas L.  It's not a huge mistake, but if you're busy by day, then you need to try something different.  Contact someone, e.g. a GC or Project Mgr, to help you get through the UDC.   It can be painful.

Also, if you have an insurance settlement for the house, then you might want to sell now and reinvest the proceeds in another house.  Metropolitan is a very undesirable street.  I would not want to flip on it.  You also will have lots of vacant houses and low end multi-families.  

I invest in this neighborhood because I live here and it's a great area to invest in, if you know much about the area.  I'm not going to give up on a house I just bought due to a very minor set back.  This is a buy and hold property, not a flip.  

I don't think outsourcing all of the thinking is the way to go either.  I am asking these questions because I want to know the answers and how to approach situations like this.  

No good deed goes unpunished.  In addition to calling the UDC last week, I sent the urban designers an itemized list of potential projects for their feedback.  Meanwhile, today I got a stop work order posted from the Office of Buildings.  The inspector was nice and said it wasn't a problem, since I was already coordinating with UDC.

After a couple hours talking with the Office of Buildings, UDC, etc., they actually won't issue me a permit because nothing I am currently doing (tearing out carpet and throwing out junk in a dumpster) requires a permit.  Since that's the case, I'm not sure how to get rid of the stop work order (which actually isn't even in their system yet), especially given that I was going to take my time to figure out the permitting process and do it right.  Now this is extremely frustrating. 

How did it go? Did you get rid of the stop work order? What was the SWO issued against? If the opinion of the Office of Building and UDC was you didn't need a permit, then a SWO is mutt issue and can be ignored. Right? 

So, I spent yesterday morning down at City Hall and did the full tour, including Office of Buildings, Residential Permitting, Express Permits, Zoning, UDC, Transportation Office (for a dumpster permit I knew I didn't need that Residential Permitting insisted I did) , and the inspector's office.  

It was a massive cart-before-horse challenge to communicate the nuances of work I was currently doing at the time, work I was planning on doing myself, work I was planning to contract out, and work I would do if the requirements fell within my time and financial budget (despite bringing a clear typewritten scope of work and pictures).  After getting the full run around and very different stories depending on who I was talking to, the SWO was never entered into the system because I wasn't doing anything that required a permit and I was well down the path of being compliant for projects that I was just contemplating.  Everyone was very impressed by my familiarity with building, muni, zoning code, etc., but that should just go to highlight how incomprehensible the entire permitting process is, even for someone who has studied all publicly available materials I could get my hands on.  

One of the project managers worked with me and gave me some guidelines for what I need to start submitting Express  Permit requests, but it's still extremely unclear what documents I am going to actually need to get through the process, given that I am applying for Express Permits as a homeowner, presumably exempt from contractor requirements.  

Wow.  You are trying so hard to do it right and it sounds so overly complicated.  I've been looking in that area myself so I'm reading along to learn a bit.  Good luck on your project!