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Buildings in question 'are too far gone'

CentrePointe developers contend it is not economically feasible to renovate the old buildings in the downtown block where they want to build a high-rise luxury hotel and condominium complex.

”Basically, those buildings are too far gone“ to save, said Darby Turner, attorney for Dudley and Woodford Webb, CentrePointe developers.

That lack of economic viability will be one of the arguments Turner makes to the Courthouse Area Design Review Board on Wednesday when he asks for permission to take the buildings down.

An engineering assessment by Essex Engineering Corp., of Atlanta, said eight of the buildings need ”extensive“ renovation, five need ”moderate.“ To rehab the buildings and put them in condition suitable for leasing would cost more than $11 million. And that would put ”rental rates significantly in excess of market rates,“ the survey said.

The structures were not included in the Downtown Commercial District's 1983 nomination in the National Register of Historic Places. Because of ”modernizing“ over the years, their architectural integrity has been lost, according to the engineers, and ”they have no special historic significance.“

The proposed $250 million project includes a Marriott hotel, 77 high-end condominiums, retail and restaurants.

”It would be a shot in the arm that downtown needs,“ Dudley Webb said on Tuesday. And it would create 900 jobs and bring people downtown to live.

”We've had lots of interest from some very exciting retailers, who aren't in the community now. That's even better.“

To gain approval to tear the buildings down, CentrePointe developers must meet one of several standards. One standard is that the buildings cannot be economically rehabbed.

A second is that the buildings do not meet design guidelines established for the Courthouse Design Zone, which say buildings must have ”visually interesting“ features such as storefront windows, display cases, art and landscaping.

”Coincidentally, the new design does meet the design guidelines,“ Turner said.

Design guidelines are all pointed toward a pedestrian-friendly streetscape, a feature CentrePointe would have, he said, with architectural features such as windows compatible in size and height to nearby buildings.

The CentrePointe development would be ”LEED-certified.“ LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a way of rating buildings to ensure they are environmentally friendly. A LEED building must meet environmental standards pertaining to water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials and innovative design.