People are always interested in the history of our warehouse building and how the Urban Oasis came to be. The building originally constructed in 1950 as a cotton sorting warehouse on the railroad line that separated Atlanta’s first suburb, Inman Park from The Old Fourth Ward, Martin Luther King’s boyhood neighborhood located on the other side of the tracks and a bit further West, from Downtown Atlanta, which is actually only a mile away.
The railroad tracks ran behind the building with a spurline coming down off the main tracks, where the trains were able to pull up right to a concrete loading dock to unload cotton to be sorted into different grades and then sent off again to be made into various items from cloth to mops.
In 1998, I had a software company that needed to move to a larger location. I wanted to find a space to create a fun open environment and was looking at areas close in to my home which at the time was in the Druid Hills neighborhood. After looking at many buildings, my realtor called me to tell me that he had found out about a building that was about to be listed. He set up and appointment and told me to come and bring my checkbook since he knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. I took one look around and handed the agent a check for the escrow payment. It didn’t look like much at the time. But I had a vision of what could be done and it was perfect, located in the railroad corridor surrounding Inman Park with its diverse residences from Victorian homes to Shotguns.
By the time we actually made the purchase, my ex-husband and decided in order to renovate the entire building we would need the funds from the sale of our French Country style home on Oakdale Road, a beautiful tree lined street. Our plan included created a loft space for ourselves and our two children ages ten and twelve, to live in, at the rear of the building on Krog Street. This necessitated the rezoning of the building from Heavy Industrial to C-1 which allowed for the possibility of live/work units in the building. I then created a condominium in order to subdivide and sell additional units in the building which we were able to complete by bootstrapping the sales in order to have the funds to complete the entire renovation of the building.
Originally, the front of the building had a dark, completely paneled fifties style office with a separate open space with hardwood floors above that had been used for sorting fine grades of cotton. The rest of this 18,000 sq foot building was an open, clear span warehouse with concrete floors and a beautiful dark wood ceiling that was thirty feet high in the center of the bowed roof. The roof was held up by the beams and girders which eliminated the need for any other vertical supports. The kids used the space for roller blading before we finished the build out.
The first order of business after environmental studies allowed up to complete the sale, was to convert the old office into a 3,000 sq foot office for our software company with a contemporary design that included several rooms for offices, a break room and open work spaces for our team collaboration. And simultaneously, we converted the large unit above the front office into a great loft where we lived for the year I spent designing and building what is now our loft unit at the rear of the building. I had friends who had a growing graphic design company who had agreed to buy the unit that served as our temporary home, when our new space was ready to move into.
In order to renovate the rest of the building to include our space which we concentrated on first, we knocked out the crumbling cement block walls and as we built the units we replaced the old block with new exterior walls with well-insulated, double thermal, commercial windows. We were able to keep the exposed wood ceilings by replacing the existing roof adding a layer of 3″ ISO insulation before re-roofing the entire building. It took a year to design and build our home.
Once we got moved in, and got settled into our loft, I went on to develop the area between our loft and the two units at the front, into four more live/work condos. When my kids grew up and left home, Duane and I decided that our 6,000 sq ft happy space was built with love and needed to be shared to keep the love flowing, so we started a bed and breakfast with our three extra rooms and baths.
Since then development in the Inman Park and the Old Fourth Ward has boomed. While, the residential part of Inman Park has been upscale and beautiful for many years, the railroad corridor was still sketchy with its steelyards and abandoned buildings.
I was the first to do an adaptive reuse development of a building on Krog Street. Then Jeannie Wooster converted the Atlanta Stove Works into an office building development anchored by a restaurant. Kevin Rathbun, then built his first restaurant in the Stoveworks and after she developed the 154 Krog building, he put his steakhouse in that one, right next door to us. The popularity of his restaurants put Krog Street on the map.
When bought my building in 1998, I knew that someday there would have to be a rails to trails type of thing on the abandoned railroad tracks behind us. Unbeknownst to me, that same year, an architecture student, Ryan Gravel was doing his Master’s Thesis at Ga Tech with an idea of connecting all of the old railroad lines that circled the city, into one 22 mile system of trails.
Ten years later, the first segment of the Atlanta Beltline was completed starting right behind our building and going to Piedmont Park. The Atlanta Beltline has been wildly popular and has encouraged growth and development in the neighboring hoods.
Here are a few more of the before and after photos.
And here is a PDF from an article from Atlanta Magazine from back in the day around 2001.