by Jeff Delp
A grocery store, theater, sit-down restaurant, service station, billiard hall, beauty salon, and more. These are the businesses that lined the once-thriving commercial district of Historic South Atlanta along McDonough Blvd. This stretch of commerce was an important part of the African American experience in the first part of the 20th Century - right behind Auburn Avenue in significance. Unfortunately, only a few buildings from that era remain.
Two of those buildings exist at one of the main entry points of Historic South Atlanta. One is where Community Grounds and Carver Market reside, and the other building, a now abandoned gas station/convenience store once called Diamond J’s, is across the street. About two years ago, this property went up for sale. The family who owned the land and building had deep roots in the neighborhood at one time, and this gas station was part of that thriving commercial district. We saw an opportunity to expand upon the work of the market and coffee shop and decided to try to buy the property.
For the past year, we’ve been in on again, off again negotiations to purchase J’s. At one point, a convenience store operator had the building under contract. Once that deal fell through, we had to do our due diligence and find out “what lies beneath” as we feared the gas tanks that have been idle for over twenty-five years may have leaked. And we had to come to terms with the agreement, which we felt was above market price, but for a property we strategically identified as vital to neighborhood transformation. Finally, in the last week of May - despite all the obstacles - we are happy to announce that we have closed on J’s!
Our story at this property is only just beginning. There’s lots of work to be done both in the building and under the ground. The proximity of the old gas station to the Atlanta Beltline opens up possibilities for us to work with both Invest Atlanta and the Atlanta Beltline Inc. in order to complete the required environmental clean-up on the property. Together, we are hoping to restore life back into this building and revive the story of flourishing that this property was once a part of and will be again. It’s also exciting that this entryway to our neighborhood will be able to demonstrate the true goodness at home in our community.
So what are we going to do with this new space? While we don’t have definite plans yet, we do have some specific hopes for the property’s next phase:
To recreate the once thriving commercial corridor of Historic South Atlanta
To offer affordable retail options that provide jobs, goods, and positive community space in the same vein as Community Grounds and Carver Market
To be an example on the Atlanta Beltline of a neighborhood that can improve and grow while keeping long-standing residents who are also enjoying the new amenities thanks to housing work through FCS and Habitat for Humanity
To attract a local entrepreneur with neighborhood ties to help bring our vision to reality
FCS has a long tradition of taking old buildings and breathing new life into them with the communities we serve. Many of you reading this have participated with us through the years with spaces such as GlenCastle, The Gateway Building, and now, we hope, J’s. We can’t wait for you to come and experience this new place - one we hope will lead you into the neighborhood and the beauty that exists inside South Atlanta!