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“Virginia-Highland just got stale; it needed a refresh,” says Gene Kansas, a cultural developer and founder of Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate. “Atlantans wanted current places to go on dates and take their children. [Virginia-Highland] didn’t have what they wanted and needed, so the community went elsewhere.”
Author Gary Pomerantz published his book Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn in 1996 after five years of uncovering slave graves in the woods, conducting more than 500 interviews, and filling the holes left behind in Atlanta’s history by a lack of proper documentation. He spoke Thursday in honor of the opening of Gene Kansas's new coworking space, Constellations.
Gene Kansas has an affinity for adaptive-reuse projects, especially those on imperiled Auburn Avenue, the heart of a district famously dubbed Sweet Auburn when it was thriving during the first half of the 20th century. Kansas knows how fragile community and history can be, having seen his hometown literally underwater.
Back in 2012, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn district to its list of the country’s “most endangered” historic places. Much bemoaning of Atlanta’s fondness for the wrecking ball followed—just as it had in 1992, the first time that the Trust sounded the alarm on the precarious status of one of the most influential locations in African American history.
The two new projects—both, by the way, on the Atlanta Streetcar line—represent the kind of everyday amenities that are needed by the people who live in the area year-round, not just tourists.