Historic Macon's stance on the proposed demolition of the Douglass House
In the wake of Tremont Temple's demolition, HMF and our partners have been working tirelessly to preserve the Charles H. Douglass House. Built in 1904 by one of Macon's most prominent African Americans, the Douglass House is a contributing building in the Macon Historic District. With that designation the house is afforded certain protections under our local planning and zoning ordinances.
In March, HMF presented a purchase option for the house for $225,000 that would have expired at the end of June. Our goal was to secure the property so we could aggressively work to find a buyer who would reuse the historic house. Unfortunately our offer was rejected and the house was put under contract with Lou Patel, the same developer who purchased and demolished Tremont Temple. In May, Patel purchased the House for $200,000. He offered to work with HMF and Representative James Beverly to relocate the house and contribute $20,000-30,000 towards the move that he would have spent demolishing the house. Moving historic buildings is not the preferred preservation solution since often times buildings lose their National Register status, thus eliminating the benefits of historic tax credits. Not to mention, the high cost of moving the building; temporarily moving utility lines; and the cost of a new lot and site work. That being said, HMF publicly supported relocating the house to preserve it.
After vetting several lots for the house, it was evident that moving the house was going to take more time and money than anyone could have expected. In June when the cost and logistics of the move were still being studied, Patel and Rollins moved ahead with a demolition permit application. The application was unanimously denied at July's Design Review Board meeting since the application does not meet the four-point test as prescribed in the guidelines. Letters from Mercer University, NewTown Macon, Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and others were submitted to Planning and Zoning staff requesting that the demolition application be denied.
Over the weekend, Mayor Reichert conveyed to Rollins and Patel Mercer University's offer to purchase the Douglass House for the purchase price up to $200,000 contingent only on an inspection proving the structure was in a condition Mercer was comfortable in accepting to restore. Mercer's offer included a 30-day inspection period and would keep the house in place. We believe, and the deed records support, that $200,000 is the same amount that Patel paid for the property.
On Monday, Patel and Rollins asked Planning and Zoning to defer their demolition application to the August 11 meeting to allow more time to consider the offer.
We believe that a mutually beneficial solution has been presented to the developer that preserves the house and allows them to build their approved Dunkin Donuts plan on the Tremont Temple site. If they decline the offer and insist that Planning and Zoning hear their demo application, there's a strong chance they'll be denied and their development will continue being delayed.
HMF Executive Director