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Famed Funeral Home Staves Off Death

City of Atlanta Works to Designate 90-Year-Old Midtown Mortuary as Landmark
June 11, 2018

Like General Sherman's March to the Sea across Georgia in 1864, development along Spring Street in Midtown Atlanta is consuming everything in its path. But this time around, the city of Atlanta is fighting to save a piece of its history.

That slice is H.M. Patterson & Son - Spring Hill Chapel at Spring and 10th streets. The chapel is a 1928 mortuary designed by renowned architect and Atlantan Philip Trammell Shutze. When it was built, Spring Hill Mortuary stood alone on what were then the outskirts of Atlanta.

Atlanta Preservation Center, which added Spring Hill Mortuary to its list of most-endangered historic places in Atlanta in 2001, formally requested that Atlanta's Urban Design Commission bestow landmark designation upon the property.

Last week, the city of Atlanta introduced an ordinance to designate Spring Hill Mortuary as part of the overlay that would protect it as a landmark building or site and repealing any conflicting laws, making any redevelopment much tougher. Currently, the property at 1020 Spring St. is part of a special public interest (SPI-16) district that encourages dense, mixed-use development in Atlanta's core submarkets.

Project rendering.

Today, the picturesque building is being enveloped by new development as Spring Street emerges as the city's top tech corridor and multifamily firms erect new homes for the people who work there. The city sprang into action when the Georgia chapter of the American Institute of Architects posted plans from Beck Group for a massive mixed-use project at 1020 Spring - the mortuary's address.

Beck said the landowner, Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI), commissioned the architecture/contracting firm to "demonstrate the feasibility of a mixed-use office, residential and hotel complex" on the four-acre site.

Based in Houston, SCI describes itself as "North America's leading provider of deathcare products and services." It operates Dignity Memorial network, of which H.M. Patterson is a part. SCI had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

This isn't the first time the funeral home has been endangered. In 2000, at the end of the last great tech-fueled commercial real estate boom, developers approached SCI about selling the site. On April 28, 2000, the local business journal's top headline screamed, "Spring Hill May Give Way to New Tower." Only two weeks earlier, the NASDAQ crashed and the tech bubble burst - and any plans to redevelop 1020 Spring St. were dead before the story appeared.

But this go-around feels more real. Spring Street, a major southbound arterial road, and its counterpart West Peachtree, which carries northbound traffic, have become the epicenter of development in the city. Georgia Tech's Technology Square started the boom. Tech helped attract NCR Corp., which moved its headquarters from Gwinnett County to 864 Spring, and Portman Holdings launched Coda, a spec office building that's already landed a new WeWork center.

Directly across Spring Street from H.M. Patterson Spring Hill, Hanover is wrapping up Hanover West Peachtree, a seven-story, 330-unit apartment community that covers nearly a city block.

Atlanta's Zoning Review Board is expected to consider the proposed ordinance to make Spring Hill Mortuary a landmark at its Aug. 2 meeting.

Tony Wilbert, Atlanta Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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