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Virginia-Highland Residents Upset Over N. Highland Renovation

Business owners decide to cover historic details at 780 N. Highland

A group of Virginia-Highland residents are urging a local business to avoid covering up a historic building in the neighborhood.

Though residents are excited that — a neighborhood pet spa and boutique — is expanding and moving into the former Wolf Camera space at 780 N. Highland Ave., some are unhappy with the decision to cover the historic details that line the building.

"The reason many or most of us moved here is because of the neighborhood's character, and I believe many people shop and dine here for the same reason," Virginia-Highland resident Brian Gross said. "Covering up beautiful historic details will reduce that character — what a shame."

Gross and other residents who are loyal Glamour Paws customers have been vocal about the decision to cover the architecture that could date back to the 1920s.

Residents started a Facebook campaign — Glamour Paws, don't cover up historic detail at 780 N. Highland. The page has about 30 followers and continues to grow each day.

"We are very excited that Glamour Paws is expanding at 780 N. Highland. But please don't cover up the 1920s architectural details," the group description says.

The renovation was first noted by the Architecture Tourist, a local blogger who writes about architecture in the neighborhood.

Business owners Nichole and Hassim Robinson told Patch the plans were approved by the city and the building is not designated a historic landmark. They said the renovation will not damage any of the existing architecture.

"We understand the value of the history and the value of the architecture, which is why we didn’t deface the building for our personal needs," Nichole Robinson said.

"I don't think that by changing this building it will change what Virginia-Highland is. The people make Virginia-Highland. It’s really about the sprit of the neighborhood."

The Robinsons said the contractor is covering the facade of the building and a future tenant could simply remove the cover if they desired.

"It by no means was meant to offend anybody," she said. "If it was a historic building, we wouldn’t have touched it."

The Robinsons said they were hurt by the Facebook campaign and wish residents would have reached out to them directly with questions about the renovation.

"We’re going through a company rebranding and trying to appeal to a broad range of customers, and we felt that a contemporary look went with the rebranding," Hassim Robinson said.

"I thought the neighborhood would be happy that we are moving into that space and giving some life to that side of the neighborhood," Hassim Robinson said.

Glamour Paws is currently located at 776 N. Highland Ave. and . The expansion is set to open in March.

Residents seem to be excited for more businesses in an area of the neighborhood plagued with empty storefronts. The concern is focused on the decision to cover up the architecture.

"I'm a loyal customer and so happy for their success and their expansion into the 780 space," Gross said. "I don't know exactly why they chose to cover over the historical architectural details, but it's saddening to see that beauty covered up."

Connect with Virginia-Highland Patch on Facebook and on Twitter at @VaHiPatch. Get Patch in your inbox.

Christy Ann Hall February 10, 2012 at 08:23 PM
The historical architectural details of the building make the Highlands unique and quaint. Now it will look like another strip mall in Alpharetta. Shame on you!
David E. February 10, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Two thoughts come to mind: 1) this space has been un-leased for 4 years and has been an eyesore (and worse) during that time. I'd go so far as to say that this section of N. Highland has been in a downward spiral and is a disaster. Personally, I thank our lucky stars that a business has leased it and is making improvements to it. 2) This reminds me of the house that is being renovated next door to my house. I don't like that they are building it up higher; I hate the new color (ugly mustard color!). But you know what? It's within the owner's right to build up higher; and make it whatever color he wants. If I wanted something else done with it, then I should have bought the property. Same with this commercial space. If you wanted this building to maintain some particular form or architectural nuance - when there is no legal requirement to do so - then you should have stepped up with an investment and leased it. While I haven't been a customer of this store in the past, I might become a regular customer just because I feel this outcry by some people in the neighborhood against this business is wrong. Shame on this small business? I think not. I say, THANK YOU to this small business for making an investment in the neighborhood, in a section that has been a disaster, during a tough economy.
Sharon Foster Jones February 10, 2012 at 09:44 PM
"If it was [sic] a historic building, we wouldn't have touched it." What is their definition of historic? Being 80-90 years old is historic.
JonC February 10, 2012 at 10:14 PM
There's a difference between historic and old. "Historic" implies exceptional historical importance or design. To my knowledge, this building represents neither. With that said, I think the remodel is ill advised. The original facade had some beautiful detailing that added to the 1920s flavor of the neighborhood. I'm glad the method they're using allows for easy future removal.
Brian Gross February 11, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I am a little dismayed at the tone of some of the reactions too (I started the FB page and am interviewed above). I am a loyal customer of GP and wish them every success. I merely wanted to easily gauge how many folks in the neighborhood wanted the architecture preserved. No, it's not legally enforced, but many of us might like to see a historic district here (that's another story). But there's nothing wrong with making a suggestion about the general sentiment of (most of) the community.
Mark Campis February 11, 2012 at 05:54 AM
It's sad that companies are so dead set on needing to "brand" themselves that they can 't see the value and character of what is right under their noses. What about understanding your market and adapting to it? Is creativity dead? Key Lime Pie seems to be doing just fine without reinventing their facade. In the end, a smart business will thrive and the others will fade away.
David E. February 11, 2012 at 07:31 AM
I believe they are referring to if the building has official "historic" designation. Which it does not.
David E. February 11, 2012 at 07:34 AM
JohnC, if there was a +1 feature, I would click it to express appreciation for your comment. A refreshing voice of reason.
David E. February 11, 2012 at 07:38 AM
I applaud you for making a suggestion for something you're passionate about. I don't know the background on this, so my apologies if I am asking something you've covered elsewhere but that I missed: did you talk with the owner first before starting the public campaign about the issue? What did the owner say at that point?
David N February 11, 2012 at 02:38 PM
How would covering up such a beautiful facade be an improvement? What kind of look are they going for...a suburban strip mall look? The original facade was beautiful and didn't need changing. I'm glad they are not destroying the original facade so one day someone will expose it and improve the look. David E, I drive by there twice a day and don't think that area was on a downward spirial and was a disaster. There are many empty spaces all over town but it doesn't make it a disaster just because it's empty. A lot of businesses won't go in to a spot like that because of parking, and the high rent cause it is in Va-Hi.
David N February 11, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Key Lime Pie always looks great, cause they kept the original look and improved on it. It has a look all it's own.
David N February 11, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Christy, why do you think all those people from Alpharetta moved to Va-Hi? lol They can not build any buildings out there that has character...looks like any suburb in any town. Our historic buildings is what makes Atlanta what it is...
Christy Ann Hall February 11, 2012 at 03:32 PM
David, You missed my point, I do not want the building to look like a strip mall in the burbs by changing the exterior. To peserve the building as it is, that's what makes the Highlands unique and charming. The historic buildings, homes and the diversity is what I like about Atlanta. I am proud to be a Atlanta native.
Clifford Dejesus February 11, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I also like the Facebook Timeline Covers on this site very much! - http://coverphotobook.com/
ATLGal February 11, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Quit complaining - get up and DO something. Virginia Highlands has a capable neighborhood association with very engaged and knowledgeable leadership who know how to get 'Landmark' designation on historic buildings to protect the facade. It appears that, for whatever reason, this protection was not pursued on that building, even after the Fleishman's/Coca-Cola mural facade fiasco several years back. It is disappointing that there is, again, unnecessary controversy over work being done to change the facade of this beautiful historic building. Protect your neighborhood. Get involved.
David E. February 11, 2012 at 07:09 PM
DavidN: I agree with you 100% that parking there is a major issue. I would never open a business in that location for that reason alone. Regarding my description of that area as being on a downward spiral and disaster, I stand by my description. I walk in that area every day, and that is what I have observed while walking there. You might not see the same things from a car that I see up close walking. At least I hope you're not seeing that level of detail on the sidewalks while driving. :) To me, the long term vacancies make that area look depressed. Add to that: multiple armed robberies of the former Ben & Jerry's location. And I'd say that area isn't among the better locations in the neighborhood. You might have a different opinion about that, and if so, I respect that. I don't agree. But I respect it.
David E. February 11, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Christy, if I understand correctly, you do not want buildings there to look like a strip mall in the burbs by changing the exterior. I happen to agree with you: personally, I like the historical details. In my eyes, they are charming and special. A question for you: given that there is no legal requirement for the owner or the business to maintain the look that you want, what are your options? As I see them, you can: 1) lease the buildings yourself, step up and invest like this small local business, and then it is yours to do with as you see fit (subject to any ordinances); 2) take your business elsewhere; encourage others to do the same. (Not sure what that accomplishes other than making our neighborhood business unfriendly in an already tough area to operate a business due to lack of parking, high rents, low foot traffic etc); 3) encourage ordinances that protect the historical detail of these buildings.
David E. February 11, 2012 at 07:30 PM
ATLGal, your point is well taken about action. Ideas are valuable. I'd humbly say that even complaining can be useful - it's all feedback. But I'd agree with you, execution along with ideas is ultimately most valuable. Put another way, with one of my favorite quotes: "...the people who actually make... things happen aren't just sitting around clicking "Like" on things online." - Anil Dash Regarding historic designation for the neighborhood, I might have this confused with a related topic, but didn't the neighborhood civic association do a professionally conducted survey of the neighborhood a year and a half ago about the topic of historical designation for the neighborhood? If I recall, the results fo the survey, presented at the 2010 annual meeting, showed that was a very polarizing topic, split evenly 50/50 on both sides of the issue, and with people having very very strong feelings about the topic. I don't know that the neighborhood civic association should push forward an initiative that is that equally split. What do you think?
Christy Ann Hall February 11, 2012 at 10:31 PM
This is not the only in town neighborhood that is dealing with: The lack of parking, high rent and unoccupied buildings. Just because I can't afford to run a local business in or around my community doesn't mean I don't support local business. It's not a registered historical building but why change the facade, it was not structurally unsafe. The many businesses along N Highland have managed to keep the charter of the older structure's along with many of the other in town neighborhoods as well. As a local resident and a consumer I do have a say what happens in my neighborhood. You must get involved in the community to make a difference! .
Chiggerbug February 12, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Be careful what you wish for. If you seek to limit someones liberty to do with their property as they please with a historical board, it could come back to bite you in the butt. This, I am sure, is why the neighborhood was split about this topic. I agree with David E. that it has been a real eyesore for the last 3 years. Between the graffiti (all along the block and that whining went on for quite sometime) to the homeless sleeping in front of the empty space, the drunks puking and urinating there, etc. the armed robberies across from the Road House, Ben & Jerry's and Bill Hallman, this whole block has been a disaster. It is not even considered by some residents to be part of Virginia Highland. We are like the red headed step child, until something that they don't like is done to a building that no one even took the time to care for until someone else made some improvement that did not meet with their approval. I just wonder how many people who are complaining even bothered to take the time to actually go in to the store and talk to the owners about the expansion and renovation? My guess is I could count them on about 2 fingers. Most have probably never even stepped foot into the store and have probably never been into a store on the block outside of the restaurants or eateries. You talk a good game about wanting to support the merchants that support the neighborhood, but I suspect that this is mostly hot air.
David E. February 12, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Chiggerbug, +1 for your post. Bravo!
David E. February 12, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Christy, your assumption that you can't afford to run a local business in or around your community is understandable - that's how a lot of people might feel. But lack of money should never stop an entrepreneur. If you feel so strongly about the issue, then you could come up with a great business idea - and raise money from investors or take out a business loan. Then lease the building. And you can do what you see fit with the aesthetics of the building, including removing the newly added facade and any other improvements you'd like to spend on. Lack of your own personal money shouldn't be an obstacle. I might be wrong, but I bet that the owners of the small business that leased this space did just that. You could too. I'm not a fan of the aesthetics of their new facade, but I do give them much credit for stepping up and investing in an area of the neighborhood, during a very tough economy. I don't like that the new owner of the house next door to me built his house up another story and that it's now an ugly mustard color. But as the owner of the building, that's his right, subject to city ordinances. If I wanted to control what happened to the house next to mine, then I could have purchased it when it came on the market. But I didn't. And he did. It's his to do with as he wants to. So to is this building that you're unhappy with. Someone else stepped up and made the investment. And it's their right to do with as they want, subject to city ordinances.
Chiggerbug February 12, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Well first off, no way could this block be mistaken for a suburban strip mall. And second, they have not even finished the outside, so we don't even know what it will look like. Third, as stated in the article by your own admission, you never even took the time to ask them about the new facade. I am sure, if you are truly a loyal customer, then they would have been more than happy to discuss what their vision for the store was and maybe even show you an artists rendering of the store front. But, unfortunately, you did not act as a concerned neighbor and take a neighborly approach to the situation. You decided to take it to the streets, so to speak, and blindside them with a Facebook campaign and articles on the internet with mediocre blogs and news media outlets. Now you want them to receive your comments and concern amicably. Sorry, but this is not the way the southern charm works. And, if I am not mistaken, aren't you the one who complained about them moving in the store front when the news was leaked? You were complaining about the increased noise of the dogs barking and the possible destruction of the so-called park across the street? The one that the neighbors already use for their dog park and destroy the grass exercising their dogs numerous times a day? It may have been someone else, but there has already been dissent about this project before hammer was put to nail. Like I said before, this neighborhood talks a good game about welcoming new business expansion.
Brian Gross February 12, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Actually quite a few people who expressed an interest are loyal customers of Glamour Paws, as am I. And personally I patronize at least a dozen businesses all up and down N. Highland. I think we should be able to make suggestions about preserving historic features, whether or not there are legal protections. The purpose of the Facebook page was to see how many people shared that sentiment, hopefully (if unlikely) a change to the covering up of those details, and continue the community conversation about historic preservation. I hope it remains a healthy debate without too much nastiness. I would also like to say Glamour Paws is wonderful, unique, friendly and overall wonderful local business and I hope anybody who hasn't checked them out, will do so and patronize themm. I'm sorry this issue is causing them heartburn. But I am very glad that the debate over architecture is continuing - it's the only way we'll be able to continue to live in a neighborhood with character. Just letting the market take its course - well what has it gotten us in most neighborhoods? Drive-by strip malls.
Christy Ann Hall February 12, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Well said...I patronize many of the local businesses and eatery's. I like Glamour Paws and shop there, I have no problem with the business itself. I just wish they kept true to the buildings old character. I hope this does not become a trend of things to come. Drive-by strip malls.
Judy Lee September 20, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Do you know that the folks that owns GP left California perhaps because they were into dog fighting. And this is sick... they really love their dogs by screwing them. Also the man is love little children between the ages of 6 months to 2 years old. This is what Atlanta is supporting.

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