With another deal fallen through to revive the old Paschal's restaurant and hotel, Ivory Young is again worried Atlanta could lose a Civil Rights-era landmark. But this time, the city councilman says, the historic building is competing against its own community for scarce funding.
Young, whose district includes the surrounding Vine City neighborhoods, has spent the past four years trying to recruit investors to buy the Paschal's building, on MLK Drive, from Clark Atlanta University and rescue it from deterioration and potential demolition.
In November, an Atlanta developer signed a deal with CAU with plans to reopen the hotel and lease the restaurant space to the nearby Busy Bee, a popular soul-food diner. But last month, citing higher-than-expected renovation costs, the developer backed out. Its departure means $1.8 million in public funds earmarked for restoring Paschal's will be returned to a pot of money left over from the city's old Empowerment Zone fund, Young says.
Local groups are already lining up to apply for $5.8 million in grants now available to the Vine City area, but Young feels that few of the projects being proposed – from community gardens to neighborhood watches – are as worthy as saving Paschal's.
If the community grants are swallowed up by a bevy of neighborhood projects, then Paschal's will miss its last shot at being preserved, Young says. "The grant money should be spent in the commercial corridor," he says.
Byron Amos, president of the Vine City Civic Association, agrees – partly. "The neighborhood wants to save Paschal's, but the problem is the amount of money that would take," he says. Amos' own group is applying for a grant to help cover its operating expenses.
A community task force will meet in two weeks to recommend projects to receive public grants. Without a viable development plan in the works, Paschal's is unlikely to be eligible. Although a Clark Atlanta spokesman says it will continue to look for a buyer, Young notes that the financially troubled school still holds an active demolition permit.
"Clark Atlanta could do anything it feels is in its best interest," he says, "and you can't blame them."