The Newnan Times-Herald


Let’s get this right

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Aug. 08, 2019 - 5:34 PM

I’d like to offer a few observations about the current development proposal of the RD Cole site in downtown.

Let’s not squander the future of downtown Newnan on a scheme that’s ill-suited and ill-planned for Newnan. We deserve a plan that is in accordance with the City of Newnan’s Comprehensive Plan & the Livable Centers Initiative – which identifies the RD Cole as a prime candidate for Mixed Use Development.

I fully support the city’s efforts to develop this site as a Mixed Use Complex – as I think it will benefit downtown tremendously. However, the plan proposed by TRG is incompatible and not in accordance with the city’s planning initiatives. The city council and our mayor should insure the plan is in accordance with the city’s planning efforts or deny the rezoning request on Aug. 27. 

Significance of the RF Cole Complex to Newnan: R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company, Newnan, Georgia, began in 1854 as Cole and Barnes, a saw mill. In 1877 the business moved to front the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. It produced saw mills, corn mills, boilers, engines and eventually became a manufacturer of steel, aluminum and alloy. The firm was the second largest water tower manufacturer in the United States in the 1890s. According to a Sept. 25, 2017 AJC article – which quotes several City of Newnan officials – the RD Cole Company was a key factor in helping Newnan attain the title “City of Homes” moniker – as it manufactured many of the products that built the City of Homes plus employed its citizens that allowed many of the wonderful homes to be built. 

My stance which I think represents the majority of the citizens of Newnan – is that the current developer, TRG, should alter/revamp or significantly change their approach to this project. If not changed significantly, the city should deny the rezoning request and through the efforts of the Downtown Development Authority – court a better, more historically sensitive developer that can make the needed changes and provide a preservation sensitive development. I have my doubts that the current applicant – TRG Development – can or will be willing to make the needed adjustments.

I’d like to request the following changes be made to the TRG plan: 

1) I see the RD Cole Manufacturing Company Site in similar light as other large developments in Atlanta (just on a smaller scale – Newnan scale) but with the same opportunities and challenges: Fulton Cotton Bag in Cabbage Town, Ponce City Market, Krog City Market, Centennial Yard (Norfolk Southern), The Bottleworks, Fulton Supply and the many historic preservation projects in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood of Atlanta. I’m sure that if the current developer can’t vision what has taken place at these developments in Atlanta’s Industrial Complexes that we – the city and citizens – should be able to market the RD Cole site to these preservation sensitive developers. 

Key characteristics that each of the above named projects have in common is capitalizing, maintaining and revitalizing the historic buildings and historic structures on their respective sites. Each one of these historic industrial developments respected the historic buildings, rather than demolishing them, with each development rehabilitating almost 90 percent of all historic buildings on their sites.

For the RD Cole site, I would request that TRG not only retain and rehabilitate the 1880’s Buildings – Buildings 1 and 5 as identified in the LCI Plan – but that Buildings 3 and 4 which really help define the industrial character of the RD Cole site – which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places – be rehabilitated and/or be adaptively re-used as part of the plan. 

2) I request TRG to develop the site in accordance with Preservation Standards and utilize federal, state, and local Preservation Tax Credits and Tax Abatements – similar to almost all other successful historic industrial complex revitalizations.

3) Considering the historical significance of this site to Newnan and the fact the the complex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places – I request the developer consult with Georgia’s State Historic Preservation Office to insure that the development – renovation of existing buildings and any new construction – is compatible with the historic RD Cole Complex and does not destroy the historic character of this complex as well as being designed to be compatible with both the National Register listed Coletown Historic District and the downtown commercial district. Considering the historical significance to Newnan, I request the project meet commonly used preservation guidelines, the Secretary of Interior’s Standards – similar to the Newnan Lofts and other Preservation Development projects.

4) The TRG plan for new construction should be minimized and greatly reduced in density; there should be maximum reuse of existing industrial RD Cole structures (Buildings 1, 3, 4, and 5). This will insure we have a truly combined mixed use. Condominiums should be 40-50 percent, loft-apartments within the historic industrial buildings should be 25-30 percent of the development, and retail 20 percent along East Broad on the west side of the railroad.

5) Provide a viable solution for parking that addresses both downtown and Coletown parking concerns without widening Thompson Street, Salbide Avenue or East Broad Street.

I am thankful for the City of Newnan’s willingness to listen to her citizens. Having three public meetings to allow public participation is great. It should be noted that at the July 25 public meeting, not one seat was left open. The council chambers were packed, and people were standing outside the doorway. Most significantly, not one person spoke in favor of the TRG development plan. This is true public participation.

Michael Miller

Miller is a preservation architect having worked at Georgia’s State Historic Preservation Office and currently holds the position of preservation officer for the University System of Georgia in Atlanta.