A construction timeline has emerged for an adaptive-reuse project that’s expected to help boost Atlanta’s chronically homeless population while preserving an architectural landmark with deep societal importance.
Plans call for turning the 111-year-old Odd Fellows Building at 250 Auburn Avenue into a range of stable housing and the headquarters of Georgia Works, a donor-funded nonprofit that helps homeless men transition into more productive members of society.
According to Invest Atlanta, another component of the renovation would include four retail spaces at street level with below-market leasing rates, an effort to increase Auburn Avenue’s vibrancy and help local businesses.
Georgia Works currently operates at the Gateway Center on Pryor Street, housing its program participants in converted jail facilities.
Alongside state and city-level agencies, the nonprofit is partnering with developer DSM Real Estate Partners on the Odd Fellows Building rehabilitation. The project is estimated to cost $13.3 million overall, with the bulk of funding sourced from grants.
The building is located at the northwest corner of Auburn Avenue and Bell Street, about a block west of the Connector, near the historic Sweet Auburn district.
With its Jacobean revival architecture and façade adorned with unique terra cotta figures, the main Odd Fellows structure opened in 1912, followed by an annex with an auditorium the next year. The complex became an important landmark for Black Atlanta society in subsequent decades, hosting dances and myriad social functions. It underwent an extensive renovation in the 1980s but has more recently slipped into disrepair.
Early this year, Georgia Works purchased the tower portion of the Odd Fellows complex with a $5-million grant from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. Invest Atlanta expects to contribute an additional $1.25-million Eastside TAD Ascension Fund grant to assist with financing.
Georgia Works’ plans call for beginning construction in January and opening the Auburn Avenue facility in March 2025.
Once renovated, the Odd Fellows Building will house all of Georgia Works’ operations under one roof, including the nonprofit’s offices and programming space.
Other sections will house up to 164 men at any given time. That will include 40 spaces for Georgia Works program participants, plus transitional housing for 124 recent graduates of the program. Those men will be housed in 60 shared apartments, each with two or three beds, according to Invest Atlanta.
At street level, most of the discounted retail spaces are already spoken for.
Georgia Works has secured letters of intent from nutrition provider Open Hand to operate a convenience store that will serve fresh, prepackaged meals; current Atlanta nonprofits Civil Bikes and Bearings Bike Works plan to share a retail space; elsewhere, existing tenants The Skate Shop and Lee’s Boutique are expected to consolidate into a single storefront.
As for the fourth retail space, Georgia Works is in talks with heads of a restaurant concept that would serve both the general public and program participants, according to a recent Invest Atlanta project update.
Since its founding a decade ago, Georgia Works has graduated more than 1,000 men from its program, with 80 percent of them remaining in their apartments and original jobs thereafter, earning average wages of $12 per hour, according to Invest Atlanta. Today, the nonprofit’s housing division provides stable living options for graduates in 16 single-family houses dotted in neighborhoods around Atlanta, each leased by Georgia Works.
In addition to housing, Georgia Works provides GED classes, job-placement services, help in obtaining drivers licenses, workforce training, and other services.
Find a closer look at plans for the historic Odd Fellows Building’s conversion in the gallery above.
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