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Column: ’20s office building example of early adaptive reuse
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
May 01, 2013 12:37 PM | 4329 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
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One of the oldest office buildings in Buckhead is a slightly askew, three-story, brick-and-stucco structure on Roswell Road just north of the triangle. It is also an early example of adaptive reuse.

A Mr. Coleman, who was so revered in the community that he didn’t require a first name, built the building at 3155 Roswell Road in 1920. I am joking about a first name because he is referred to simply as “Mr. Coleman” in my admittedly limited research.

Since 1983, it has been known as the Cotton Exchange Building. Cotton served an important role in the building’s history. It is where the cotton robes and hoods were made for its main tenants and owners, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, to whom Mr. Coleman deeded the building in the 1920s.

It also served as the office for American Printing and Manufacturing, the Railway Express Agency and White Lawrence Plumbing. The building later was the home to the Cotton States Arbitration Board. It is the second oldest office building in Buckhead.

The oldest is the Brookwood Exchange Building, 1708 Peachtree St., built in 1919. In 1944, the first two floors of the Cotton Exchange were converted into apartments. In 1983, Georgia Tech graduate Brian Hogg purchased the building and, rather than tearing it down and constructing something new, he gutted it, transforming it into office condominiums.

The hall that once ran down the center of the building was moved to the north wall and each floor was outfitted with four to five office suites. The hallway features the original exposed brick walls while the original front door now leads into the office of one of the owners. The building has 144 windows. The only original is a large bay window that looks out on north Buckhead from the third floor.

Instead of leasing the office space, as in a traditional office building, business owners purchase the suites and pay into a building operations fund for maintenance. The building’s stucco facade across from where Irby Avenue comes into Roswell Road is at a slight angle to line up with Roswell Road, while the building itself goes straight back, which causes unique angles in the corner offices and the appearance that the building is slanted slightly to the north.

Several of the first buyers remain in the building, according to Jay Letts, a North Fulton High School graduate who runs Maple Realty, the building’s manager. There are too many office buildings in Buckhead to name, and enough office towers to keep several Fortune 500 companies happy for decades to come.

Yet the office condominiums in the Cotton Exchange Building rarely come up for sale. Since 2006, only two of the office suites have changed hands. On the occasion that they do, they are usually purchased before they hit the market, through word of mouth. The relationships within the building reflect old Buckhead.

Many of the owners run incredibly successful businesses out of the unassuming structure and enjoy a neighborhood feel, easy access and a central locale. The rehabilitation and renovation of historic buildings is a trend that has taken root over the last two decades, but Buckhead and Atlanta lost many of its historic buildings during the real estate booms of the 1980s and ’90s.

Hogg was obviously ahead of the curve. Because of the extensive renovations to the interior of the building, it is not eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thanks to Brian Hogg’s vision though, the Cotton Exchange holds a unique place in Buckhead’s bustling office market.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at thorntonkennedy@me.com.
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