The owner of the long-vacant Cheesecake Factory restaurant building on Buckhead’s Peachtree Road is backing out of a plan to demolish it. But he is pressing ahead with a request to surround it with chain-link fence and using escalated talk of on-site crime and police ignoring trespassers — which the Atlanta Police Department denies.

Earlier this month, representatives of owner Peter Blum came before the Development Review Committee of the Special Public Interest District 9 zoning area with the idea of demolishing the building at 3024 Peachtree. The specific request was for an administrative variance to allow the 8-foot-high, black-vinyl-coated fence along Peachtree.

The former Cheesecake Factory restaurant as seen in a 2019 Google Maps image.

The restaurant structure was built in 1993 and vacated by the Cheesecake Factory in 2014, when it moved to the Lenox Square mall. In his request, Blum said the vacant property was “out of control” with homeless trespassers and its interior was “destroyed.” DRC members were eager to see it demolished, but did not like the idea of a fence along Peachtree, especially with no redevelopment plans in sight. The DRC — a purely advisory body to the city of Atlanta — recommended the building site be grassed over and for the fencing to start at the rear parking lot instead of at the street, a setback of roughly 150 feet.

Now Blum is no longer seeking to demolish the building for unexplained reasons, but still wants to install the fence, according to an Aug. 20 update letter to the city from Norman Koplon, a consultant for the property owner. Koplon did not respond to an email about the change in the demolition plan.

In pressing the argument for the fence, the letter makes several new claims about the dangerousness of trespassers on the property, giving undated examples. “For example, when Mr. Blum told one trespasser that he needed to leave the property, the trespasser jumped up and approached him brandishing a knife,” the letter says. In another incident, the letter says, trespassers set fire to lumber “presumably” taken from the building and threw it onto the adjoining property of a Restoration Hardware furniture store, a site Blum also owns. “This could have burned Restoration Hardware to the ground,” the letter claims.

The letter claims that trespassers have “scaled the walls of the building like mountain climbers so they could access the building through the roof,” and that “homeless encampments” scare employees of Restoration Hardware.

The letter says that trespassers are able to access the property because of the lack of the fence. But the letter also claims that “despite repeated requests by Mr. Blum and others, the Atlanta Police Department has routinely refused to enforce the laws prohibiting trespassing on private property, thus providing no deterrent to the trespassers. The result is that the property is now overrun with trespassers.”

But APD says that is not true, at least according to incident reports so far this year. APD spokesperson Office TaSheena Brown said that since Jan. 1, there have been four calls at the site, only one of which was for criminal trespass. On that call, Brown said, an officer responded and “completed documentation” on the accused trespasser.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.