The shuttered Lakewood Elementary School. (Courtesy Google Maps)

Atlanta Public Schools’ proposal to demolish historic Lakewood Elementary School – a move called “shameful” by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission – has been put on hold.

A hearing on the demolition had been set for Jan. 12 before the city planning department received word that APS had decided to “pause this project” and to remove the item from Wednesday’s agenda.

Shuttered since 2004, the 1915 structure in the Lakewood Heights neighborhood has become blighted and residents have complained about squatters and homeless people on the property.

Located at 335 Sawtell Ave., the school is part of the Lakewood Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

A memo from AUDC staff prepared for the now cancelled meeting reads: “Staff stresses again it would be shameful if not irresponsible for a city to demolish such a building instead of preserving the history that it represents.”

APS has reportedly tried to sell the property, but hasn’t been able to find a buyer. The school district wants to demolish it and grass over the property while it continues to market the cleared site.

The AUDC encouraged APS to find another use for the building, including holding it in reserve for use as a school again as the neighborhood grows.

“It seems probable that another school will be needed in the area soon because of the rapid growth of all areas in Atlanta,” the AUDC memo said. “Also, perhaps the building can be repurposed and be used as a shelter, recreational center or loft. There are multiple possibilities — anything but demolishing another historic resource in the Atlanta area.”

The Atlanta Preservation Center also weighed in on the issue.

“We can not underestimate the potential of this building and we are dedicated to safeguarding it for the best use of the community,” said APC Executive Director David Yoakley Mitchell.  “Schools can become the identities of their location and the stewards of the culture that surrounds them.  We look forward to engaging alternatives for the renewed role of the Lakewood Elementary School in the Lakewood Heights Historic District.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.