New Owners' Envision 'Neighborhood Center' in Avondale

Mayor sees purchase as "the first step in the revitalization of downtown Avondale Estates."

a big chunk of downtown Avondale Estates hopes to turn it into "a thriving, walkable commercial area where people want to congregate."

That's the vision expressed by Fisher Paty, a member of Oakhurst Realty Partners.

on East College Avenue that starts at the old Towne movie theater and stretches around the corner to the Trilogy Bookstore.

The purchase cheered local leaders, who've seen the sour economy dash previous redevelopment efforts.

"We think it's the first step in the revitalization of downtown Avondale Estates," Mayor Ed Rieker said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Greece.

Avondale Estates business district has long had an image problem. Run-down and vacant buildings are found throughout the area, though the property that just changed hands has only three vacancies.

Oakhurst Realty will try to create a "neighborhood center" and seek tenants that make people want to hang out downtown, Paty said.

Turnover in tenants will happen over time, Rieker said. The current businesses in the building include a tax service, insurance office, barber shop, dry cleaner, lawyer's office and new age bookstore.

A big step, Paty said, will be finding the right tenant for the Towne theater, by far the largest empty building downtown. He hopes it can become some sort of theater again or perhaps a space devoted to the arts.

"It's a great opportunity we don't want to squander," he said.

Oakhurst Realty Partners would start by renovating the exterior of the building, with work possibly starting in a few months, then improve the interior of the shops.

Paty said the company couldn't do "anything crazy" with the exterior because it's on the National Register of Historic Places.

"Our goal is to be good stewards to that historic structure," Paty said.

Paty said the pace of redevelopment might be affected by how other properties are developed.

For instance, several tracts scattered around Avondale Estates have been in limbo because a previous developer, Century Retail of Florida, went into bankruptcy.

That company had big plans, including a Publix grocery store. Rieker said the bank and the bankruptcy court appear close to concluding the case. That could spur more redevelopment.

The largest open space in Avondale Estates, the former site of the Fenner-Dunlop factory, is also ripe for development. It was not part of the bankruptcy case.

Do you think their ideas will work in Avondale Estates?

Other stories about Avondale Estates redevelopment.

Ralph Ellis July 25, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Do you think this idea will work in Avondale Estates?
FM Fats July 25, 2012 at 01:32 PM
It would be wonderful to see this area revitalized, and it won't be easy. What will make people want to "hang out"? There's already a coffee house and the bar shut down. There's a pretty vibrant arts scene already on Franklin Street along with some artisanal food options on Pine Street. If the owners can figure out a way to piggy back off that, it might work. Attract retail businesses that don't rely on retail for the bulk of their business (like Arden's Garden in Kirkwood). Find shops that offer products that people can't get at Walmart on Memorial.
Ginger Florey-Powell July 25, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I would love to see the movie theater re-opened to show classics. How about a partnership with TCM?
Keith July 25, 2012 at 08:30 PM
I love the idea of AE downtown being revitalized and creating a more local support base. The business that are in the stretch addressed above have not been visited by me and I often wonder who if anyone does patron them. AE as a whole has a couple coffee shops, a great (unbiased) beer growler shop, a wine shop all within walking distance but none really foster a sense of community to create enough foot traffic through there. There needs to be more draw and dear i say possibly even a restaurant.
Nick July 25, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Bike shop needs to be somewhere in that mix, what with it being so close to the PATH and all.
Keith July 25, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Nick's spot on, a bike shop would likely be utilized heavily by both the local AE residents and the heavy serious cyclist traffic that comes through AE on a daily basis. It would have a much larger draw that could parlay into more development to feed that increased foot traffic.
Julie Feely July 26, 2012 at 12:29 AM
I patronize Frost Salon in the Tudor Village. The owners, Anastasia and Paul, are wonderful, talented, and Avondale Estates residents. Try them out!
Debbie Williams July 26, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Love Ginger's idea show non 1st run movies and classics - keep admission low and make the profit on consession sales!
Cass Catroppa July 29, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Grand idea.
Keith August 08, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Love the idea of reopening the movie theater, but the rent is quite a bit ($3300/month). Showing second run or classic movies is a great idea but my concern is profitability. How much would a ticket run, $5? w/o considering royalties to the film houses, equipment/maintenance or any other operating costs or profit that's 660 tickets a month. Which opens my next question of whats capacity, are there ordinances that prevent late hours of operation? I'm not trying to pull all the negatives out however it seems to have the chips stacked against it. Still I would love to be able to see classics on the big screen!
Lucinda August 10, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Someone needs to reopen the James Joyce Pub...just as it used to be, a fun neighborhood pub where families could go for dinner & the bar crowd could go after 9 pm.
Bob Stapleton August 23, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Repurpose the old theater as a theater? That business model will only work if you get free money from Obama's give away programs to supplement the income it will never bring in. You try to renovate that old building inside and out and hope to even recover that investment with a theater? It would work if you can make a theater that has lines of people trying to get inside each night 200 people deep. What are the odds of that happening? Get real people. Whatever business you put in that place MUST generate REAL money that pays back the investors AND makes them money going forward in time. Otherwise, create a city tax to fund it out of tax payers money so you can sit in a show which draws sparse crowds at best. Think PROFIT and revitalization. Not socialism and revitalization!
Sara Fuller August 23, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I just love the Downtown Avondale Buildings (always have) and wish there was a way to bring it back to life with people and energy. However, with the following, I think the odds of it being able to be profitable are about zero: a.) Historic designation which means it has so many rules against it to renovate it would be more money than you can imagine. b.) There isn't any real parking near it. How much money do people on bicycles and walking really carry on them anyway? Most likely zero dollars and zero credit cards. c.) Avondale's only business that seem to thrive are second hand garage sale stores. How much money do you think that can really create? Most of those stores look like the junk that is inside them....worn out! d.) Avondale's City Officials can't even have a continuous sidewalk that someone can walk from one end of town to the other, much less plan anything that could be profitable and beautiful. Don't believe me? Try to walk from downtown Avondale to the Sam's Crossing intersection. Sidewalks disappear and you end up walking in trash, mud and parking lots! Seriously, the Mayor can't even figure out how to install decent sidewalks do you think he can figure out how to turn the city into anything desirable for customers? Sara Fuller
Barbara Fromwell August 23, 2012 at 02:43 AM
I love the idea of bringing downtown Avondale back! It is like a diamond in the rough. I say ask Walmart to tear down everything but the fronts of the buildings and put a city center just behind it, new. This way you have the best of all has to offer. The front keeps its look and feel while housing a real business that will generate lots of business and money! They are fighting Walmart in Decatur. We should invite them with open arms with this proposal. The only thing I can't figure out in my plan is where to park all the cars?
Bob White August 23, 2012 at 07:45 AM
YES! A bike shop in Avondale would be a grand idea. Think of the positive traffic it could bring in.
Ms. August 23, 2012 at 10:31 AM
I share your questions about parking, and the ability of officials to help a project like this really shine and be all it can be. The developers of the property can only affect their property, and what goes on down the road on the way to Sam's crossing is up to officials. The whole push for annexation was making that area better looking, but who knows. I haven't heard anything past "gimmie" earlier this year from them about it. Also wanted to add, I ride my bike at least 3 times a week to work, and always have both a little cash and debit card so I can grab goodies on the way home. And when I'm out leisure riding, I always have my card in case I want to stop and grab something to eat or drink. I passed a woman on West Ponce yesterday who had to be in her 50's if not older, with saddle bags on her bike loaded with groceries, and she was taking the hill with ease. I was pretty darn impressed!


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