Concerns rise over proposed demolition of Maynard Jackson's childhood home

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A debate is heating up after some living in Atlanta's historic Vine City neighborhood learned of the proposed demolition of the childhood home of the city's first African-American Mayor Maynard Jackson.

The property is an abandoned apartment building on Sunset Avenue.

The King Center owns the property. And in a statement to FOX 5, Dr. Bernice King says the the building is structurally unsound, full of asbestos and has decaying bricks and a caved-in roof. 

But John Lewis, an activist and head of the Vine City Civic Association, believes the building can and should be repaired. He is holding a neighborhood meeting Monday to discuss ways to save it. The meeting is set for Monday, May 13 at 6 p.m. at the Vine City Civic Association Center located at 678 Joseph E. Boone Boulevard.

Statement to FOX 5 Dr. Bernice King, CEO of the King Center:

“The King Center recently received approval from the City of Atlanta to demolish a four-unit apartment building that we own next door to the King family home in historic Vine City. The building is being demolished because it is filled with asbestos, is structurally unsound, has a caved-in roof, unstable bearings and flooring, and rapidly decaying bricks. The building is beyond remediation and needs to be demolished for the sake of public health and safety.

“The property is currently under conditional sale to the National Park Foundation, charitable partner of the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), who will in turn deed it to the NPS for the benefit of the public. It is our understanding that the NPS is committed to working with the community to determine the best use of the space in terms of public safety and heritage.

“Last Friday, May 2nd, we were made of aware of concerns from members of the Vine City community about the planned demolition of the apartments. We understand that the community’s concern is rooted in the fact that the family of Maynard Jackson, Sr., including his son the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, Jr., once resided in the apartments a few years in the 1950s. The King Center had no knowledge of the Jackson family living at 220 Sunset Avenue and was unaware of the possible historical connection. Also, based on the City of Atlanta’s 2011 designation of Sunset Avenue as a historic street, the apartment building was reviewed and deemed only relevant to history because it temporarily housed The King Center at its inception while our founder, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, built our current site on Auburn Avenue. Immediately upon learning of the possible historical connection, we consulted with the Jackson family, elders original to the community, and Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown and we all agree that the building should be demolished. We also consulted with the leadership of NPU-L on the concerns and needs of the community.

“As the organization founded by Mrs. King in 1968 to ensure the historic integrity and continuation of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, we share a common concern and commitment with the community in preserving and perpetuating the history of the civil rights movement, the history of Atlanta, and Historic Vine City. We do not wish to see the heritage of the community degraded by the transformation of the Westside. That said, as a practical matter, the apartment building does need to be removed for the reasons stated. Our commitment is to work with the community and the National Park Service to ensure that the historic interpretation of the neighborhood, including the Jackson family are maintained for current and future generations. We believe that the U.S. National Park Service is the best partner to ensure the history of Vine City is accurately preserved and promoted.”

Statement to FOX 5 from the Jackson children:

“We appreciate the love and concern that Mr. John H. Lewis and Vine City community have for the preservation of the Black history in Atlanta as well as their care for the home that our grandfather, Maynard Jackson Sr. built in 1949 for his family. However, we stand in agreement with the King family, as our families have been friends for generations, as to what should happen with the home at 220 Sunset Avenue and we hope that at a later date, consideration fora historical marker can be placed at that location.”