The Georgia Trust

2006 PLACES IN PERIL: HARTWELL DOWNTOWN NATIONAL REGISTER DISTRICT

The Story: Located in the Northeast corner of Georgia, this city of about 4,000 people was designated a Main Street city in 1997, and its downtown has seen a marked turnaround as a result. Its historic district encompasses several blocks of historic buildings, ranging from the 1890s to a 1930s Pure Oil building.

Threat: Preservation of historic buildings has been the key catalyst of revitalization efforts in downtowns across Georgia, and now national chains are interested in moving in. These chains are a welcome addition when they work within their urban context, but some propose tearing down historic buildings to build new. In Hartwell, national drugstore chain CVS wants to open a location downtown, but its plans include the demolition of an entire block of historic buildings. In their place, the company wants to build a set-back store with a drive-through window and blank wall facing the street—a design incompatible with Hartwell’s revitalization efforts.

Solution: The National Trust, Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs, and the Trust’s Main Street Design Assistance (MSDA) program are working together to encourage CVS to resite its building and save the majority of the block’s historic buildings. While the drugstore has made an agreement with the National Trust not to tear down or alter any National Register-listed historic buildings, the Hartwell National Register district has not been updated since 1986 to include additional eligible buildings, including the block of buildings eyed by CVS. The influx of retail chains into downtown can be positive, but an auto-oriented suburban site plan does not fit into the context of a walkable, pedestrian-friendly downtown. Traditional urban centers across Georgia can take a page from Hartwell’s story and update their historic downtown National Register listing to include buildings that have become eligible since the district’s original listing.

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