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Century old building demolished, along with owner's dream, in only 6 days

6:56 PM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA, Ga. --  735 Martin Street.  Don't try to drive by to find it.  It's gone.  The century old building was demolished just days after the city deemed it a public safety hazard.

It's a building most of us wouldn't fight over.  But to Zach Schneeberger it was an interesting challenge filled with possibility.  He bought it after Christmas, hoping to restore it this summer and create a coffee shop.  His wife envisioned a yoga studio.  No matter.

"We had six days from when the city first told us about this to when it was demolished," said Schneeberger.

The city says given the danger, some could argue that was six days too long. 

"The walls are not just falling down, they're collapsing from the inside out.  So fixing that would be a monumental task and it was a clear and present danger for anyone around that," said Don Rosenthal, Atlanta's director for the Office of Buildings.

Both the city and Schneeberger agree the building took a sudden turn for the worse and that something had to be done fast. But beyond that, they agree on very little.

The city says it posted police outside the building to make sure no one was hurt by the falling façade, as it tried to contact the owners.

Code enforcement officers posted a door tag, asking them to call.  It didn't say why or even express the urgency of the situation.  Schneeberger says he did call and got voicemail.

He says it was only when his father went by to check on the property, that he learned what was going on.  From that point, he says he made dozens of calls to the city, his contractor and even a structural engineer to find ways to save the building.

The city denies receiving any of those calls.  Major CJ Davis, the Commander of Code Enforcement says she thought it was odd the owners weren't working harder to do something about the problem.

"I'm about to do this, here's the paperwork, here's the contractor that's going to come and maybe halfway to demolish it and make it safe.  That never happened," said Davis.

The Schneeberger's have already restored several homes in the area and maintained them as rentals.  They bought the building on Martin Street several months ago, with the plan to fix it up after their Labor Day weekend wedding.

Now, out a building, the city says he's also stuck with the demo bill and the cost to clean up the lot.  Neighbors concerned about the building say the current state of the lot isn't much better.

Schneeberger says there's not much he can do with it now.  Without the historic tie, the lot is fairly useless and there are plenty of bigger, better plots of land a builder could buy long before his.

Schneeberger thinks the city should buy it from him. "Maybe the city can build a coffee shop," he said.

To contact the reporter on this story email, rlindstrom@11alive.com or follow her on Twitter @LindstromNews.

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