A potentially very cool mixed use development is coming to an old cotton mill on Pulaski Street.
Karl Barnett, an Athens Regional ER doctor, and local builder Todd Burton want to turn the 100-year-old, 10,0000 square-foot brick building next to sculptor Stan Mullins’ studio into a city market—something like the Chelsea Market in New York or the French Market in New Orleans—with some new condominiums built around it.
The pair bought two parcels from Milton Bird and Susan Paleo for a combined $1.4 million last year, according to tax records. They also cut Bird in on a third ownership of the project, Barnett said, adding that Bird had better offers from out-of-town developers but decided he only wanted to sell to Barnett. “Milton was willing to leave money on the table so that a good project can come to fruition,” he said.
The property is zoned commercial-neighborhood, but Barnett said it will be underdeveloped for what the zoning allows, with two-story buildings housing about 30 bedrooms, as opposed to 65-foot-tall buildings and about 60 bedrooms. The apartments will be mostly one- and two-bedrooms, with none of the four-bedroom layouts favored by students, Barnett said. “Our plan at this point is to make them owner-occupied,” he said. “We don’t want them to be tenant-occupied.” Buyers could include empty-nesters, as well as families that have been priced out of the booming Pulaski Heights single-family home market.
But the centerpiece would be the market in the old mill, which would feature food vendors, local craftsmen and other retailers, according to Barnett. “What we hope to do is create a pedestrian-centered community market sort of experience,” he said.
The developers have applied to the Athens-Clarke County Hearings Board for a variance that would allow them to use a parking lot off College Avenue at the Council on Aging across Moore’s Branch. The lot would be connected to the market development by reconstructing an old pedestrian bridge over the creek. “Parking in the neighborhood is contentious, and we’d like to do everything we can to keep cars off the street,” Barnett said.
Barnett studied architecture at Clemson before medical school. He and Burton have put together a team that includes architect Lori Bork Newcomer, who designed the modern-style homes on Pulaski and elsewhere around town; Keyes Williamson, a preservation planner with The Jaeger Co., which has offices in the Leathers Building nearby; and lawyer Sarah Morang, who lives down the street. The local involvement bodes well for the project winning community support.
“We think we can do this in a way that we wish all the development in Athens was done,” Barnett said.
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