Updated May 28, 2014 - Here's what the I.M. Pei-designed building looks like today, after it was dismantled and its facade re-assemled as part of a mixed-use project.
ATLANTA (June 25, 2008) - The first building famed architect I.M. Pei designed is on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta. And if a local landowner has his way, the 91-year-old Pei and his firm will return to the site to design a conceptual plan for the block that could become Pei’s swansong.
In 1949, Pei designed the Gulf Oil Building. It was completed two years later at 131 Ponce de Leon, near Atlanta’s historic Fox Theatre. There some is dispute, but several people believe the Gulf Oil Building is the first building designed by Pei. He also designed another building in 1949: the Helix in New York City.
After the Gulf Oil Building opened, Pei earned famed as an architect with his designs of the East Building of Washington’s National Gallery of Art, the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, the Grand Louvre n Paris, the Bank of China Tower skyscraper in Hong Kong and numerous other projects.
Today, his firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects LLP, is well sought after by developers and owners. Pei’s firm has met with Paul Thomas, president of Thirty-Third Latitude Partners, which owns the Georgia Gulf Building. Thomas says Pei Cobb Freed is committed to design the conceptual plan for a significant mixed-use project on the site.
But before talk of planning and developing a sustainable mixed-use project with medical office towers, residences, office space and retail shops can get serious, Paul H. Thomas has some work to do.
Thomas is president of Thirty-Third Latitude Properties, which owns the Gulf Oil Building and the land surrounding it. He is working to find a partner who would work with his company to get 131 Ponce de Leon off the ground. (The low-rise Gulf Oil Building operates today as a multi-tenant office building. In 2007, the Atlanta Preservation Center included it on its List of Endangered Buildings, but Thomas says the building would be preserved as part of the proposed redevelopment of the city block.)
Thomas acknowledges that the current economy and though financing market make his job challenging. But, he believes in the site and envisions the area fortifying its position as a medical hub. It’s got good start with the Emory Crawford Long Hospital and medical office tower, Midtown Urology and other medical facilities. Moreover, if Emory University relocates its main hospital and healthcare campus to the area, which is a possibility, demand for medical office space would jump.
We’ll keep our eye on Thomas' ambitious plan to redevelop a swath of Atlanta and lure I.M. Pei back to the block where he started.