Roosevelt Hall is regaining its glory and timeless beauty. The historic building at the Atlanta University Center was completed in 1937 as the Administrative Building for University Homes, the first federal public housing project for African-American families. The Administrative Building was renamed Roosevelt Hall in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1940s.
Designed by Atlanta-based architectural firm Edwards & Sayward in the International Style of architecture, Roosevelt Hall opened with eight storefront spaces for a five-and-dime store, dairy, barber, hair salon, three grocers, and a Yates and Milton Drugstore, a branch of a well-known African-American-owned pharmacy chain. The second floor held community spaces for concerts, dance recitals, recreation youth programs, and organized group gatherings. Destruction of University Homes buildings in 2008, including 800 housing units, due the deteriorating neighborhood conditions left Roosevelt Hall as the last remaining structure at the historic site.
Ten years after Roosevelt Hall was abandoned, construction of new housing nearby has renewed interest in this landmark. In 2019, the Atlanta Housing Authority selected architectural firm Moody-Nolan for the adaptive re-use of the 23,650 square foot building, designated to earn LEED Gold Certification. Moody-Nolan Director of Atlanta Operations Linda Nunnelly describes the renovation to be completed in spring 2023 as “a full-circle revitalization of a historic building.”
The largest African-American-owned firm in the country, Moody-Nolan has meticulously updated the stately exterior with new windows and doors, and restored accent panels. Emulating the historic building uses, the community, education, and retail spaces on the reconfigured first floor will serve the diverse needs of the neighborhood. Striking photo displays on the walls of the first-floor lobby and second-floor corridor, curated by Morehouse College professor Dr. Karcheik Sims-Alvarado, inspire visitors about the building and community.
A central corridor on the first floor links to a community room, kitchen, library, community lab, and a stylish original stairwell to the second floor. Storefront space has been reserved for the future location for a local eatery. Atlanta University Center Consortium sits in the former location of a stage where community events took place. Office spaces for Atlanta Housing Authority/Choice Homes will utilize the remaining second-story office space.
At the rear of the original building, a new, glassed stairwell tower accesses two outdoor spaces designed by HDR Architecture: a dazzling courtyard and a rooftop deck with panoramic views of the Atlanta University Center community. From the photo galleries to the outdoor views, visitors are engaged with the community inside and outside. For a building designed to “provide us with many opportunities for good, wholesome recreation, for self-education, and for the growth of fellowship,” Roosevelt Hall has been reinvigorated to benefit the community again.
For more information about Roosevelt Hall, tune into the new Uplifting Places podcast hosted by Melody Harclerode with guest Linda Nunnelly at anchor.fm/melody-harclerode.