Owner’s grand plans for ‘Pink Palace’ are rocking the Buckhead boat

Plans to make significant renovations and changes to a treasured home in Buckhead have caused some unrest in the community.

Known as the “Pink Palace,” the property at 541 West Paces Ferry Road was built in 1926 by famed Atlanta architects Neel Reid, Hal Hentz and Philip Shutze. The original owners, Joseph and Frances Rhodes, asked the architects to design their home based on an 18th-century Venetian chapel.

The Atlanta home was put on the market earlier this year and was quickly scooped up for $4.3 million by a businessman named Thierry Francois.

Francois bought the the Pink Palace to use as his “personal home,” according to Dianne Barfield, a consultant who filed an application with the city on Francois’ behalf. The filing seeks to subdivide the 3.5-acre lot into three residential lots, which would allow two new homes to be built.

Francois also obtained a permit to remove a portion of the back side of the home, which was an add-on and not part of the original development, Barfield said.

Historic homes such as the Pink Palace helped establish Buckhead as one of the country's "premiere residential neighborhoods" in the early 1900s, according to Buckhead Heritage Society board member James Ottley.

“While we appreciate that the new owner has not planned to completely tear this incredible house down, seeing this beautiful home from its side facing Tuxedo (Road), and losing it’s designed facade and approach from West Paces Ferry is still heartbreaking,” Ottley said.

A post about the changes in a public Buckhead Facebook group has gathered more than 150 heated comments, including a couple from Rodney Cook, founder of the National Monuments Foundation.

Cook asked people to "please show up" and show opposition at a Tuesday NPU-A meeting, where Barfield will discuss plans for the property. Barfield said she will meet with the city in early January to get feedback on the subdivision application.

If the permit is approved, Ottley hopes it will “become a tipping point for residents in Buckhead to discuss and take action on how to best save landmark sites like this in the near future.”

The Pink Palace — not to be confused with a marble north Georgia home by the same nickname — was used numerous times as the show house for the Atlanta Symphony Associates Decorators' Show House & Gardens annual event. A replica of one its rooms is included in Millenium Gate, the museum at Atlantic Station.

This is not the property's first dramatic renovation in recent decades. Zurab Lezhava and his wife, Nino Sukhishvili, purchased in 2004 the then-dilapidated home for roughly $3.6 million. The renovation project included structural changes such as moving walls and rebuilding the foundation; plumbing and design overhaul in kitchens and bathrooms; and digging 27 wells for a geothermal heating and cooling system.

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