Mixed-use development could replace Star Bar in Little Five Points

‘We’re not going down without a good fight,’ bar owner says

A staple of Little Five Points’ dive bar scene could get a makeover, but the initial proposal has struck a bad chord with some residents.

Atlanta-based developer Third & Urban announced it’s partnering with the owners of Star Community Bar’s building and surrounding property on a mixed-use project to reimagine the corner of Atlanta’s premiere counterculture neighborhood. The developer plans to demolish the bar’s building, a former bank that has stood on the corner of Moreland and Euclid avenues for decades.

Though the development team has said it hopes to incorporate Star Bar in the future project, there’s no guarantee that will happen. That and the loss of the long-standing building has sparked opposition in the Little Five Points community.

Third & Urban said a new three-story building with office space, ground-floor restaurants and a lower-level space will replace the aging structure.

By Monday afternoon, a petition opposing the redevelopment pitch had garnered more than 3,000 signatures. The petition decried the proposal to “build a soulless development in its place like we see happening so often in our city.”

Third & Urban, known for adaptive reuse projects including Westside Paper and Armour Yards, announced the project last week during a zoning committee hearing with the Candler Park Neighborhood Association, Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported.

The plan, which would demolish the former bank building while preserving the neighboring Point Center building and International Montessori Academy, is in its early planning phases and would need to be approved by the Atlanta’s Zoning Review Board.

David Heany and Marty Nolan opened Star Bar in the former Citizens & Southern National Bank building in 1991, and it has since hosted shows by well-known artists including Drive-By Truckers and Killer Mike. The bar has changed hands several times since Heany and Nolan sold it in the early 2000s.

It closed in 2019, and reopened in 2020 under new ownership, which, in addition to Lewis, currently includes Christopher Jackson, Dusty Mumma and Bruce McLeod.

The business sits on a 2.5-acre property owned by Point Center Partners, a small company consisting of six Atlanta families. The property will not be sold, but Point Center Partners will work with Third & Urban on the redevelopment vision.

Scott Pendergrast, a managing member of Point Center Partners, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on behalf of the development team that they want Star Bar to stay, possibly in the new lower-level space.

Little Five Points, close to the Beltline’s Eastside Trail, has not been immune to the development pressure seen in other popular intown neighborhoods like Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward. Such interest is likely to put upward pressure on rents and property values.

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Star Bar co-owner Luke Lewis told the AJC that he and his business partners have been in talks with Point Center Partners and Third & Urban for the past month, and that no decisions have been made regarding Star Bar’s future.

“Our preferred option is obviously to save the building and the history of the Star Bar, but we’re having to live with the reality that may not be possible,” he said. “It will depend on what the real offer looks like from the partners taking over the development.”

He said if “the terms aren’t amenable to all,” Star Bar will likely close rather than moving out of Little Five Points.

“We don’t think moving out of the neighborhood would be right for the community,” he said. “We’ve been a part of the fabric of the community for 31 years, and we don’t think moving out of the area would be the right answer.”

The overall development would be a mix of housing, workspace, retail and dining and will be designed “in a manner consistent with the history, architecture and character of Little Five Points,” according to a news release by Third & Urban.

Atlanta Councilman Amir Farokhi told the AJC he’s confident the development team will be able to deliver on their promise to breathe new life into the area without erasing its character.

“This redevelopment is the first in many decades in Little Five Points,” he said. “It will bring much needed new housing and energy on par with the area’s history and ethos. I know the current and new owners will be working to merge old with new so that Little Five Points remains unique.”

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Parking lots will be replaced with residential buildings and a Moreland Avenue-facing retail and workspace building. Parking will move underground and will be unbundled from apartment rents so “residents have the option to live without the costs associated with car ownership,” the release said. The project will also incorporate greenspace, bike storage and electric bike amenities.

“We are continuing to collaborate with the community, including the owners of Star Bar, and we will take neighborhood feedback into consideration as we work through our redevelopment plans,” Pendergrast said.

Lewis said he’s meeting with the developers again in about two weeks. Star Bar has booked acts and events into 2023 and Lewis said he has no plans yet to stop operating.

“It’s been cool to see the outpouring of support, but the best way to support us is to come out and visit us,” he said. “We fought too hard to save the bar last time, and we’re not going to go down without a good fight this time.”

— Staff writer J.D. Capelouto contributed to this article.