Federation weighs home renovation ideas
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Federation weighs home renovation ideas

JFGA recommits to Midtown as in-town Jewish community grows

Dave Schechter

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

If the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta builds it, will they come?

The “it” in the novel “Shoeless Joe” (the inspiration for the movie “Field of Dreams”) was a baseball field carved into an Iowa cornfield.

JFGA’s “it” is a still to-be-determined transformation of the three-acre site at 18th and Spring streets that is home to Federation headquarters and the Breman Museum.

“They” are local Jewish organizations, communal and cultural, that might be gathered under one roof.

Planning is in an early stage and “Nothing is in concrete,” JFGA president/CEO Eric Robbins told the Atlanta Jewish Times.

The project was reported first by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

The Midtown location has been JFGA’s home since 1996, when the land was donated by real estate magnate Steve Selig.

The first decision was to stay put, rather than sell the property (which the Business Chronicle valued at $25 million) and move elsewhere.

“We are committed to staying here,” Robbins said, citing growth in the Jewish community in the Midtown area, and in such in-town neighborhoods as Grant Park, Inman Park and Morningside. “We are committed to the highest and best use of this facility for the Jewish community.”

Ideas abound.

One is an expansion that would increase space for the Breman, as well as provide offices for local Jewish organizations. Robbins mentioned the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee as examples of potential tenants.

A number of organizations, including JScreen, Camp Judaea and the Jewish Community Relations Council, already have offices in the JFGA building.

“We are talking about the primary components of this being the home to the Federation and Jewish organizations,” Robbins said, adding that consolidating office space would help reduce overhead and security costs for the tenants.

No idea is being ruled out.

Among them is construction of a new building, with the Breman Museum on the ground floor and offices of JFGA and other organizations on the floors above.

A small theater for film screenings and plays also has been suggested.

Another idea is a senior residential facility, with access to MARTA and the cultural attractions in Midtown.

“Any senior residential facility presumably would be built with Jewish Home Life Communities as a partner,” Robbins said. Jewish Home Life Communities manages several senior residences in the Atlanta area.

Matt Broffman, a Federation board member and CEO of Jamestown, the real estate company that developed the Ponce City Market, is heading a planning group.

There is no timetable for a decision. “We’re being very diligent and thoughtful on it,” Robbins said. To that end, a charette (a French word applied to an intensive group meeting) will be convened with potential partners and other interested parties.

Robbins said that JFGA will meet with potential donors to gauge their interest in supporting a fundraising campaign that would be carried on over a number of years.

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