Crescent Communities, a real estate investor, developer, and operator of mixed-use communities, Monday officially announced the land acquisition and partnership with KB Venture Partners in the adaptive reuse transformation of the former Bailey-Johnson School in Alpharetta — a school built in 1950 to serve Black students in North Fulton County until its closing in 1967.
The partnership will transform the 4.4-acre site into an office campus named Garren and will comprise three buildings totaling 160,000 square feet of space: the adaptive reuse of the Bailey-Johnson School building, the adaptive reuse of the school’s gymnasium, and a new three story, 120,000 square foot mass timber building over one level of parking. An additional parking structure will be connected to the new building.
“Crescent Communities’ commercial team is incredibly proud to be involved in this important, historically significant project,” Sagar Rathie, Managing Director of Office and Mixed-Use at Crescent Communities’ Commercial business unit, said in a press release. “Together with KB Venture Partners, our goal is to honor the school’s past while ushering in its next chapter. Our hope is that Garren will become a gathering place for office tenants and the larger community to not only enjoy themselves, but also learn about the site’s vibrant history.”
The Bailey-Johnson School — originally called the Alpharetta Colored School — was built to serve Black students in North Fulton County in the 50s and 60s. The school opened in 1950 and, at that time, was the only school in North Fulton able to enroll Black students over the 7th grade, according to the release.
Prior to the first class’s graduation, faculty, and parents requested that the school’s name be changed to honor George “Hard” Bailey, a respected blacksmith in Alpharetta who provided the land for the school, and Warren Johnson, a Roswell man born into slavery and a lifelong advocate for black education. As such, the project’s name “Garren” was created by combining “George” and “Warren’s” first names.
When Bailey-Johnson closed in 1967, it marked the end of segregated education in North Fulton County. Its students transferred to Milton and Roswell high schools and neighboring elementary schools.
The facility was subsequently used as an elementary school and, more recently, a maintenance facility for Fulton County Schools.
“These buildings deserve to be preserved, and I want to give a shout-out to the teams behind this new project,” Pat Miller, President Emeritus of the Alpharetta and Old Milton County Historical Society, said. “They’re aware that the school has an important history and have involved the Alpharetta and Old Milton County Historical Society every step of the planning process so far. They’ve dug in and learned about the school and are determined to preserve its history and significance in an honorable way.”
KB Venture Partners was selected to take on this project in 2020 by the Fulton County School Board in a competitive process — in part because their proposed development program centered on the adaptive use, not the demolition, of the Bailey-Johnson School, according to the release.
Bruce Fernald and Fred Kay of KB Venture Partners envisioned creating a unique office campus in the dynamic North Fulton office market. “Garren’s proximity to Avalon and to the Downtown Alpharetta District amplify the strengths of the adaptive use and mass timber product,” Fernald said.
The three-building Garren campus will offer 160,000 square feet of Class-A creative office space, parking, outdoor gathering and greenspace areas, private tenant patios, a tenant lounge, a fitness space, showers and a locker room, bike storage, and more. “Photographs, artifacts, and art will celebrate the heritage of the Bailey-Johnson School at the new Garren campus,” according to the release.
In addition to maintaining an important element of Alpharetta’s cultural heritage, repurposing the masonry school buildings is inherently sustainable because of the reduction in building materials needed to transform the space.“The greenest building is one that already exists,” Rathie said.
Mass timber is a sustainable alternative to steel, concrete, and masonry that results in a significant reduction to a building’s carbon footprint. All mass timber used at Garren will be responsibly harvested from regularly-managed forestry sites. Certifications including LEED and Fitwel will be pursued for Garren, reinforcing Crescent Communities’ commitment to sustainability, stewardship, and tenant wellness.