The Ice House Lofts, constructed in 1999, was the first new apartment development in the City of Decatur in ten years. The project includes 101 apartment units contained in the historic Atlantic Star Ice & Coal building and two new multistory buildings located on a 1.9 acre site. In addition to the apartments, the project includes 4,800 sq. ft. of retail space located on the ground floor level of the historic building. The project is located on the edge of the downtown commercial district adjacent to the railroad tracks in an area that is slowly experiencing growth in retail and restaurant businesses. The Ice House Loft project anchors one end of this district and the Old Decatur Depot anchors the other end. This project helped initiate the rebirth of this small district.
Because this property is near a historic, single-family neighborhood, it had to overcome issues related to traffic and property values. The developer redesigned the new building to create a more traditional appearance in response to neighborhood concerns and also had to acquire a small strip of right of way from CSX railroad to provide the required parking.
Originally the developer intended to use historic tax credits to help finance the cost of renovating the historic icehouse portion of the project. After lengthy negotiations with the U.S. Department of the Interior, however, the tax act application was denied because reviewers objected to the size of the adjacent addition. They argued that it impacted the historic context of the property. Both the DDA and the developer maintained that this context had already been significantly altered by surrounding developments over the previous 50 years and that this challenging “white elephant” had stood vacant and threatened with demolition for 20 years. The denial resulted in the developer needing to add additional units in the original historic structure instead of using the tall ice tower as an elevator shaft. This change in plan resulted in the need to cut windows into the solid brick ice tower resulting in more significant impacts on the historic integrity of the property that would not have been necessary if negotiations over tax credits had been successful.
Nonetheless, a beautiful old building (and key landmark in historic Decatur) was saved and returned to productive use, bringing much needed rental housing to downtown.