Gay businesses safe from Cheshire wrecking ball

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A cluster of gay businesses in the middle of the redevelopment surge that is sweeping through Cheshire Bridge Road will remain in place and open.

Last year, the sale of a 2.4-acre parcel at the corner of Cheshire Bridge and Faulkner roads – the home of strip club Doll House and a vacant lot – set off alarm bells from gay nightlife fans concerned about how 200 apartments planned for the site would co-exist with the trio of gay bars that neighbor it.

When the sale became public, few details were disclosed about plans for the property and how its development into a five-story apartment complex might impact Jungle, Heretic and BJ Roosters. 

But the sale of the Doll House parcel was only a piece of the transaction. New details show that Westplan Investors has snagged the land and five more acres behind it – parcels that include two warehouses on Faulkner Road. Those buildings are home to Jungle and four other LGBT businesses – Gravity Fitness, New Covenant Church of Atlanta, Manifest 4U and Club Eros.

Westplan paid $11.2 million for the 7.5-acres of land and the warehouses, with plans to continue the development of the apartments along with changes to the adjacent warehouses, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

An existing 50,000-square-foot warehouse and another 70,000-square-foot warehouse will be renovated into loft office and showroom space, Westplan says.

Alan Joel and Dan Granot, principals with Joel & Granot Real Estate/CORFAC International, brokered the sale.

The transaction is part of the ongoing transformation of Cheshire Bridge. City leaders have sought to bring more investment and development to intown corridors including Cheshire Bridge, Northside Drive and Moreland Avenue, which have served as little more than traffic-choked thoroughfares to more affluent intown Atlanta neighborhoods.

“Cheshire Bridge deserves better,” Joel said. “Westplan knows Atlanta and understands the corridor’s potential.”

Westplan, with offices in Atlanta and the Netherlands, has a real estate portfolio with holdings in North Carolina, Florida, Texas and Arizona. It also owns buildings and developments in downtown Atlanta, Decatur, Druid Hills, Kennesaw, Locust Grove and Lawrenceville.

The Doll House has moved and its former home sits vacant. Westplan hopes to break ground on the apartments this fall, according the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The company has started making improvements to the warehouses – including filling several potholes in the parking lots – with bigger renovations to come.

That's helped comfort the gay businesses that have called the warehouses home for several years.

“I'm really excited with the new owners,” said Michael Yadach, co-owner of Gravity Fitness, an anchor tenant in the two buildings. “The two warehouses are here to stay. We are going to get a nice pretty facade.”

Yadach said that renovations from Westplan included new roofs, windows and awnings for the buildings, the addition of sidewalks, and improvements to the facades and parking lots.

“It's a big sigh of relief that small businesses are here to stay and we are here to stay for the long-term,” Yadach said.

'This is actually good news for Jungle'


Jungle owner Richard Cherskov said the addition of the apartments – plans call for a parking deck in front of the dance club – is helping drive renovations to the two warehouses that house Jungle and the other LGBT businesses. 

“This is actually good news for Jungle. They will be doing a facelift of the exterior of the buildings to create a better customer experience,” Cherskov said.

Cherskov is so convinced that Jungle is staying put that the club launched its own refurbishing project to spruce up the interior. That should be complete in early September with a kickoff party planned to celebrate it, he said.

“I can't wait for Atlanta to see all of the new things we have in store,” Cherskov said.

The club underwent a major renovation in 2012, a project that included adding a full-service kitchen and replacing the main bar. In December, Jungle debuted a new sound system.

Paul Swicord, CEO of Manifest 4U, said the gay men's social club has several years left on its lease and plans to remain in its current location – between Jungle on one end and New Covenant Church on the other.

“It seems like it's going to be as is for the next several years and I haven't see any indications to show otherwise,” Swicord said. “We are very much reinvesting and plan to continue here for a number of years.”

The revitalization of Cheshire Bridge is a controversial topic that fueled an effort in 2013 to push sexually-oriented businesses off the strip. That failed but redevelopment is doing what the city couldn't to the red light district.

A four-acre lot on Cheshire Bridge, closer to its intersection with I-85, is being razed to make way for a $48 million, five-story apartment building. On the top end of the strip, at Cheshire's intersection with Piedmont Avenue, the remaking of the Rock Springs strip center into upscale shopping with residential units and a Sprouts is complete.

And in between, a gay doctor refurbished a long-vacant building, the Cheshire Motor Inn sorta cleaned itself up, and speculation persists about the future of the gay and gray popular Colonnade. Inserection – once the focus of the sterilization efforts – thumbed its nose at critics, renovated and rebranded into Tokyo Valentino with afterhours dance parties complete with DJs. Alfredo's is gone and the controversial AIDS Healthcare Foundation is planning a thrift store on the strip, just blocks away from the beloved Lost N Found Youth Thrift Store on Chantilly Drive. 

We reached out to representatives of the church and Eros and will update the post if we hear back from them.


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