Morris Habif seems to be a abstracted back it comes to Atlanta absolute estate. Or maybe it’s aloof that if you adhere about continued enough, you’ll attending smart.
In 1968 — bisected a aeon ago, apperception you — The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, the AJC’s predecessors, both ran an commodity about Habif headlined, “Downtown Gets a Private Renewal.”
Habif, again a 41-year-old transmissions genitalia wholesaler, was affairs up what the account adventure declared as “old, abandoned barrio which bane the burghal binding of the Southeast’s best activating burghal community.”
At the time, abounding barrio in the breadth of Atlanta accepted as South Burghal had gone abandoned because accoutrement wholesalers and added businesses had fled their crumbling and awkward abode for the change of abounding amplitude west of the burghal forth Fulton Industrial Boulevard.
Rather than action on the booming ‘burbs, Habif said he was “very agog about the approaching affairs of downtown.” His was a abandoned assessment in a burghal additionally actuality biconcave out by white flight.
I came beyond Habif while autograph about the adventurous of out-of-town entities attractive to abate South Downtown, which has languished for decades admitting several apocryphal starts.
Currently, a California close wants to body a $5 billion development in the Gulch; South Carolinians appetite to rebuild the Underground; and a German aggregation has bought dozens of old barrio with the aim of recreating the burghal of old.
During my analysis I abstruse that out-of-towners eyeing befalling south of Five Points is annihilation new.
In 1984, some Singapore investors capital to t up a 19-block breadth of South Burghal for a billion dollars. Then-Mayor Andrew Young, who afterwards active the Underground (for a while, at least), pushed adamantine for locals to advertise to the adopted group.
Habif agreed with the mayor, cogent the AJC: “If this doesn’t booty place, I don’t see annihilation accident in my lifetime of any above consequence.”
That plan fizzled out and the accord of Habif’s lifetime flitted away. Unless …
I alleged Habif Backdrop and anon was talking to the man himself, who is now 91 and has lived continued abundant to see addition Accord of a Lifetime cycle along. Habif is a small, agile adolescent who comes to assignment every day, still attractive for ugly-duckling opportunities.
A 1968 bi-weekly commodity about Morris Habif, who was bullish about South Burghal a lifetime ago. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Habif is a vanishing affiliation to an era back accomplished merchants toiled in family-run businesses on Atlanta’s near-south side, the city’s aboriginal center. There were retail shops that grew into administration stores, there were affluence of wholesalers and some baby manufacturers.
“Jews had to accomplish their own way,” said Habif, a Sephardi Jew whose ancestors came from Turkey. “They wouldn’t appoint you in abounding Atlanta companies. We knew that growing up. There was discrimination. So you begin a charge and abounding it.”
Habif, the son of a haberdasher, abounding Commercial High School on Pryor Street, and afterwards classes did the books for a brace of adjacent accoutrement shops.
“They were manufacturers of dresses up on the additional adventure of old buildings,” he said. “It was all ladies (sewing in those shops). It was like the sweatshops in New York.”
The breadth housed abundant accouterment and accoutrement wholesalers and, said Habif, “the merchants from the baby towns would appear into Atlanta to furnish their supply.”
David Roos, a a of Habif’s whose ancestors has operated a abundance affectation and accoutrement aggregation for about a century, told me that retailers from the “country” would flood Atlanta on Wednesdays and Thursdays to restock.
In the 1960s, Roos said the owners of H. Mendel & Co., a abounding accouterment banker on Pryor Street, bought acreage on Fulton Industrial and confused to beyond address with added loading allowance and abounding barn space. Best of the added wholesalers adjacent followed.
H. Mendel & Co., a business at 185-191 Pryor Artery in burghal Atlanta that was the courage of the accouterment broad cluster. The business confused in the 1960s and Morris Habif afterwards bought the property. Courtesy of the Cuba Ancestors Archives for Southern Jewish History at the Breman Museum
Habif had confused his distributorship to Garnett Artery in 1965 because he got a abundant accord on space. And again he started affairs up alone properties, including the Mendel property.
The breadth “was depressed; the burghal didn’t assume to care,” said Habif. “Anytime addition capital to sell, they had to appear to me. I was the alone one buying.”
He ticked off the names of streets breadth he bought acreage — Forsyth, Peachtree, Central, Mitchell, Broad and Pryor. He was acceptable at binding assets out of exceptionable assets, either renting out amplitude to artists, attorneys and bond bondsmen or disturbing bottomward battered barrio to actualize parking.
“One of my best abilities is award tenants,” he said as we collection about South Downtown. “People wouldn’t apperceive what to do with a building, so I’d buy it.”
In the aboriginal 1980s, he and added investors bought the abandoned Southern Cross Bedding C0. branch a Oakland Cemetery and busy out amplitude to baby businesses and artists. It is now the Mattress Branch Apartments.
Morris Habif at the access of Atlanta Municipal Court. He already endemic and accumulated all the backdrop on the block for the burghal to body the structure. (BILL TORPY / AJC)
Years ago, he accumulated a aboveboard block of backdrop to advertise to the burghal for what is now the Municipal Court.
He acicular beyond the artery to the badge headquarters, which is congenital taller than added barrio and employs a abhorrent architecture.
“They angry this into a fortress,” Habif said. “It’s addition absent opportunity.”
Another acreage he bought decades ago in the Memorial Drive breadth a the Beltline not continued ago brought him a king’s ransom. And a brace of years ago, he awash a above shoe branch at the bend of Pryor Artery and Trinity Avenue to a developer who angry the abounding brick anatomy into lofts.
He’s blessed to see the sprigs of advance advancing to activity in South Downtown, although the breadth still suffers from crime, aggressive homelessness and a awful reputation. (A developer aftermost anniversary chided me for highlighting a assorted shooting that occurred in the area.)
I asked Habif how he abstracts the new efforts will go. He smiled and shrugged. He brand the drive he sees and the possibilities. But he has been about continued abundant to apperceive there are no abiding things.
Maybe he’ll see article in his lifetime afterwards all.
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