AT&T store changes familiar landscape at Park, Magnolia
By Gerald Ensley
Democrat senior writer
A once-leafy corner of Magnolia Drive and Park Avenue is changing.
As announced last fall, a local developer has begun construction of an AT&T cell-phone store on the northwest corner of Magnolia and Park.
A longtime tree-shrouded house and four-unit apartment building on the half-acre site were demolished April 9-10. The now-bare corner has caught the attention of the thousands of drivers who stream by the intersection each day.
Construction of the one-story store is expected to be complete by September. The store, selling products such as the Apple iPhone, is expected to open in February.
The project engendered opposition from some residents in the adjoining Park Avenue neighborhood when the corner was rezoned in August. Opponents said it would lead to changes in the character of the neighborhood and bring additional traffic.
Currently, a Walgreen’s drug store is being built a block south, at Magnolia and Apalachee Parkway.
But developer Francis Rentz said he took pains to develop a building that enhances the corner at Park Avenue and paves the way for "much denser use of the land" along Magnolia Drive.
"Our goal is to create an ’urban edge’ to create a line of demarcation between Magnolia Drive and Park Avenue," Rentz said. "We’re hoping our design will set a high standard that will motivate the other property owners along Magnolia to raise the standard of design for any future redevelopments."
The two-bedroom, wood-frame house that was demolished was the home of Mabel Lee, a state worker who lived there from 1945 until her death in 1991 at age 103.
Rentz had hoped to move the house to another location. But because of its age and surrounding power lines, it proved too costly.