@voxpopuli - I don't think the city is this wily (or confident that such an approach would work), but might it be the case that they're using parking as one way of forcing the developer's hand to produce something more from the site? If he's asking for parking below what zoning would currently require but providing it all with a surface lot, maybe needing to provide more would mean he has to go to structured parking (a garage) so he doesn't cut into his leasable space yield; the costs of building the structure likely mean he would need to program more space (e.g. residential above retail, or other mix of uses) and in so doing possibly end up with a less suburban product to make his pro forma work.
In all likelihood, this is just a form of stonewalling (as bloodgimp suggests), the city asking for too much on the premise that through the ensuing negotiations it will get at least some of what it wants. After all, it's a Walmart; the city should ride the national wave of community resistance against that particular retailer and stand its ground to at least get a better development more in line with its adopted plans.
Excellent news! Congratulations, Wheatley-- keep this paper the voice of the city and stay true to what really concerns it!
What an overreaction! I suppose the ABI board figured the egg on the organization's face from the AJC story was a greater liability than the appearance of instability and internal power struggles that they'll now face... but they likely called it wrong.
Re: Joes' comment-- lack of transparency has been a huge drain of good will for the entire project and as nice as it would be to see that part of the organizational culture changed with this shake-up, I'm not holding my breath. Beltline was set up to be funded primarily through tax increment financing, all predicated on a gamble that the overbuilt, overheated, easy-credit Atlanta real estate market wouldn't implode like it did. [To be fair, Beltline certainly wasn't the only agency making this gamble.] There are no other significant funding sources it can tap into-- motor fuel taxes must be used for roads and bridges per the state constitution, and Atlanta is already loaded up on its sales tax options.
There is nothing to be ashamed of about this-- Beltline is pushing a rock up a hill, funding sources are increasingly unreliable, and they're doing the best they can to supplement this with private donations but the money just ain't there. They should be able to be honest and open about the implications of that (i.e. significant and ever-growing delays in project delivery). Instead they phrase everything as propaganda, change their story frequently, ignore criticism, and, as we see here, take blunt-tool actions in response to PR problems. The citizens of Atlanta who have supported and waited for this project deserve better.
Wheatley, you are the noble voice of progressive urban affairs in Atlanta. We tip our hat on a grand scale to your tireless devotion to the good fight.
I am a recent ex-Atlanta resident who watched this play out with equal parts anxiety and relief. Anxiety for reasons that should be obvious, but relief because the City of Atlanta is now liberated from an impractical time-frame on delivery of transit projects, a ring of suburban counties hellbent on an unsustainable fix of road projects to solve the next generation's worth of transportation needs, and a colossal act of punting on the part of a feckless and intransigent state legislature. There is no clear legal mechanism for how Atlanta and its core suburban communities can band together for raising funds, but this needs to be the city's sole transportation policy objective from here forward. Sisters are doin' it for themselves.
I am also a transportation planner and during my Atlanta days formed a few observations that can be (awkwardly) transposed into policy salvoes that the city may carry forward in its post T-SPLOST future:
- Screw the freeways. Atlanta's storied traffic congestion is measured primarily by national research organizations who track arterial and expressway congestion only, based on data reported from computer-based regional forecasting models for travel demand. This bias to freeways and highways makes for an easy misunderstanding that traffic is bad on every street in the region, when in fact it isn't. One advantage to being in the city is that you actually have route options because there's a rich and redundant street network, unlike suburban communities that built everything around major arterial roads and force all traffic onto them. Atlanta is more disconnected than most major cities, a coincidence of hilly topography, willy-nilly railroads and intrusive expressways, but the city still has travel route options that don't have truly bad traffic congestion (at least not for a major metropolitan area). Use these options (the street network), and make them balanced streets for pedestrians, cyclists, transit vehicles and cars. The freeways are not the City's problem, they are GDOT's. Let them pay for a fix. It ain't gonna happen.
- Get MARTA back to good bus service in the city. MARTA has followed a path similar to most US transit agencies and made disproportionate cuts to bus service in order to keep rail service at or near past levels. This is understandable and there is an operational advantage-- a passenger-mile of rail is much cheaper to operate than a passenger-mile of bus, mostly because of how many more people you fit on a train than on a bus. However, if you want to operate MARTA rail as the hybrid commuter-local rail service that it is today, charge what you should for the long-distance commuters based on trip length ($5 or $7 from airport to downtown, $10 from North Springs) and use the added revenue to pay for enhanced bus operations in the city, where the transit-dependent riders are.
- Yes, tax parking. In Baltimore, where I live now, the city imposed a 16% excise tax on downtown parking and used that to pay for the operations of a fare-free circulator bus that connects major routes (downtown/Inner Harbor to the train station, Camden Yards and Fells Point). Downtown parking is in greater scarcity than it is in Atlanta (and thus prices are higher, leading to added revenue), but this approach created sufficient revenue for a game-changer transit service for central Baltimore. Atlanta needs to get serious about taking care of itself and the performance of this T-SPLOST vote (and the legislature's and governor's regular demonstration of no support for the city) should make it clear that taking a lead on uniting a politically dysfunctional region is a fool's errand.
I bet they're willing to be supportive! Property values on those Castleberry condos have tanked-- some of the greatest drops from their peak-of-the-boom values in the Atlanta region, and not helped by a late-boom glut of less inspired new construction cashing in on the neighborhood's momentary popularity. MARTA, Shmarta. If a massive stadium and the game-day business it brings will restore value to the neighborhood's real estate, I imagine the neighborhood is willing to take it.
A sign of the times indeed, but still a loss. Contemporary gay culture increasingly lacks the 'safe' places for social opportunities that gay bookstores represented-- they were generally accessible to everyone while they avoided the raffishness and occasional pretentiousness of bars. It seems that today's LGBT civic and social organizations are more and more oriented to a gay bourgeoisie with disposable income to drop on fundraising and charity events, leaving more marginal earners and people in more tenuous places in life few reliable places to interact in public.
I call bullshit, though something like a guy getting a phone knocked out of his hand by a cop should produce at least a couple of other witnesses than just a bar worker. As should some insulted queen throwing his drink at a po-lice. That this kind of story happens at all only underscores that the APD has made a really uncomfortable bed for itself.
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