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Hall: We've got to let the market dictate what can happen there, as opposed to bureaucrats saying what is the best idea. With Atlantic Station, who would have ever thought you could turn a dilapidated brownfield into such a great asset for the region? That's the same thing you've got to do at Underground.
Skach: The point about Atlantic Station is good because it's a tremendously large piece of land that probably is about the size of the entire south-central business district. Underground is part of this larger, almost public space that runs through the middle of downtown Atlanta. When we were doing Imagine Downtown, we looked at the zone between Philips Arena and the federal buildings, and that could be an incredible economic development anchor in downtown. Then Underground starts to make sense in the long term as an integrated piece of the city. But in the short term, it needs to connect to its surroundings.
Henderson: Atlantic Station is not that great. I think that we can surely come up with some solutions that go beyond the Atlantic Station model, something that's truly noteworthy. I mean, do we really need another set of franchises down there?
Farris: At this point I feel like a quick fix might actually be dangerous. I also don't want to see another Atlantic Station down there, but I think we need a diverse model. Let's not rely on the World of Coke again or just one thing, and let's make it serve the people that are down there.
CL: Does everyone agree here that tourism at Underground is a lost cause?
Skach: Conditioning the success of the place solely on tourism is the wrong strategy. Ever since it's opened, it's been programmed to be a tourist, single-use thing. It hasn't worked; it probably won't work in the future. Tourism would be a great complement to a diversity of uses.
Hall: There's a new movement throughout areas that used to be purely tourist-centric, like Auburn Avenue. Now, they're turning into neighborhoods where tourists happen to come. If you invert the model, instead of a 70-30 split, with tourists being 70 percent, you do 30-70, where 70 percent are Atlanta folks. There are several places starting to come alive, like Castleberry Hill. Just envision a row of international eateries down Edgewood. You're seeing that now at the corner of Highland Avenue and Elizabeth, near Fritti and Sotto Sotto, where the new Grape is. Folks are coming from the suburbs and trying to blend in like they're intowners. The next thing you'll know, they'll be living here. It's opposite from what we used to think.
CL: There's been talk in recent years that the way to save Underground is by upping the vice factor: You extend the bar hours so people can drink all night, or you bring in a casino. Does Underground need a change like this to survive?
Farris: My request is that this is not something that is done recklessly, and we explore the impact of the immediate communities in other cities before we are wined and dined and seduced by someone who has a lot of money to throw around.
Skach: By their nature, casinos aren't very outwardly looking places. Even though they may generate a little bit of revenue and maybe better jobs, they're not going to do much for the street life. It seems like Underground is kind of a fragile place, and it might really negatively affect it.
Henderson: I don't necessarily agree. I think that if anyone's got the money right now to cure some of those problems, it's that industry. I think that casinos could be the ticket to saving Delta; people would choose Atlanta if they could take a 15-minute ride from the airport, hit the blackjack table for a couple of hours, and head back and catch their flight. But the impact could be so enormous you really have to do the due diligence.
Hall: I hear both sides and I'm kind of right down the middle. This has been discussed at City Council for maybe 10 or 15 years. It's a statewide issue. I've heard of some towns where casinos come in and it ruins the area if it's not thought out carefully. But the idea that it could generate several hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the general fund would be huge. Maybe that could help pay for streetcars and real transit in Atlanta, or maybe schools or police. But it would take a lot of thought.
Henderson: You have to keep in mind that the growth that occurred downtown was somewhat artificial. A lot of people like to sit around and talk about what it is to do business downtown, but there's only a handful of us who have had the actual experience of opening up a store and keeping it alive for a decade. There are no gimmes. You have to fight challenges no one else has to face. So when we talk about this organic, hip growth -- Portobella Road, Notting Hill, gay, über-trendy -- remember, the guys who own the buildings are not giving you any deals. There are no incentives to come downtown, with the exception of Underground, where I gather they've cut some generous deals.
Yeah, they should have decent places to live, just not in my neighborhood!!! As the…
Imagine that, a developer running regional planning. Does Jeff Fuqua know about this?
Great picture and caption.
cep, i hope you become homeless.
I think a lot of folks misunderstood President Jimmy Carter's "Malaise" speech. I don't see…