The Answers Issue 

Solving the mysteries that stump Atlantans

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“GRAN LAGO DETAIL 7” BY TOM ZARRILLI
  • “Gran Lago Detail 7” by Tom Zarrilli
Q:

Can we flood I-75/85 and create a waterfront for Atlanta?


A:

One of the biggest knocks against Atlanta is that there's no waterfront.

There have been efforts to change that in the past. We've heard that several decades ago Atlanta architect Andre Steiner proposed to build a lake surrounded by mid-rise and high-rise buildings between North Avenue and Ralph McGill Boulevard. There's also the recently announced plan to link downtown with the Chattahoochee River along Proctor Creek.

But back to your question. Yes! You're right. Flooding the Connector is an idea whose time has come.

Artist Tom Zarrilli broached the issue in his 2007 Eyedrum exhibit Gran Lago de Atlanta. "Having the center of the city carved up by expressways was a terrible thing" and "flooding them would be a real turnaround," he said in an email. But how would people get around? "That is what 285 is for," Zarrilli said.

Could this dream of an Atlanta waterfront really come true? Is it possible?

"Absolutely," said University of Georgia Professor of Hydrology and Water Resources Todd Rasmussen in an email. "Spending $100 million to build a new lake in north Georgia is common these days, so retro-fitting the corridor is not impossible. I have great respect for engineers — this would be an easy job for them. Atlanta is spending billions to upgrade their water system, so this could be a viable add-on that could combine transportation with water supply, flood control, and water treatment."

Imagine Atlanta among cities such as Venice, Shanghai, and Chicago with waterways at their core. Rasmussen points to Los Angeles, which just removed barriers to allow the Los Angeles River to flow in the city for the first time in 80 years, and to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., a desert town, which not only built an artificial lake, but also bought the old London Bridge to go across it.

Rasmussen suggested one technique for building our river/lake would be inflatable dams, something currently used in Phoenix, Ariz., and in Orange County, Calif. "The dams are inflated (raised) during low flows, but deflated during high flows," he explained in an email. "They could be installed along the sides of the highway to contain the water, as well as across the channel to form pools."

Water sources, he says, could include stormwater runoff and wastewater reuse, among other things. Perhaps, an Internet article on how to build a fishing lake provides the true answer. "Ideally," it says, "when you decide to build a fishing lake you need first to find a suitable piece of land, and then have the 'vision' to imagine how that piece of land will look once flooded with water."

So all it would really take is some vision.

— Joeff Davis

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Q:

What ever happened to Mayor Reed's Trinity Avenue Farm design competition?


A:

Mayor Kasim Reed's senior policy adviser Dave Bennett told CL in 2012 that they had selected a winner for the Trinity Avenue Farm design competition. So what's the hold up? Money. When we recently checked in with Sonji Jacobs, the mayor's spokeswoman, she said that cost estimates would be available early next month. "Construction of the [Trinity Avenue Farm] initial build-out will begin immediately after the winning design announcement," she says. Expect the winner to finally be revealed sometime before July.

— Max Blau

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Q:

What is the oldest multi-story building in Atlanta?


A:
click to enlarge JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis

The oldest multi-story building in Atlanta that's still standing is downtown's Flatiron Building, located at 84 Peachtree St. across from Woodruff Park. Originally known as the English-American Building, the Flatiron Building was built in 1897 and pre-dates New York's famed Flatiron Building by four years. It was the second skyscraper ever built in Atlanta. The first, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, was the Equitable Building, an eight-story building erected in 1892 and demolished, as things tend to be in Atlanta, in 1971.

— Debbie Michaud

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JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
Q:

How exactly and when did the Krog Street Bridge become the place to do all your tagging and graffiti? When did it just become "acceptable?"


A:

It's hard to say how the Krog Street tunnel became one of Atlanta's graffiti epicenters. We contacted about a dozen officials, artists, and nearby residents — none of which could pinpoint when the tagging first began.

But here's what we know about the 101-year-old Cabbagetown underpass. It was originally built as an alternative way around Hulsey Yard and several railroads that still run above it today. We tried reaching out to CSX, which now owns the tunnel, but didn't hear back about why it let the graffiti happen on its property. From what Young Blood Gallery co-owner Kelly Teasley has heard, the railroad company "gave up on painting over it and let people keep painting it."

A Cappella Books employee Glen Thrasher thinks graffiti gradually started appearing in the late '80s and early '90s as New York artists moved to Atlanta. Several nearby residents also remember "sparse" graffiti in the Krog Street tunnel during that time. But the area lacked the appeal of more established sanctioned sites like the Civic Yard near St. Luke's Episcopal Church. That remained the case through the early 2000s.

"Graffiti in the tunnel was minor league stuff back in the early 2000s," says guitarist Bill Taft. "The images were lame. I didn't notice much style in the lines. Occasionally, a great piece would appear but never with regularity."

Things changed when Mayor Shirley Franklin's 2003 anti-graffiti ordinance banned public art on private property, effectively shuttering once-popular graffiti havens. Property owners were required to remove tagging within 30 days. Although legal pressure would loosen the restrictions several years later in favor of property owners, artists fled to the Cabbagetown underpass where they could tag without worry. "The Krog Tunnel became the only wall in town that would not get painted over," Taft says.

Since the crackdown, Krog Street tunnel has remained what Memorial Tattoo artist Sam Parker sees as a "semi-legal graffiti wall." Yet Cabbagetown artist Karen Tauches has noticed a slight shift in the tunnel's character toward a "bulletin board." That happened, she says, after a "vigilante" neighborhood group repeatedly attempted to paint over the walls just outside the tunnel several years ago.

"Now the tunnel is an explosion of color, an open-source graffiti-code collage, a work of art we learned to see because of breakthroughs by abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock, who was born in 1912, the same year the concrete tunnel's construction began," says Taft.

— MB

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Q:

Why does 10th Street between I-75/85 and Northside Drive get resurfaced seemingly once a year, yet is still in a constant state of disrepair?


A:

The short answer is that city officials don't exactly know. According to a Department of Public Works spokeswoman, the last time the roadway was properly resurfaced was in February 2006. Since then, the department has "performed several extensive ... repairs as needed" on the section of road, though the "instability with roadway base conditions is yet to be determined." In English: They've filled potholes as they come up and don't yet know if something under the surface exacerbates the road's woeful condition.

According to a spokeswoman from the city's Department of Watershed Management, the culprit doesn't seem to be the sewer. The spokeswoman explained that the most recent inspection of the sewer under the street, which was conducted in 2007, showed "some minor to medium defects for some of the respective sewers," but that "overall they appeared to be in fair condition." That sewer system isn't scheduled to be repaired until 2025.

The most obvious reason for the street's poor condition is, most likely, heavy commuter and commercial traffic cutting east and west across the city and to Georgia Tech, though utility construction by Georgia Power or Atlanta Gas Light contributes to delays as well.

— Connor Jones

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Q:

How many active gangs are there in Atlanta (other than the police obviously)? I know the NH 60's (Rollin 60's Neighborhood Crips) are pretty active in the areas I reside.


A:

The exact number of gangs in Atlanta or even Georgia is sketchy at best, and the Atlanta Police Department refuses to dole out specifics. The main problem, police say, is that Atlanta is inundated with so-called "hybrid gangs" — usually cliques that identify with a particular street or apartment complex, for example — that are often more transient in nature and may change names more than traditional gangs, while keeping core members. In 2009, APD Major Debra Williams, then head of the department's Gang Unit, said it had identified more than 50 gangs within the city. A national assessment compiled by the FBI in 2011 supports that number, pinpointing 73 active gangs in Georgia with many based in the metro area. What's clearer is how many officers are devoted to dealing with gangs in Atlanta. The APD has 18 full-time officers assigned to its Gang Unit. Of those, six serve as "gang liaisons" in the six police zones around the city.

— Clay Duda

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JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
Q:

Why don't Atlanta's food trucks drive around the city with their food, which is the whole point of serving from a truck, rather than parking in announced locations? That's how the food trucks in Richmond, VA, worked when I lived there. Otherwise, we may else [sic] well just eat at a brick-and-mortar, since we have to drive to the food either way.


A:

This answer comes down to issues with permitting, licensing, and good old-fashioned bureaucracy. "There are two types of vendor's permits, one for private property and one for public property," says Greg Smith, president of the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, a trade group that's been advocating for Atlanta food trucks since 2009. He's also a practicing attorney. The main reason Atlanta food trucks don't set up shop on the street, Smith says, is because the City of Atlanta does not issue permits for vending on public property, at least not since he came onto the scene in 2009. "They've only allowed vending on private property," he says. That's why you have to go to designated areas such as the Atlanta Food Truck Park on Howell Mill Road to get your mobile eats.

In 2009, the City of Atlanta contracted a third-party real estate investment firm — General Growth Properties (GGP) — to manage Atlanta's on-street vendor program. "Basically, they only issued [public] permits for folks who were working with them in very limited spaces. So mostly folks who were willing to go and rent one of their kiosks located around Woodruff Park," Smith says. But in December 2012, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua ruled that Atlanta's public vending program violated the city's charter, voiding GGP's contract.

With the City of Atlanta currently between public vending managers, it doesn't look like it's going to get any easier for food trucks any time soon. "If we don't have a manager at all, then the whole program comes to a standstill," Smith says.

In the future, Smith hopes that the city will begin issuing public vending permits. "I think the public would prefer that. Most folks would like to see the food trucks out on the street, but I don't necessarily think that's going to happen this time around."

— Stephanie Dazey

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PRIME 8 PHOTO
  • Prime 8 Photo
Q:

Who is the Junkman's Daughter?


A:

Her name is Pam Majors and her father was, you guessed it, a junkman. Back in 1982, Majors rented out a little storefront in a rundown neighborhood named Little Five Points and put a lot junk, some of it acquired from her father, for sale in the store.

Three decades later, there isn't any junk left from the junkman who had the daughter, but the store lives on. Junkman's Daughter, which now clocks in at a massive 10,000 square feet, is located at 464 Moreland Ave. You can't miss the place — it's painted like an acid flashback from the '60s. It's still owned by Majors, but now sells more modern junk, like purple wigs, weird dolls, and lots of cigarettes.

— Wyatt Williams

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Q:

Who owns the cute buildings on Georgia Ave immediately east of Turner Field? (Summerhill? Peoplestown?) Those look like they'd be an adorable commercial center with restaurants and bars and shops, but they're all shuttered up and derelict. Is it just that the space is worth more to the landlords as Braves parking? What's up?


A:

While the strip of mostly boarded-up and badly faded buildings looks deserted, there's actually life in 'dem der hills ... or at least a handful of businesses.

Unsurprisingly, there's no single answer to who owns the approximately six square blocks flanking Georgia Avenue just east of Braves Country, or even the six freestanding buildings located directly on the strip. There's a cross-section of independent owners that control most of the properties with businesses in them, and a handful of larger key players that own pretty much everything else.

Donald S. Azar Inc. is probably the most recognizable, if for no other reason than the massive sign pointing to Azar's Package at the corner of Fraser Street and Georgia Avenue. The business named after its sole proprietor owns four lots clustered around the store. Both the liquor store and neighboring convenience store seem to ebb and flow between open and closed with the tides of Braves season.

A little further east, the Summerhill Neighborhood Development Corporation owns four grassy lots at the corner of Reed Street and Georgia Avenue. Before the economic downturn, the organization — a nonprofit charged with promoting development around Summerhill — had plans to turn the lot into a multistory, mixed-use development complete with ground-floor retail spaces and apartments above. But rough economic times and, later, legal proceedings stemming from some questionable liens against the properties by the organization's former president, stalled the transformation.

"That would have been three or four years ago," SNDC director Geoffrey Heard says. "Now the property is clear and we're going to move forward, once we get some funding." Together, the two businesses own almost everything on the north side of the street, excluding a dry cleaner and boarded-up building that was once home to Leo Frank, a Jewish man accused of murder and later lynched after his trial.

The largest real estate owner on the strip is by far 70-year-old John Elder, who owns 13 lots on Georgia Avenue and dozens more on the surrounding blocks. He inherited many of the properties along Georgia Avenue from his uncle Jimmie Glass in the late 1980s, picking up other lots over the years, county tax assessor records show.

All of his properties on the road are almost exclusively used for parking during Braves games. It's unclear how much money Elder actually makes parking foam-fingered baseball fans six months out of the year, but estimates from some in the community say its more than $500,000 each season.

While the scene of boarded-up buildings may be an eyesore to some, it's not illegal to own vacant properties as long as the properties are secure, clean, and free of debris or graffiti, explains Major Cerelyn Davis, director of Atlanta's Office of Code Compliance.

Elder passed away in a car crash in May. What that means for the property he owns and the future of Summerhill is unclear. Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm, is in the process of reviewing proposals for a large-scale, mixed-used overhaul for the 55 acres of official parking lots and other areas around Turner Field. If completed, the infusion of commercial, residential, and parking deck space could spell big changes for the neighborhood.

"If we go to deck parking that'd free up a lot of this surface land for some real, strong developments," says Douglas Dean, whose family has lived in Summerhill for four generations. "When I was a kid I worked at most of those stores along Georgia Avenue, including the grocery store. I always said the day I see kids pushing grocery carts to people's cars again I'll know we've come back in Summerhill."

— CD

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Q:

Why is Atlanta's minority set-aside program legal?


A:

The short answer, per City Hall, is that Atlanta doesn't have a minority set-aside program.

"Persons or companies seeking to do business with the city are responsible for making good faith efforts to reach utilization goals," Mayor Kasim Reed spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs says about Atlanta's current Equal Business Opportunity Program. "The goals are not quotas and are not mandatory."

Some background: In 1975, Mayor Maynard Jackson introduced a set-aside program during a time when blacks, accounting for 65 percent of Atlanta's population, only received 1 percent of the city's contracting dollars. The mayor required 25 percent of the airport's international terminal contracts to be given to minority-owned companies. Over time, minority involvement in all city contracts grew to 34 percent thanks to Jackson's efforts.

City leaders across the country praised Jackson's groundbreaking equality efforts and quickly followed suit. But legal battles arose throughout the nation during the 1980s and eventually culminated in City of Richmond v. Croson, a 1989 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that required minority set-aside programs to adopt stricter evidence-based standards. That meant actual statistical data was needed for the programs to exist.

Dozens of American cities abandoned their set-aside programs throughout the following decade. Others slowly revised their practices in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling. Mandatory quotas were turned into strongly encouraged goals, which Atlanta has today.

In 1999, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a conservative public interest law firm, unsuccessfully challenged the city minority contracting policies in a court battle that grabbed national headlines. Critics of the city's enduring EBO program remain to this day and alleged corruption has surrounded its contracting process, but the latter issue is a whole other story.

Atlanta will review its practices later this year, just as it has done every few years. Jacobs says the city's currents policies help minority and female contractors and are constitutional. "No court has ever struck down any City Equal Business Opportunity Program," says Jacobs.

— MB

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JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
Q:

What is the history behind the old abandoned house next to Gladys Knight's Chicken & Waffles restaurant downtown?


A:

The 112-year-old oddball Victorian mansion — the last in Atlanta's central business district, according to the city — is the former home of Rufus M. Rose, a Connecticut native who moved to Atlanta after the Civil War and started a distillery in Vinings that churned out rye and corn liquor. The property passed through a variety of owners and served a number of purposes, including a rooming house. In 1945, it was purchased by James H. Elliott Sr., and turned into an antiques store and later the Atlanta Museum, a depository of curiosities that included, the city says, an "original model of Eli Whitney's cotton gin, [Ethiopian] Emperor Haile Selassie's throne chair, a complete Japanese Zero [fighter plane], and some possessions of Bobby Jones, Margaret Mitchell, and other prominent Atlantans." The Atlanta Preservation Center called it home for a few years before moving to Grant Park. According to Fulton County tax records, it's now owned by a Stone Mountain resident. And, judging by appearances, sits vacant.

— Thomas Wheatley

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JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
Q:

Compare and contrast the Atlanta and Athens music scenes.


A:

Not technically a question, but it's an interesting challenge so we'll respond anyway.

Spelling out what precisely sets Atlanta's and Athens' music scenes apart is a difficult task. A straight comparison seems like a stretch, as Athens and Atlanta share little in common when it comes to size and demographics. Athens' collegiate and pedestrian-friendly nightlife scene stands in stark contrast to Atlanta's mean, sprawling streets. I posed the question to two people active at both ends of Hwy 316 to get their takes. Former CL scribe and current Flagpole Music Editor Gabe Vodicka explains that hip-hop is the most obvious difference.

"Atlanta's hip-hop scene dwarfs Athens' and gives what rap scene there is here a serious inferiority complex — or makes people move to Atlanta," Vodicka says. "The rock and experimental scenes are insular, though you could say the same thing about Atlanta. Athens bills are more likely to be wide-ranging, probably due to the fact that there is more stylistic/scene intermingling out of necessity. Atlanta benefits from more exposure to the outside world, while Athens remains pretty inward-looking."

Wowser Bowser singer and guitarist George Pettis has a more utilitarian point of view. "It's easy to be in a band in Athens," Pettis says. "Because of that, Athens bands don't have the same heart and drive that Atlanta bands have. Not that they don't have heart and drive, but it's less gratifying to be in a band in Atlanta. There are less hot girls coming to your shows; less people in general. Reactions to playing music are pretty uniformly positive in Athens, like, 'OK, it makes sense that you're here doing that, this is Athens.' Being a musician in Atlanta is more of a rebellious statement. When I see people at Wowser Bowser's show in Athens, I'm appreciative, but I struggle with this feeling that folks are just out to see a show, not necessarily my show. There is so much music within walking distance in Athens, and every venue has insane walk-in crowds on any night of the week. This isn't necessarily true in Atlanta, and you usually have to hustle to get folks off of their couches. They're probably going to have to drive."

— Chad Radford

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JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
Q:

What really happened to the Bankhead Highway bridge at the Northside Drive intersection?


A:

In the 1950s and '60s, Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway was still known as Bankhead Avenue. The east-west road connecting Atlanta to south Cobb County was one of the easiest routes out of town and a link for northwest Atlanta's African-American residents to the few white-owned businesses on the Westside that served black people. The truss bridge that spanned railroad tracks and linked Bankhead to Marietta Street — and which last year celebrated its 100th birthday — was a symbolic and actual gateway. By the late 1980s, however, chunks of concrete were falling on the tracks below. Engineers declared the city-owned bridge structurally deficient.

Around that same time, Bob Silverman of Winter Properties, which owns the Carriage Works office complex on the bridge's east side, petitioned the city to tear down a portion of the closed bridge so he could build a parking lot. At one point, Silverman says, he and then-Mayor Maynard Jackson daydreamed about rehabbing the bridge and building a restaurant on top of the span, which offers spectacular views of the downtown skyline, he says. In the mid- to late-2000s, a Harvard architecture professor proposed some design ideas, including a glass-enclosed, illuminated restaurant that made use of the truss bridge. Then country singer Kenny Rogers and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck came knocking with a similar restaurant concept. The ideas never panned out, thanks in part to the economy. And as you can tell, nothing ever happened. Today, homeless men and women call the chained-off bridge home.

— TW

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Q:

What's the deal with Suitcase-on-Head Guy? What's in there? Where is he from? Where does he live and where is he going with a suitcase on his head?


A:
click to enlarge THOMAS WHEATLEY'S AWARD-WINNING IPHONE
  • THOMAS WHEATLEY'S AWARD-WINNING IPHONE

I have stood very near Suitcase-on-Head Guy, trying to get answers to your questions. All I can report back is this: Suitcase-on-Head Guy does not like questions. Sure, you can ask them. You may get a quiet "Hello" and a half-smile, but you will not get conversation. As one homeless man at the MARTA Arts Center station told me, "Man, that guy don't talk to nobody." But then he corrected himself. Actually, he has seen Suitcase-on-Head Guy talking to people but it happens rarely. My tactics — trailing in a car, following him on foot, and waiting quietly on a bench at Colony Square — all failed. As my MARTA friend said to me, "You must've spooked him!" Not my intention, of course.

Following a tip from another CL staffer, I spent a good chunk of a morning following Suitcase-on-Head Guy from the High Museum to Piedmont Park to Colony Square and then watched him walk away down Peachtree Street, fading from view just past the Wimbish House. He is a marvel, the way he balances his dark gray and red suitcase atop his head. Even when he is jogging across an intersection, or looking down and sifting through a trash can, or fleeing from an intrepid (ahem) reporter, the suitcase may wobble and quake, but it never falls from his head. He is young. He is agile. And he is very shy. "He is profound at what he does," says Col. Wayne Mock of the private police force Midtown Blue. "Could you or I do that? Or has anyone else in Midtown done that? Baton Bob is an artist and so is the 'SUITCASE MAN.'" Mock says SOHG does not bother or panhandle anyone, so how about we just leave the man alone to walk and wander and do his suitcase-y thing.

— Vené Franco

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Q:

Why does the AJC hate Atlanta?


A:
click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY WES DUVALL
  • Illustration by Wes Duvall

I didn't feel like it was appropriate for us to answer this question, so I went ahead called the AJC. They've got a phone number that's meant to field newsroom tips or complaints, so I figured that would be the right venue for this question. I got a sweet-voiced woman who introduced herself as Sandra.

"Hey, my name's Wyatt Williams, I'm the culture editor over at Creative Loafing. Are you the person who typically fields questions from the press?"

"Well, let's hear your question and we'll see."

"We're doing this thing called the Answers Issue, where we let readers submit questions about Atlanta that we promise to track down the answers to. And one of the questions, well don't shoot the messenger on this one, but one of the questions that we got was, 'Why does the AJC hate Atlanta?'"

[Silence]

"Hey, are you still there?"

"Seriously? That's the question?"

"Yeah, I mean, do you know why someone would ask that?"

"Seriously? We don't hate Atlanta. Why would we be in business?"

Then she gave me the number of Drue Miller, who works in marketing over there. Miller was in a meeting, but when she got out, I gave her the same spiel over the phone, to which she said, "Well, we get all kinds of crazy questions, as apparently you do, too. Sometimes they're the kind of thing that you have to spend a minute to think about. When can I get back to you?"

I gave her my phone number and email address and waited. This is what I eventually got back in an email:

"Don't believe what other people tell you. Pick up the paper and get the facts. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been watching out for you with investigative reports that uncover misuse of your tax dollars — and our team of reporters has exposed other issues, from legislative ethics to cheating in our schools. We love our readers and will continue to bring you in-depth news and investigations."

— WW

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JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
Q:

What is the true story of how Murder Kroger earned its nickname?


A:

"It's a grocery store with a deadly twist/You'll get shot in the head for your shopping list." The lyrics to "Murder Kroger" may overstate it a tad, but defunct ironic rockers Attractive Eighties Women had the right idea when they dedicated the song to the Kroger located at 725 Ponce de Leon Ave.

For years, mythology has flourished surrounding the Murder Kroger nickname. According to the Internetz, the handle isn't all hyperbole. In August 2002, the body of a man was reportedly found in a car in its parking lot. "A passerby noticed a strong odor coming from the car and alerted police," the AJC reported.

But it's the metaphorical meaning behind the name that's caused it to stick. While the rest of Ponce de Leon homogenizes like milk, Kroger has maintained its authentic (read: shitty but lovable) character while attracting the same familiar breed of 24-hour clientele.

Apparently, the corporate denizens of the Cincinnati-based food chain are aware of the city's term of endearment for its Ponce de Leon Avenue location, which is also affectionately referred to as "Killer Kroger," "Crack Kroger," and "Freddy Kroger." Though Glynn Jenkins, the director of communications for the chain's Atlanta district, wouldn't confirm the origins of the nickname, he emailed this killer quote: "No matter the location or social 'name' given to a particular store, Kroger actively seeks opportunities to provide shoppers with convenience, quality and variety of products, faster checkout and lower prices to create a great shopping experience."

Oh, the irony.

— Rodney Carmichael

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ILLUSTRATION BY BAILEY SEITTER
  • Illustration by Bailey Seitter
Q:

What is the dog to dog park ratio for the city of Atlanta?


A:

As it turns out, there is limited information available on the actual number of domesticated dogs in Atlanta proper. The American Veterinary Medical Association's Pet Ownership Calculator calculates the estimated pet population in a community based on national pet ownership averages and U.S. Census data. In 2012, Atlanta had an estimated population of 443,775, which translates to an estimated 62,299 dogs.

We also looked at totals for both Fulton and DeKalb counties. According to Fulton County Animal Services, it has 50,675 licensed dogs. Official numbers for DeKalb County were unavailable, so we turned again to the AVMA calculator for an estimate of 99,264 dogs based on 2012 Census data. Together, Fulton and DeKalb represent an average of licensed 74,969 dogs. So, Atlanta likely has somewhere between 62,299-74,969 dogs.

Next, the number of off-leash dog parks — or as they're known in the dog park industry, OLDPs — in Atlanta. According to Atlanta's Office of Parks, the city's two designated OLDPs are located at Piedmont and South Bend parks. That would make the conservative ratio of dogs to OLDPs in the City of Atlanta 62,299-to-2.

— SD

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ILLUSTRATION BY JIM HODGSON
  • Illustration by Jim Hodgson
Q:

What's the reason for the big hump in the downtown connector?


A:

In the mid-1940s, the Georgia Highway Department commissioned H.W. Lochner, an upstart transportation planning firm from Chicago, to design an expressway system for metro Atlanta. The city, particularly downtown, was well-developed, boasting a cluster of skyscrapers and low-rise buildings in a bustling central business district. The team's proposal, a helluva page-turner (really!) titled "Highway and Transportation Plan for Atlanta, Georgia," called for routes in all cardinal directions emanating from downtown, which is where most of the automobile traffic of the time was directed. The report would become the template of the paved monstrosity that (barely) serves the region today. By the 1970s, work had begun on the "Central Arterial," a four-lane road that began near where present-day I-75 and 85 merge north of the city, and which funneled half of the traffic onto the city streets near downtown.

The other motorists who wanted to zip past the city in their Buicks and Edsels needed a place to go. Rather than blast down Peachtree Street, planners opted to hook east, bypassing the central business district, state Capitol, and Grady Memorial Hospital — and slicing through Sweet Auburn and Old Fourth Ward, once considered the business and social hub of Atlanta's African-American community. But the land was cheaper and, as times were before the Civil Rights Movement, black residents did not have much political power to stop the effort. The expressway system would go on to cut through Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Pittsburgh as well.

"Many of the alignments for these highways were chosen to run through and displace the city's poorest people and decrepit neighborhoods, which made their acquisition very inexpensive," says Leon Eplan, who served two terms as city's planning commissioner in the late 1970s and 1990s. "Almost all of the residences were rental, some occupied by whites, but overwhelmingly they were properties in which African-Americans lived. ... The city viewed the highways program as 'slum clearance,' which they were."

Lochner's report made no bones about it, either: "The neighborhoods through which the expressways would pass are so depreciated that much of the improvement could aptly be classed as slum clearance ... Atlanta has made a noteworthy start toward replacing such dwellings with modern group housing, and the program would be given further impetus by construction of expressways."

— TW

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JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
Q:

Why did it take so long for MARTA to get serious about having transit-oriented developments built around train stations?


A:

MARTA will tell you it always has promoted the development of shops and condos around its rail stations, which is true. But let's jump back in time.

In the early 1960s, when a rapid-transit system was first proposed to link Atlanta with outlying metropolitan counties, not everyone was on board. After MARTA was established by the Georgia General Assembly in 1965, the newly formed transit agency had difficulty securing funding. Voters in Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties along with those in Atlanta approved MARTA stations in their localities, but only Fulton, DeKalb, and Atlanta voters agreed to fund the system. Though they were denied a major portion of MARTA's potential ridership, planners and engineers pressed on with their work of designing the track and the stations.

Of the 27 original MARTA stations in Atlanta, 21 were selected as possible sites for mixed-use transit-oriented development. And plans were actually drawn up with input from neighborhoods and businesses. While a few of the plans were carried out and implemented — we're looking at you, Lindbergh — a large portion of them remained unfulfilled thanks to a lack of interest from developers. MARTA engineers were more interested in creating a system focused on speed rather than building communities. Leon Eplan, a former city planning commissioner, remembers internal debates about this very subject. Faster trains required spread out stations, which called for more parking.

Remember that when MARTA was being constructed in the 1970s, Atlanta was in the middle of a protracted loss of population and businesses simultaneous with white flight to the suburbs. At its outset, MARTA primarily served people living on low incomes, since richer residents of the region still got around by driving. Building commercial, residential, and retail space along Atlanta's rail line just didn't appeal to developers. Instead, highways served as the primary commercial arteries for the metro region. This, plus years of the state funneling federal transportation dollars exclusively to highway construction, never allowed MARTA to reach its full potential in a variety of ways, transit-oriented development goals among them.

As the urban core's population began to rebound in the '90s and the city's economy began to improve, developers started taking a renewed interest in building near stations throughout the system, especially as young professionals began to demand more intown living options. Now, under new MARTA General Manager and CEO Keith Parker, the cash-strapped transit system is aggressively pushing smart development to raise revenues and create a dedicated ridership.

— CJ

[back to questions]


ILLUSTRATION BY BAILEY SEITTER
  • Illustration by Bailey Seitter
Q:

Why does Atlanta radio suck?


A:

Atlanta radio sucks for the same reason that terrestrial radio in every city in America sucks. Ever heard of the 1996 Telecommunications Act? Its passage led to the deregulation of mass media and the creation of radio monopolies such as Clear Channel. Consolidation killed local control. And playlists went corporate. That's the macro answer.

On the local level, Atlanta radio experienced a dizzying game of musical chairs last year that affected FM and AM stations up and down the dial. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Rodney Ho, who keeps better tabs on Atlanta radio than a digital antennae, called the change "unprecedented." It certainly left the city with an altered commercial radio landscape. Suddenly, top 40 pop is the new rock, the oldies are outie, and Southern rap is all over the map.

Electronic dance music seems to be the real driver behind pop radio's resurgence. The same homogenous sound that's attacking the charts is attacking the airwaves. Project 9-6-1 used to be Atlanta's hard-rock station, now Power 96.1 is straight pop. 99X (98.9) went from alt rock to hard rock, and Dave FM (92.9) switched from adult rock to sports talk. Confused yet? Wait, there's more. Oldies station Atlanta's Greatest Hits (106.7) is all news now. And throwback pop station Journey 97.9 now spins top 20 pop from sister station Q100. R&B/hip-hop station V-103 remains the perennial leader with old-school R&B station Kiss 104.1 and hip-hop station 107.9 close behind. Fledgling competitor 94.5 the Streetz is on the come-up since it began airing last year. Stations are plentiful but the choices have never been so limited as conglomerates compete for a shrinking audience share.

But, we are lucky in Atlanta to have several noncommercial stations that aren't part of the radio matrix: Georgia State's 88.5 consistently breaks new music across genres while Georgia Tech's 91.1 keeps FM radio eclectic. And Clark Atlanta University's 91.9 is probably the most progressive jazz station in the country.

But if all the music and sports and right-wing talk is too much to bear, local NPR affiliate 90.1 (WABE-FM) added two more hours of NPR this year. That's 120 less minutes of classical music — which, depending on your taste, sucks more or less.

— RC

[back to questions]


JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
Q:

Can we please burn down the torch standing near the Varsity? Visitors assume it's the Olympic Cauldron and I don't know how to explain why it's there.


A:

The official Olympic Cauldron is located atop a 132-foot tower at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Fulton Street near Turner Field. For the torch on the northern end of the Downtown Connector, you can thank Georgia Tech alum and realtor Taz Anderson. Anderson's decision to build the unofficial cauldron near Third and Spring streets angered Atlanta Olympic officials, who threatened to sue the developer if he claimed his tower was associated with the games. Keep in mind that it is located directly across from the actual Olympic Village where thousands of international athletes resided.

The developer instead draped the 12-story cauldron with American flags and sold passes to its observation deck. The structure has since been referred to as the "Centennial Tower," "Taz's Tower," and the "Torch of Freedom," and remains a lasting part of Atlanta's Olympic legacy.

As for whether or not you can torch the unofficial torch? Burning down someone else's private property without permission is generally considered illegal, so, no.

— MB

[back to questions]


JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
Q:

Where can I have a custom suit made for less than $1,000?


A:

We turned to haberdasher extraordinaire Sid Mashburn for advice: "Asking for a custom suit for less than $1,000 is like asking for a 1-carat diamond ring for less than $1,000. The ring exists, but the cut, clarity, and color will be found wanting."

That may be true, but some people's pockets are only so deep. We ended up at TRIO Custom Clothiers in Midtown, which offers "semi-bespoke" suits for $399-$728. Owners Ben McMillan and Mike Hu, who have degrees in computer science and business development, respectively, segued into fashion when they saw the need for affordable custom clothing in Atlanta. Allow yourself an hour to peruse fabrics (seersucker, linen, etc.), discuss features (pinstripes perhaps?), and view sample mannequins. You'll return in three weeks for a fitting and your finished suit will be ready the following week. One popular three-piece look, says McMillan, is a Glen Plaid jacket and pant (gray with blue details), a navy blue vest, diagonal striped tie in maroon, a solid maroon pocket square, and a baby blue gingham shirt.

— VF

[back to questions]


JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
Q:

Why does the city refuse to do anything to help Southwest Atlanta? Why is there absolutely NO economic development in this portion of the city? I've been here 14 years and we still have not a single coffee shop within miles and yet we have five convenience stores on one block!


A:

Talk about an economic desert — the description itself is an understatement for huge swaths of southwest Atlanta.

From Mechanicsville to Adamsville, the scene is familiar. A ride down Metropolitan Parkway reveals so many empty strip malls and former flea markets, abandoned car lots, and tumbleweeds that you almost yearn for the days when it was still a seedy prostitution strip called Stewart Avenue. At least there was something visible driving the local economy then. Besides the city of Atlanta's desperate attempt to clean up its image by renaming the street in 1997, the powers-that-be have done little to spur real redevelopment.

But civic interests can only bear so much of the blame when it comes to private investment. And it's impossible to diagnose the real problem without considering institutional racism, according to retired Georgia State University Professor Larry Keating, who authored the 2001 book Atlanta: Race, Class, and Urban Expansion. "The history of racism in the country is written in southwest Atlanta in the sense that development follows development a lot of times," he says. "And a lack of development leads to a lack of development."

In the late '80s, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Bill Dedman's Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative series "The Color of Money" uncovered the prevalence of redlining — the illegal practice of denying bank loans, mortgages, or access to other services based on race or the racial/cultural makeup of an area. But another part of southwest Atlanta's rich legacy includes the city's first middle-class enclave for African-Americans (Collier Heights), as well as the continued prominence of the Cascade corridor, stretching past I-285 but still in the city limits, where the city's black elite have long dwelled in upscale neighborhoods that might make Alpharettans blush. Yet, even they have to haul it to Cumberland Mall, Buckhead and, yes, Alpharetta in search of true shopping destinations. Which means their purchasing power is being used to empower the tax base of other neighborhoods, more often than not.

As for the more depressed areas within southwest Atlanta, the city created a tax allocation district for the Campbellton Road corridor in 2006, with the intent of spurring increased private development. But there's more hope for the area's diamond in the rough, Fort McPherson. After years of negotiation, by October the Army could begin relinquishing portions of the 488-acre former base to the city in an effort to create what Mayor Kasim Reed called in 2011 a future "model for sustainable urbanism." The master plan? Redevelop the walled-in mini-city into a live/work/play development anchored by a bioscience research center, according to Jack Sprott, the executive director of the state's McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority (MILRA). The same group of real estate developers (Forest City/Integral/Cousins) charged with turning downtown's Gulch into a mixed-use development and multimodal passenger terminal recently took the reins at McPherson to kick-start the project. And the state is already in negotiations to lease a building that would bring 1,000 employees to the area.

Sprott estimates 5,000-11,000 workers could eventually inhabit the complex. But questions persist about whether or not the redeveloped complex will integrate itself into the surrounding community and boost its economy. While Sprott says there are plans to open up certain gates to make McPherson passable soon, he admits it will be a slow, steady process. "It's kind of a heavy lift to change the community that quickly through one development," he says. "We're not Arthur Blank. We don't have a billion dollars to be able to spur growth at one time. We have to grow it slowly and we're hoping the community will grow with us."

As much as southwest Atlanta could use several economic shots in the arm, Keating warns that too much of a good thing could strip the community of its cultural commodity.

"Be careful what you wish for," he says. "There are lots of little yuppie places [in Atlanta] that are just far too cute for my taste. Gentrification, once you get it going, you ain't stopping it, baby. It's going to go right to the top."

— RC

[back to questions]


JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
Q:

Two years are cited on the City of Atlanta seal, 1847 (when the city was incorporated) and 1865 — why 1865 when the city was razed in Nov. 1864?


A:

It's true. During his infamous "March to the Sea," General William T. Sherman and his Union forces all but burned the City of Atlanta to the ground in 1864. But, according to Atlanta History Center archivist Carla Ledgerwood, "the reason the date is 1865 and not 1864 is that it commemorated the city's rebuilding and not its destruction." This sentiment is consistent with the word "Resurgens" emblazoned across the top of the seal, a Latin term for "rising again." Similarly, at the center of the seal is the ancient mythological bird the phoenix, which is said to have risen from its own ashes and been born again, making it immortal. "Atlanta has the distinction of being the only American city destroyed by war," Ledgerwood says.

— SD

[back to questions]


Q:

What's that smell?


A:
click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY WES DUVALL
  • Illustration by Wes Duvall

Depends on where you're standing.

The other night, I was standing at my stove, stirring down a pot of black-eyed peas and the smell was a rich mix: the smoky residue of cured pork rendered for the base, the sweetness of yellow onions caramelized in that fat, and the low, earthy musk of slow-cooking peas.

The following morning, I can tell you that I maybe had too many of those peas. Let's not talk about the smell.

Of course, that doesn't cover all the smells. Down at the Grant Park Farmers Market, it smells like peaches and over at the Earl, it smells like stale beer. I just called my friend, who was working in his studio, and he says the place smells like wet paint.

This is a lesson. You might not be able to choose the smell, but you can choose whether or not to stand near it.

— WW

[back to questions]


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