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Friday, July 31, 2009

Re-Visioning of Midtown has strong opposition

After a three-year run as Atlanta's nightclub of choice for ballers, b-boys and high-rollers, Vision served its last Red Bull and vodka on Aug. 5, 2006. The fabled VIP haven for everyone from P. Diddy to Britney Spears to many of the now-jailed principals behind the BMF drug-trafficking empire, the glitzy club effectively shifted operations to the sprawing (and now-shuttered) Compound, on the city's Westside, then moved the party up to the Velvet Room on the northern Perimeter.

Since then, the only noise on that stretch of Peachtree Street, between 10th and 12th streets, has been the sound of construction equipment.

But the Gidewon brothers — the four press-shy siblings from Eritrea who rule Atlanta's hip-hop nightlife — plan to change all that.

After months of community speculation, brother Michael has embarked on the application process to reopen Vision in the strip of buildings on Peachtree that once housed the old Cotton Club and Pasta Da Pulcinella locations. From the outside, the windowless buildings appear vacant and dilapidated. But, according to sources, the club interior is enormous and was built out nearly a year ago to the Gidewon's trademark spare-no-expense standards.

Now that the Gidewons have finally filed for their permits, at least one civic group is determined to see they don't get them.

"We don't want the loud music, cruising, litter and shootings that go with this type of club," says Peggy Denby, president of the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance. "We're going to oppose this very loudly."

Denby points out that since the original Vision closed, that building has been replaced by the 1010 Midtown condo tower and, across the street, the 12th & Midtown mixed-use complex — including condos, offices and a Loews luxury hotel — is expected to be completed early next year.

In other words, she explains, there will be a lot of new residents and businesses nearby who may not appreciate the noise, traffic and lines around the block that a mega-club can bring.

"The hangers-on who can't afford to get into the club are as bad as the club itself," Denby says. "There's no good that can come of this for the neighborhood."

On the other hand, the Gidewons have mighty deep pockets — they've held a lease on the vacant buildings for years — and friends in high places. The Gidewon Foundation's annual Party for a Cause ball, benefiting homeless and underprivileged children, took place earlier this month at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History and was attended by Mayor Shirley Franklin and mayoral candidate Kasim Reed.

Also on their side is the fact that the building has an established history as a nightclub. On the other hand, the area has since been designated a Special Public Interest District, which gives them more land-use hoops to jump through. And, of course, they still need to secure a liquor license.

The next public discussion of the proposed new Vision is Tuesday at the Neighborhood Planning Unit-E meeting. A week later, it will be considered at a meeting of the Midtown Development Review Committee. This is likely to be the start of a long, drawn-out battle.

Oh, and BTW, the brothers also apparently intend to reopen Compound this fall.

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