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Friday, February 15, 2013

What to do with Cheshire Bridge Road?

Proposal targets non-conforming businesses along Cheshire Bridge Road, including strip clubs
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Proposal targets 'non-conforming' businesses along Cheshire Bridge Road, including strip clubs
Last month, Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan kicked a hornet's nest in January when he announced plans to clean up Cheshire Bridge Road, which some have branded Atlanta's red-light district.

The City has prohibited adult businesses along the road since 2005, but existing venues were allowed to stay open. Wan proposed legislation aimed at changing that image by giving noncompliant businesses a deadline to comply with special zoning requirements.

Some residents and businesses welcomed the news, thinking it might spell the end of the strip clubs and head shops that dot the quirky strip between Piedmont and La Vista roads. Others, however, decried the effort, calling it an attempt to yuppify Cheshire Bridge. The Atlanta Zoning Review Board deferred the action at least until March, but it remains a much-discussed topic.

The Georgia Voice this week gave both sides a chance to debate. On one side you have Wan, who says the proposal respects community members' hopes for the area and helps create a "revitalized corridor containing a broader mix of shops, restaurants and other amenities." Rumors of Cheshire Bridge becoming another slice of suburbia were exaggerated, he said.

In the opposite corner, you have Matthew Cardinale, the editor and publisher of Atlanta Progressive News and City Hall gadfly. Cardinale isn't exactly thrilled, to say the least, with Wan's plan. Cardinale, who lives along Cheshire Bridge Road, says the proposal is "about the ongoing project of gentrification, homogenization, sterilization and capitalization of a historic neighborhood." He writes:

So, do we, the gay community, allow the Jungle and the Heretic to go the same way as Backstreet? Do we allow another community to be yuppified, buppified, and sterilized - forcing us, the gays who wish to party, to some industrial area in the outskirts like Mr. Wan envisions, perhaps Fulton Industrial, where we can dance the night away in one of the worst pollution hotspots in all of the metro Atlanta area?

Cheshire Bridge, he writes, is "our red light district" and "a natural outgrowth and expression of our very humanity, which we should take pride in." He also urges members of the gay community to be careful about the politicians they choose to support. Wan is a member of the LGBT community: "Sometimes, having an openly gay elected official can result in the pursuit of policies that actually harm the gay community. ... We should organize to defend, protect and preserve our historic neighborhood."

Both pieces are worth a read.

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