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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Little Five Points grows up, gets its own CID to potentially fund parking deck, traffic signals, bus circulator

The quirky cultural bastion that is Little Five Points could soon become a grown-up commercial strip. In the coming months, business owners are expected to form a community improvement district to potentially fund everything from sidewalks to parking decks, and push for more cash from City Hall, for the eccentric eastside neighborhood.

The creation of a CID in L5P would allow business owners to tax themselves to raise cash for a wide range of neighborhood projects — basically a smaller version Midtown’s and Downtown’s business improvement districts. Star Bar Owner Kahle Davis says the idea initially grew out of small business owners wanting to boost commerce and produce more local events in the neighborhood. But the fully formed concept gained traction several months ago when the city began restricting parking on Inman Park streets, leaving many shopkeepers without many parking options for their patrons.

“When the streets around Little Five Points and Inman Park went to residential-only parking, it created a severe crunch and turned up the dial on what was already a difficult parking situation,” says Scott Ball, principal of nonprofit planning group Commons Planning.

With a CID formed, local business owners could soon be able to jumpstart a variety of projects in L5P by taxing themselves instead of holding out for funds from government agencies or third-party grants. That kind of entity would effectively allow store owners to advocate for more cash to help pay for improvements. Sources tell CL that L5P business owners would likely focus on initiatives such as new traffic signals, a bus circulator, or a parking deck. Plus, smaller projects improving the look and feel of L5P such as sidewalk repairs and pedestrian-oriented light upgrades would be considered.

“The problem has always been getting funding for those improvements," says Richard Shapiro, a L5P-based dentist and Inman Park resident. “We have a number of issues being on [the border of Fulton and DeKalb counties]. Moreland [Avenue] is a state road. It crosses different [Atlanta City] Council districts. Trying to coordinate where funding should come from, there are all these various entities involved, and having a CID would give us better access to available funding.”

This past Monday, Atlanta City Council approved the first of two ordinances needed to form the CID. The first proposal, which authorizes the district in DeKalb County, will be followed by a companion measure for Fulton County. In taking this step, Councilman Kwanza Hall says L5P business owners are making neighborhood fixes more sustainable through the CID’s creation. If done right, he says it will help improve the entire commercial strip in future years.

"I see it being equally as dynamic; but cleaner, safer, better organized," Hall says. "I see it having a kind of entity that’s responsible on a daily basis to keep it clean, nice, and safe. The business owners are responsible, but don’t have resources. This will do the things that's needed."

L5P's CID members could begin to outline potential goals as early as this fall. The process would entail the formation of a board that would vote on how much business owners should tax themselves. Public input would be sought for each individual proposed project. Ball says the group's efforts would all be in the name of preserving, while improving, the character of Little Five Points.

"We'd consider ourselves failures if we did anything to erase that funkiness,” Ball says.

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