What's particularly cool about Georgia State's greenway plan is that it won't just benefit the university. In addition to students having a more pleasant campus, Downtown residents will have a more attractive neighborhood. Burns delves into the topic and chats with an Atlanta architecture blogger and beloved member of the CL commentariat:
"As a resident, it's really exciting to see the level of street activity rise with these developments, particularly at night when the area around Woodruff Park was dead for so many years," says Darin Givens, who lives in a historic building that fronts the park. "Having more people on the street and more green space will make downtown feel safer and more livable. Put this greenway together with the surge of student population via the new One 12 Courtland housing development - bringing hundreds of new student residents here - and downtown is going to end up with more of the kind of college-town vibrancy you see in other urban campuses."
Givens, who writes about urban development and historic preservation at the well regarded blog ATLurbanist, remarks: "I think it's a great plan and a deceptively significant one. The activity around Kell Hall is fairly cut off from the street level with the pedestrian bridge across Decatur Street and a small courtyard that's practically hidden from street view; it's a setup that echoes the 'gerbil tube' pedestrian bridges of downtown's John Portman towers - a 1970s aesthetic that lifted office workers and students off the streets."
Give Burns' piece, which is accompanied with renderings, a full read.
Last night, more than 100 concerned residents, neighborhood activists, and elected officials squeezed into City Hall for the final community-benefits meeting. After months of contentious discussions, a committee of city officials and neighborhood leaders voted 9-3 in favor of the non-binding community plan.
Mayor Kasim Reed said the $30 million tied to the plan was an initial investment in Castleberry Hill, English Avenue, and Vine City. The city, he noted, is currently applying for Choice Neighborhood grants worth upward of $250 million and planning "tens of millions of dollars" in infrastructure repairs that would help boost the neighborhoods adjacent to the stadium.
According to Reed and Councilman Ivory Young, an estimated $100 million has been sprinkled into those communities since the Georgia Dome opened in 1989. The mayor said the forthcoming investments would have more impact given that most of the community funds would be spent in the near future.
"I have a record of delivering significant financial resources that suggests we'll be able to do the same here," Reed said. "As opposed to doing it over 10 or 20 years, we're going to do it in four, six, eight, or 10 [years]. We're going to get through this."
But numerous residents and local elected officials called for the committee to pass a legally binding agreement instead of the non-binding plan. Their ideas ranged from a revenue-sharing contract with the Falcons to hotel-motel tax revisions that would help the neighborhoods in the long term. State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, called for traditional jobs training programs and for greater community input.
"People want to know that English Avenue, Vine City, or Castleberry Hill aren't left out," State Rep. "Able" Mable Thomas, D-Atlanta, told the committee. "That's what they want to know. They don't want to have to fight City Hall. They want to be in partnership."
Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who tried to ensure the stadium neighborhood residents had final approval of the plan, called upon city officials on the community-benefits committee to waive their final vote. The motion, Mitchell said, would've allowed the neighborhoods to truly give their final seal of approval on a process that he thought had caused "unnecessary and unfortunate" division between both sides. Last week, Mitchell said he was "bamboozled" by the recent rush to finish the plan.
"What I have seen in this process has made me ashamed for our city," Mitchell says. "We can recover, but I'm not happy."
Moments later, Councilman Michael Julian Bond ruled that motion out of order as Reed shook his head in disbelief toward the Council president. After Mitchell finished airing his grievances, a separate motion to approve the community benefits plan passed.
Reed said he was open to continue talking with English Avenue and Vine City residents about the community investments. But he disagreed that the community-benefits process was rushed and pointed to nearly 20 meetings that have happened.
"If you are willing to meet, I'm willing to keep meeting," Reed said. "I chair the board you'll submit applications to [for future funding requests]."
The proposal now heads to Council's committee development meeting this afternoon. It'll likely proceed to the year's final Council meeting on Monday. Reed has said that the plan needs to pass to keep the Falcons stadium timeline on schedule. It's bound to be a heated meeting.
After a few days to digest the news of the our beloved Atlanta Braves moving away from my neighborhood, 12 miles north to Cobb County, many things have become apparent to me. The biggest one being things are not always what they seem. I live in Summerhill, the small forgotten neighborhood where the Atlanta Braves reside, and I'm proud to have called this my home since 2002. I also love my Major League baseball neighbors, the Atlanta Braves. As neighbors go, the Braves have been very good to us over the years supporting our efforts to improve our community.
Having been involved in my neighborhood over the years, we had been promised growth and development by the city for many years. When the Olympic Committee chose Atlanta as the site for the 1996 Olympic Games, they donated the stadium at the conclusion of the games and the Braves had a new home. The promises of revitalization, post-1996, were a series of empty promises. Not only for our neighborhood, but for the Braves organization as well.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle yesterday reported that Atlanta-based design firm Stevens & Wilkinson will oversee a $3.3 million overhaul of Liberty Plaza, a greenspace and the Gold Dome's future staging area for protests.
Last August, Gov. Nathan Deal was considering making some renovations to the area around the Gold Dome, some of which were proposed near the end of former Gov. Sonny Perdue's second term. The improvements are aimed to making the area more walkable and friendly to tourists. As part of those changes, the parking deck on Capitol Avenue adjacent to the State Capitol Building and overlooking the Downtown Connector would be razed and replaced with a greenspace for demonstrations.
Liberty Plaza would be designed to accommodate nearly 4,500 protesters. Initial plans call for the lot's demolition to start in January. The new plaza would be finished by the end of next year.
You might recall that, around the time Deal was said to be rethinking the area around Capitol Hill, officials were scratching their heads over what to do with the former World of Coca-Cola. One rumored possibility, which has been thrown about for several years, was to open the state's official history museum inside the vacant building near Underground Atlanta. But Georgia Building Authority spokesman Paul Melvin tells CL that plans for the proposed South Downtown tourist attraction are "on hold at this time." The structure might need upwards of $17 million in repairs.
We also reached out to Stevens & Wilkinson for more details. If we hear back, we'll post an update.
Our Lady of Lourdes, the 101-year Catholic church located near the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, has tried to purchase a 1.7-acre plot bordered by Boulevard, Edgewood Avenue, and Gartrell and Daniel streets for the past several months. The religious institution plans to construct a sanctuary on its current lot and would use the land to provide parking for its members. But it needs a recommendation from the city's Zoning Review Board, and later Atlanta City Council's approval, to rezone the property.
Several neighborhood leaders have pushed back against the parish's plan. To some, the proposed parking lot represents bad urban design for a neighborhood that will soon welcome alternative transit options such as the Atlanta Streetcar and Atlanta Beltline. The church, which has many parishioners who regularly commute to services, says the parking would help the institution thrive in the years to come.
After tensions boiled at numerous meetings last June, the church agreed to defer its original application and devise a new solution that suited the entire neighborhood's needs. But those talks stalled and a compromise wasn't reached.
David Patton, an Our Lady of Lourdes member and former Neighborhood Planning Unit-M land use chair, says the church is "finished with neighborhood shenanigans" and now will move forward. Its latest proposal, which features a surface parking lot with several liner buildings along the property's edge, was recently rejected by Fourth Ward Neighbors and NPU-M.
"We've decided to make our case [to ZRB]," Patton says. "Parking is an issue in the district. ... Ultimately, we've got a group of folks who aren't interest in supporting longterm historically black churches."
According to Fourth Ward Neighbors President Matthew Garbett, the current application contained loopholes that didn't require the church to build out those structures unless funding was available.
"The buildings were a pretense," Garbett says. "It's a parking lot with buildings shoved around. The site plan would not be binding. ... They could completely just build a surface parking lot and never [construct] the buildings. There's no guarantee."
A spokesman for the Georgia Building Authority, which owned the landmark building, confirmed that the Olympia was purchased for $2.2 million by company called CSH-23 Peachtree LLC. According to the Georgia secretary of state's office, the company shares addresses and executives with Encore Real Estate, which has offices in Atlanta and Tampa.
The wedge-shaped, two-story Depression-era structure designed by famed Atlanta architects Ivey and Crook has been on the block, and then off the block, and then up for sale again since 2012. It's got some history.
We've heard various rumors about the project - potentially a drug store? - but haven't been able to confirm any details. Calls to Encore about its plans and Coca-Cola about the future of its sign that sits on top of the building have not been returned.
Around 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon, two APD Path Force officers were headed to their parked squad car after grabbing lunch at Picnic!, a restaurant inside Irwin Street Market. As they left the building, the officers realized they were under fire.
According to APD spokesman Greg Lyons, 28-year-old Decatur resident Derrick Byron shot "three to four" rounds at the two officers from a small townhouse complex across Sampson Street close to the Atlanta Beltline's Eastside Trail. Neither officer was injured in the incident.
The policemen, who are members of the special unit that patrols the 22-mile loop of parks, trails, and transit, pursued Byron and caught him several blocks to the north. "[When he saw the police], he immediately threw the weapon down and surrendered," Lyons tells CL.
APD spokesman John Chafee says Bryon's gunfire hit several buildings. Jake Rothschild, CEO of Irwin Street Market's parent company, tells CL that the shooting didn't injure anyone or cause damage to his building. The incident, he says, piqued some customers' interest and attracted news trucks to the scene.
"They just had lunch with us," Rothschild says. "They were getting into their car to continue patrol. A guy was in the bushes across the street."
The officers, Lyons says, didn't respond to a 911 call or make a self-initiated traffic stop - and seemed baffled by the unprompted incident.
According to Fulton County Jail, Byron faces two counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, reckless conduct, and violating parole.
Penny McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, on Wednesday night told City Hall officials, Invest Atlanta representatives, and leaders from neighborhood groups night that a significant portion of the $30 million intended to help communities adjacent to the new $1 billion sports facility would be poured into early childhood education efforts.
And not only would Falcons owner Arthur Blank's charitable organization invest directly into Vine City, English Avenue, and Castleberry Hill, but it would leverage outside donations too.
"We feel that we have both the opportunity to invest dollars, which is obviously why I'm here tonight, but also to use our influence to bring others investors into the community," she said.
One of those individuals could be Berkshire Hathaway's CEO and chairman. McPhee mentioned that she recently sat down with Buffett to talk about possible investments in early education in the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium. While she didn't delve into specifics, and added it wouldn't happen for at least several years, the billionaire philanthropist's possible contributions are a possibility.
"They've told us they're ready to invest in west side Atlanta," she said.
McPhee added that the foundation has already helped English Avenue and Vine City for the past several years. That includes funding the construction of Vine City Park and making significant grants to KIPP Public Charter Schools, which operates a location in the area. She says the foundation also helped distribute thousands of pounds of vegetables through mobile markets, giving community members access to healthy foods.
Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm, and the Blank Family Foundation are also looking into creating a resource center that would train potential workers for stadium construction and operations jobs.
McPhee emphasized the importance of hiring in the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium. And she called on local churches and organizations to help recruit residents to employment and training opportunities.
"I can't guarantee every single person will get a job," McPhee said. "What I can guarantee is that we can get them into a pipeline, and if they need a GED, we can help them get a GED. If they need a skills training certification, we can help them get a skills training certification. We can help them with the application process, we can line them up to [meet] contractors and sub-contractors."
Reed sat down CL on Wednesday night to discuss his four years in office and, if re-elected, what he'd do with a second and final term. We'll save most of that conversation for our handy election issue that hits news racks on Oct. 31. But when asked whether PARKatlanta's contract with the city would be renewed when it expires in 2016, the mayor said it was unlikely.
"I don't think it gets renewed," Reed said. "And that will probably be my last gift to the people of Atlanta."
Reed made it a point to mention that he inherited the PARKatlanta deal, which former Mayor Shirley Franklin inked in September 2009, and that his hands have been tied given how the contract's revenue was tied to the city's larger budget.
"The PARKatlanta contract was here when I [arrived] and that the budget was built around the $5 million in PARKatlanta revenue - a budget that was very constrained," Reed said. "I didn't have the ability to not replace a $5 million hole."
Last November, Reed said the city "significantly renegotiated" the 7-year contract, agreeing to receive less cash from the firm in exchange for more transparency and accountability.
Sure, it's election season. And the parking company is an easy target. But Reed's latest comments could show that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. In about, well, three years.
After nearly a decade of playing host to thousands of boozy merry-goers and jam bands at quaint Candler Park, Sweetwater yesterday announced moving its popular 420 Fest to Centennial Olympic Park in 2014.
It'd be hard to gauge how Candler Park residents feel about the festival's move. Some enjoyed the commotion and crowds that flocked to the park and mellow intown neighborhood. Fans of bands could listen to songs from their porches and host parties. Others had grown weary of the illegally parked cars, loud music, and festivals' impact on the greenspace. But moving the three-day festival will affect the neighborhood. [Disclosure: CL has been a festival sponsor in past years.]
In a farewell letter to residents, Jennifer Bensch of Happy Ending Productions, the firm that manages the festival, said organizers "wanted to begin looking at look long-term opportunities that could potentially help grow the festival and provide better access for local patrons and those traveling in for the fest."
"We've been able to cultivate this festival over the years and look forward to it evolving even more in the years ahead," she wrote. "After listening to the neighborhood, we know that growing the festival would not be possible if we stayed. This change in location will allow for a bigger footprint with greater transportation access, all right in the heart of downtown Atlanta."
Earlier this year, some neighborhood residents told CL that they felt the laid-back festival, which had grown to accommodate as many as 50,000 people from across metro Atlanta, had become too large for the neighborhood. A few skipped out of town during the festival to avoid the noise and crowds. The debate over 420 Fest - which included, in true Candler Park fashion, a temporary sign protesting the event on one critic's home - was a complicated one that Atlanta's had before: how do you balance the use of public parks while also respecting the surrounding neighborhoods?
In addition to the businesses and restaurants along McLendon Avenue's commercial strip, the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization had benefited from Sweetwater setting up stages, beer trucks, and food stands in the park. For many years, Sweetwater allowed CPNO to use its likeness for a 5K held during the festival. This year, the race generated nearly $20,000. That money helped pay for community improvements and projects.
CPNO President Steve Cardwell told CL last night that it's "sad to see them go in some ways but understand[s] they have goals they want to achieve." He also said that the neighborhood association's board recognized that the growing festival wouldn't last forever in the park. Over the summer, its members started brainstorming other ways to raise revenue to support community projects. One example is partnering with the Horizon Theatre to sell tickets to The Santaland Diaries, the annual yuletide performance of the play adapted from a well-known David Sedaris monologue.
In her email, Bensch noted that Sweetwater is "not abandoning Candler Park." Funds from the most recent festival will still be allocated to projects to help fix up the eponymous greenspace, as the brewer has done in the past. It's working with Park Pride, the Atlanta greenspace advocacy group, to determine the best use of that cash. Sweetwater will continue to sponsor the neighborhood's Fall Fest, a more neighborhood-scale event organized by the CPNO. The 5K, however, will be brought in house and centered around the Downtown site before ending at the park.
"Candler Park was a great home and we want to give back where we can," a Sweetwater spokeswoman told CL last night.
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