A Piece of Utopia

ImageWhile out one night, a group of friends and I went to Atlanta’s only Wet Willie’s which was awkwardly located streetside on Piedmont Road in Lindbergh City Center.  That got me thinking…Why isn’t Lindbergh living up to its full potential?

   As Atlanta’s only Transit-oriented Development site, Lindbergh Center can “get by” with its livability index with having residential apartments, a couple of restaurants, nightspots, a bank, and big-box stores to shop at nearby.  (and of course the coup de grace, the huge MARTA Station that makes all of this special, right).  For some reason, I don’t feel that Lindbergh City Center really qualifies as a true blue TOD site.  First off, there are thousands of parking space around it, which would really juxtapose the idea of a TOD site.  Second, the retail paradise is across the street from it all.  It would be lovely for a smaller Marshall’s store to relocate to City Center if that was possible.  I know they could definitely afford the rents here. But, in order to get to it, you have to walk 5 minutes from the train station, cross the traffic-choked Piedmont (and God forbid Sidney Marcus as well), and cross thousands of ample parking lots.  Very disgusting. 

What could be done better?  For one, Lindbergh City Center should try to look for some more suitable tenants.  MARTA is in the process of looking at some possible development sites around its train stations, and surprisingly enough, Lindbergh Center wasn’t one of them.  They must think its perfect or something. Second, make the area more inviting (to transit riders, that is.) Replace some of the parking decks with multi-level mixed-use development.  That would be a BIG move for the area. Also, if the retail on the other side of the tracks is looking to connect with the rest of the area, a pedestrian bridge wouldn’t hurt. Morsogo and Piedmont looks like a total crime scene.

Beverly Hills, 30339

ImageA couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of regaining my financial strength during my sophomore year of college by working at a Jimmy John’s in the posh suburban community of Vinings. If you haven’t visited this part of town, I highly recommend it. (That’s a first with it being over in Cobb-land).  It was once the site of the Boy Scout Troop under Bert Adams and also a occupation point of the Union troops as they advanced on Atlanta, having ravaged Kennesaw Mountain.  Today, it is a quiet, yet bustling edge city with many business headquarters and firms, including the Home Depot worldwide headquarters, eclectic eateries like Oriental Express, Noche, and local favorite, Canoe.  I noted Vinngs for its wonderful walkability and integration of office space with the rest of the small-town charm of the community.  You would never know that there were three gargantuan-sized Overlook skyscrapers on that hill with all of that development at Vinings Jubilee.  The railroad track is a pain, though, and can snarl traffic from Cobb Parkway to I-285.  I’ve always suggested that location should be a stop for the future commuter rail that Cobb badly needs.  

What’s in the future for this booming bedroom community?  Just peek over on the other side of the tracks (literally) in the Cumberland CID.  Riverwood is still in its constuction stages for a mixed-use development, and Park Vinings is slated to open soon for condo enthusiasts. Hotels are popping over off Cumberland Boulevard and Akers Mill, and Cumberland Mall is going through (yet again) more changes to its tenants.  

So if you’re needing to take a break from the norm, head o’er the Hooch to Vinings.  It seriously looks like you stepped onto St. Simons Island.  Also, for the record, the use of the phrase “Smynings” must cease and desist immediately. Two different places, people.

Funkytown USA

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I’m feeling a little nostalgic today as I listen to Daft Punk’s latest album, Random Access Memories.  Being a huge history buff, I randomly scrounge through pics of Atlanta pre-Olympics.  Wow, what a time.  Most notably, I can’t help but wonder how the city got away with permitting all of the discotheques, music halls, and gentlemen’s clubs that dotted much of the city.  Also, what made Atlanta such an attractive place then prior to what it is now?

We can all argue that 1970’s Atlanta is WAAAAAY different than what it is now. I may not have lived it, but from what I researched, 70′ Atlanta would get so many cool points than what today has coughed up. The Omni was not a convention space but a party zone with a short-lived amusement park, and a restaurant/disco lounge based on fellow Georgian actor, Burt Reynolds.  MARTA wasn’t much but bus service until the introduction of heavy rail in the summer of ’79, and EVERYONE rode the bus.  Sitting at the bus stop was apparently cool.  Midtown was the counterculture capital of the South (and kinda remains in a way), and Limelight was the Studio 54 of the South as well.  Maynard Jackson must have been a real cool cat to preside over a hip city then.  I wish Kasim could relax a little and let our city go!

What are some of your nostalgic Atlanta stories?  Leave a comment below and let me know what you remember back in the day.

Carlanta

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Hope you didn’t drown in Atlanta’s roadwork weekend extravaganza these past two weeks!  If you missed it, don’t worry.  It WILL be back next year. All of these backups got me thinking  why we have such gridlock. Last week, Los Angeles’ A+D Museum unveiled their newest exhibit, “Windshield Perspective”, a visual representation of the modern city that automobiles built. Unfortunately.  Atlanta shares that same vice with the City of Angels, as it is no surprise that our traffic rivals that of cities the size of Los Angeles and New York, just in a smaller space.  But why?  We don’t have as many people as they do, right?  WRONG. The Metropolitan Statistical Area of Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell just passed the 6 million mark, meaning that there are people that commute from Meriwether County southwest of Newnan to jobs in the northern suburbs of Forsyth County, while watching our local news, reading our papers, and contributing to our economy.  This has happened for years, but not as synonymous as we’d all hope.  Atlanta’s terrible traffic was the result of the expansion of our highways, which led to the suburban expansion that we’ve seen today.  Race and class also plays a part in traffic, as we live by the “Drive til’ you Qualify” motto of moving farther from the city to areas that are affordable.  Once African-Americans were liberated to this same ideal in the late 60’s, they followed suit.  We could be like Midwestern cities and build more interstates that connect the already-existing freeways, but the east side resistance to the Stone Mountain Freeway proved that they shall not be moved.  It needs to stay that way.  Then, there’s the alternatives.  We know MARTA is less than stellar, but they jumped off around the time the metro experienced its most explosive growth.  The road infrastructure couldn’t keep up then, and now the transit can’t provide adequate service to suburbanites now, leading to the gridlock of even our local and arterial roads.  (Ever wonder why Ponce or Howell Mill is ALWAYS clogged?)

So why so many cars???                  

I believe that people don’t see any other way. People here are quick to bash MARTA when they have never ridden it, but won’t look at what they are doing to improve it.  Some people just do more in their cars than at home or work.  Food delivery services has increased by the boatload here showing that businesses can cut costs if they send others to deliver their product. Also, our spheres of influence lies in the suburbs, not the city.  If you walk through Atlantic Station, Lenox, or even in Midtown, 8 out of 10 people you see are OTPers, meaning they DROVE down. Realtors can see this, which is why strip malls and McMansions are the norm here.  Others just like to be by themselves when they drive for peace and quiet.  You’re in the wrong place for that.  

Our only solution to change this behavior is to offer clean alternatives to driving.  Carpooling is the first step.  If you know someone you can ride with, especially to work, leave the car at home.  Join a vanpool is you know commuting will be the norm all week.  MARTA won’t change unless you ASK for it.  Attend public hearings and voice your opinion on what should be built.  If you have the power to telework, DO IT!!! It is verrrrry rewarding. Biking is becoming the fastest-growing commute alternative in Atlanta, and if you’re balsy, ride on in with the gas-guzzlers to make ’em jealous. And, of course, if you have the pleasure of living within walking distance of anywhere, give those two feet the workout. 

Moral of this story, Los Angeles isn’t as glamorous in the morning and evening just like some of us with no makeup.  Sometimes you can’t even see the city because it has a smogging problem, which we all know can be very deadly  Let’s not let Atlanta get that way and help control the car population.  Have your vehicle spayed and neutered.  Next week is a perfect start on how to do so.  (See link below!!!)

http://www.gacommuteoptions.com/Commuter-Services/Dump-the-Pump

 

Save Atlanta’s Playtime!!!

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Well, all you cool cats, pimps, skanks, johns and scalawags out there, you’ve been saved.  The Atlanta City Council voted Monday to block the legislation that would ink the rezoning of the Cheshire Bridge Road corridor, razing it of its world-famed adult businesses, video bars, sex and smoke shops.  However, I still can’t help to think WHY after all of these years, someone gets their balls up to wanna stand up and make a change?

  If you haven’t kept up with the story, a few months ago Council member Alex Wan proposed a measure to “redevelop” business along Cheshire Bridge Road.  That meant the sex shops, strip clubs, and even some car washes and consignment shops would be evacuated for a plan that doesn’t seem to really go anywhere.  I even looked at some of the proponents of the measure saying that they wanted Cheshire Bridge to be among the likes of Little Five Points and Virginia Highlands…comparing a sprawled-out thoroughfare to two walkable neighborhoods. That’s original. Thinking about it, this whole fiasco sound awfully familiar with the smoke and clouds known as The Streets of Buckhead (which we all seem to have very little faith in- let’s be real). I honestly though it was a ploy to bring him back into good terms (and office) with the locals there because he was recently given the shame of being voted “Least Progressive Atlanta Council member”.  And I thought Kwanza Hall was a bad dude. 

    Consider this a win for Atlanta once again.  The city has failed to create an overall identity for itself, and this guy might have just stuck a dagger straight through the heart of what we could consider our bread and butter.  Yeah, Smut Road looks tacky for any soccer moms living in adjacent Morningside and Linridge Manor, but the reality is that it has been there for YEARS. If you don’t like how a neighborhood looks on the inside and out, maybe you should just move.  Sam Massell killed Buckhead Village years ago and now there isn’t a stitch of progress on the new project that would have replaced where college kids, young professionals, and tourists called home. (because they were too drunk to drive).  Atlanta has to seriously move out of this “next big thing” trend with mixed-use development and focus on restoring what we already have. Hint Hint to Avalon in Alpharetta…

In the Parentheses vs. Out the Parentheses

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We’ve all heard this (if you can call it) subculture of the ITP vs OTP, or for you thousands of newcomers: In the Perimeter vs. Out the Perimeter, the Perimeter being the Beltway that encircles the great city of Atlanta and other inner cities and neighborhoods, Interstate 285.  There are sooooo many differences between areas in and out that are too nameless to mention but it brought a deep thought to my mind for some time.  I’m in the planning stages of moving to a new place, and due to my urban planner and Milennial mentality, I have a huge dislike for anything beyond the Great Wall of Atlanta.  But if I were to live anywhere outside of 285, where would it be? 

For starters, since I’m such a transit snob, it would have to be somewhere at least on a MARTA bus line.  I always liked the thrill of having to travel long distances to get to a place.  However, it would be hard for late night fraternizing in Midtown or at a late showing movie, so a rail station would have to be necessary.  (Bikers still don’t get any love at night).  I’d probably throw my hat in the ring for Dunwoody. Reasons?  A) Perimeter Mall (second most-popular shopping paradise  next to Lenox), B) Direct MARTA access to elsewhere (Keith Parker is rumored to live near and take MARTA on in from here…) C) Walkability (not the greatest, but better than cookie-cutter anywhere else).  

Sure, Dunwoody is seen as a Stepford Wives suburb of prestige and a newer commuter business district, but it somewhat intrigues me as how quickly it blossomed over time.  It used to be a cow pasture in the early 1970’s to now holding a couple of four-star hotels, a mega mall, and a couple of Fortune 500 Companies.  But for me, I’d rather stay in the real reason why anything else here in the area still exists. (City of Atlanta) 

You’re Goin’ Downtown, Bub.

Name the last time you have ever went Downtown for anything. Falcons’ Game? Convention at the World Congress Center? Did you and your crew post up at Underground (when it was worth something), or do you happen to be one of those sheltered types that choose not to bother with it because it seems “scary”?  Contrary to popular belief, Downtown Atlanta is thriving as an community and as an amenity, according to Saporta Report columnist Saba Long.  As a Downtown resident for 4 years, I can attest to the growth that Downtown is seeing as a community and not just a 9-5 business district.  Most of this growth is attributed to Georgia State University, my now alma matter, who fuels most of the growth to supplement the 30,000 plus student body and staff that scatter around Downtown.  Downtown also sees growth from being the heavy tourist bubble of Atlanta, containing the Georgia Dome, Phillips Arena, World of Coke, etc. Conventioneers respect Atlanta in the aspect that all of these attractions are within walking distance and transit accessible to their hotels.  Downtown is also the regional headquarters for Federal, State, and Local offices, all situated in sort of the “no-mans land” south of Five Points.  I personally would love to see that area thrive more to attract people to stay instead of leave once the sun goes down.  Maybe it would be Downtown’s chance at snagging the only thing missing that would make it totally livable: A GROCERY STORE!!!! All in all, I love Downtown.  It makes Atlanta a true blue city and I hope to see Downtown blossom into bigger and better visions. Image