King Krugman

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If you haven’t read or been forwarded an article showing that Hotlanta isn’t so hot when it comes to upward mobility, you must be one of the ones penny-pinching to get to the club in your beat up Toyota Celica. That hasn’t passed emissions. Lately, Atlanta has become the butt of every sociologist, urban planner, economists’ joke, including the honorable Paul Krugman who spared “Sprawlanta” no rod and beat us to a pulp.

Krugman claims that, 

 

“…And in Atlanta poor and rich neighborhoods are far apart because, basically, everything is far apart; Atlanta is the Sultan of Sprawl, even more spread out than other major Sun Belt cities. This would make an effective public transportation system nearly impossible to operate even if politicians were willing to pay for it, which they aren’t. As a result, disadvantaged workers often find themselves stranded; there may be jobs available somewhere, but they literally can’t get there.” – Paul Krugman

 

He couldn’t have been more right.  Of course, his claims came with great resistance from none other than yokels.  More specific, a sort-of-known host of a WSB radio show and Fox News contributor, Erick Erickson (fake name this guy says) voiced his pain over Krugman’s harshful words. Erickson says that Krugman should stop bashing Atlanta becuase, 

 

“Atlanta is middle of the pack for Sunbelt cities. It’s more dense than places like Montgomery County, Maryland and Westchester County, New York, which nobody seems to have a problem with.”

 

So wrong, He listed the density of the City of Atlanta and not the 28-county metro area which CLEARLY was what Krugman was alluding to.  Also, no one has a problem with places like Montgomery or Westchester County because maybe they are exemplary jurisdictions that don’t really need density because:

1. They are NOT the main sphere of influence for D.C. and New York City respectively

2. Both counties rank in the top 20 wealthiest in the COUNTRY.

3. Westchester County developed WAAAAY before most suburbs. Atlanta is a new age city. They have three commuter rail lines that span three states while Atlanta has 0. 

 

But density STILL doesn’t play in Atlanta’s favor when talking about mobility.  Krugman relayed heavily on our transit system that he claimed was inecffective because most lower-income residents can’t reach it to get to their jobs not near their home.  He was speaking on the Lithonia single mother who can’t get to her job in Kennesaw on time because she would have to take a bus, two trains, and another bus all equating to a three-hour trip because our system isn’t compatible together. So she drives, like everyone else here, and complains, INSTEAD, that traffic made her late. Apparently, Erickson still covers for Atlanta, er… Brookhaven perhaps, in saying that, 

 

“Krugman clearly has no idea what’s going on in Atlanta right now, what both the business community and civic leaders are pushing for. I live in Brookhaven now and there are two large apartment developments going up right next to Brookhaven’s MARTA station. “

 

Maybe the clueless one is Erickson again because if we’re still talking about the city vs. the metro, Brookhaven would not be included. And two apartment complexes??? If they were groundbreaking enough as the BeltLine or Krog Street Market, which Erickson also mentions as projects ACTUALLY being done in the city proper, this blogger would’ve heard about it by now.  Brookhaven MARTA Station has to be one of the worst examples of TOD due to the recently-constructed mixed-use development complex known as Town at Brookhaven located ONE MILE from the station. There’s literally NOTHING adjacent to the station that you wouldn’t have to cross six lanes of traffic to get to . 

In saying, Krugman is teaching us a valuable lesson, yet again.  Our knack of creating jobs in any particular location without thought of how we get there has once again put us in the bad spotlight.  It is bad when you can start from the bottom and make it to the top in Detroit easier than here.  It’s no wonder why much of the population is being sucked to D.C. or out West. I will say this, though. We have to make our voices heard because believe it or not, it is OUR commute, OUR city, and OUR metro.  We have the power to change and influence what gets built and where.  If we don’t have a say, we can’t make a change.  To Mr. Erickson, maybe it is YOU who should stop talking about Atlanta since you technically don’t live here. 

 

 

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Put A Cap On It!

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Apparently, Curbed Atlanta won’t let me comment on any of their posts without technical issues, so I thought that I’d deliberate on their latest post.  There was a conversation just today about “capping” the Downtown Connector.  Aesthetically, when Atlanta is viewed, what you see is a huge gray scab running through a sea of green and tall skyscrapers.  Or someone would give you a peach. But what if all that gray was covered?

I absolutely LOVE this idea.  Imagine the possibilities that could be done if the Downtown Connector was out of sight and out of mind.  Of course, we have to pay homage to the geniuses at Georgia Tech who were already over this idea with the Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge.  If there were residential abodes in that area, THAT would be the prime example of smart growth in Atlanta.  

But back to the cap. Whenever I bring family into Atlanta for the first time, driving down the Downtown Connector is one of my bucket list items for them.  They MUST see the view. This would put a damper on that, but in retrospect, it would put our city in a healthier light.  Of course, we can’t bulldoze the two major interstates to make Atlanta look better. However, we can turn a negative into a positive by dressing up the top and adding flare for others to enjoy.  The Buckhead financial district is basically built on a Georgia 400 Overpass.  Why can’t we build more of Midtown over the Connector?

Midtown and Downtown have been cut off to this behemoth highway and created the biggest eyesore for the city (Well, unless you count those fast-pace pictures where you see the car taillights in a skinny, red line). I would encourage others, and the city of Atlanta to embark on this endeavor.  Boston has done it, Montreal has done it, and Atlanta can definitely do it. 

Neighborhood Highlight: Inman Park

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The grass is always greener on the other side, right?  In this edition of neighborhood highlight, “greener” isn’t even the half of it.  Winner of best Atlanta neighborhood multiple times by Creative Loafing, Inman Park sits on a fence of what Atlanta once was and the direction Atlanta is heading in. Step over to the green side of things.

Atlanta’s first original suburb, Inman Park is located a little over a mile east of Downtown.  Suprisingly enough, Inman Park was what Gwinnett County is today: the last bit of civilization before you venture into the jungle.  It was created by engineer and real estate tycoon Joel Hurt who envisioned, like all streetcar suburbs, a place to get away from the city.  Evidence of this once rural gem is left through the many Victorian and Queen Anne-style homes that tower through the luscious greenery.  Of course, the automobile spelled death for the neighborhood but the bounce back came through willing folks who never wanted to see the neighborhood die.  Today, homes that were once worth only thousands of dollars now range into the million range.  It is also the focal point for local entertainment as our favorite nook Little Five Points lies within its boundaries. Two big projects are also slated to begin construction on and near the BeltLine, one being the Krog Street Market, on the location of Tyler Perry’s old soundstage, and 280 Elizabeth, a new mixed-use development in Inman Park’s neighborhood core.  

Admittedly one of my favorite neighborhoods in Atlanta, Inman Park shows great craftsmanship not because of its homes, walkability, or even amenities, but for its GREENSPACE!!! Parks, grassy nooks, and walking paths o’er the river and through the woods are everywhere here, which proves why the butterfly is placed with pride on the neighborhood’s emblem. Never a dull moment, Inman Park shines as an Atlanta original, and top notch for young couples, families and retirees alike.  See? It is easy being green. 

Neighborhood Highlight: Cabbagetown

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I figured that this might work where I highlight a very unique and well-planned out neighborhood that stuck in my mind as a staple of what Atlanta should look like.  Let’s start with a very unique (aren’t they all?) nook just east of Downtown.  Ladies and Gents, I give you: Cabbagetown

From walking through these sort of one-way streets, I felt like I was back down in Savannah from the one lone palmetto and the cottage-style homes.  It also had to do that the neighborhood sat next to the famed Oakland Cemetery.  It’s history is even more intriguing.  It was once a mill town before and after the Civil War, as noted by the large and hard-to-miss Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts, known as one of the largest loft communities in America.  The name association of “Cabbagetown” is debatable, but I will stick with the most reasonable of being that the residents planted Cabbages in the front yards to hide the foul odor of the neighborhood.  Yeah.   I grew up in a mill town in south Georgia, so I can relate. 

Today, the neighborhood boasts a mix of younger and older couples alike, a few unique spots like Little’s Food Store, which in my mind is the LAST REMAINING TRUE SOUTHERN GENERAL STORE IN ATLANTA!!!  They have great sliders, too.  Agave, the southwestern eatery at Boulevard and Carroll Street adds a high-class touch to the very laid-back ‘hood (expect long lines).  Also, 97 Estoria is a pretty hoppin’ pub near the famed Krog Street Tunnel, which connects the neighborhood with Inman Park with whom I’ve complimented both neighborhoods on their pride neighborhood conservation.  I love the feel of this neighborhood planning wise because it gives off the most close-knit family feel out of any neighborhood in the area.  It is small enough to walk from one side to the other, and the look of the neighborhood would give any guy looking to recreate the movie “Project X” a run for their money.  I mean, wouldn’t you rather walk through this neighborhood than have to hassle a vehicle around these alleyway streets? C’mon…

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…