Friday, June 27, 2008

Crum and Forster Update

I went to the DRC meeting last night at the 999 building. Maria Saporta has the recap on what transpired. She should get an award for making this issue public. Instead of copying copious amounts of her work, just follow the link and read the whole thing.

Several folks suggested that a more effective approach would be to get in touch with the GT foundation's board, which Maria Saporta helpfully provided a link to. Contact them here, although I don't know that cold-calling them is the best way to do it. Better to figure out who you might know that knows the folks. I will be asking a few GT alums that I know.

At the end of the day, the Bureau of Planning makes the decision, though, so feel free to call them, too.

Now - my take on the meeting, beyond all the "newsy" bits. There were maybe 45 folks in attendance, and in general most of the comments were intelligent, insightful, and informed. In my experience, developers often underestimate the knowledge and intelligence of Atlanta's neighborhood organizations. Midtown's organizations are especially knowledgeable about development and land use issues, and it showed last night.

As I drove home, I was actually surprised at how similar this felt to a bad movie script. The GT Foundation guys were straight out of central casting. Three guys in blazers-and-khakis with bad comb-overs. Whenever anyone asked a question, ("Did you consult the Historic District Preservation Act?" "Why haven't you come up with a plan for re-use before you asked for a demo permit") the answer was, "Well, we weren't legally required to do that, so we didn't." Excellent PR there, guys.

In my opinion, the GT Foundation's statement that they can't find another economical use for the buiding doesn't pass the smell test. The building was leased prior to their purchase of it! It can't be in that bad shape, and people are clearly interested in leasing there. The only reason it is not leased up is because the GT Foundation has made no attempt to lease it.

I am continually amazed when developers take a confrontational and arrogant approach to working with neighborhood associations. Wouldn't folks have learned by now that the delays and PR mess are not worth it? I've also seen a lot of situations where neighborhood input has made project designs better. Again, a lot of these groups are very savvy.

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