Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tell me something new

So the AJC has an article about the lack of nightlife in Atlanta, and particularly downtown.  Atlanta used to have quite a party reputation, but since the party died in Buckhead, Backstreet closed, and the Gold Club got raided, our reputation has taken a hit.  I think there is still plenty to do in the city at-large, but there isn't any centralized party area anymore.  The city tried to make Underground that area, and we all know how that worked out.  What to do?
Both ACVB and GWCC board members agreed that getting nightlife downtown is easier said than done. To attract after-hours hotspots, more residents will have to move downtown and suburbanites, many of whom view the area as unsafe, will have to visit more frequently than an occasional sporting event.
Can't say that I have any great ideas to magically revitalize downtown overnight.  I do think getting more undergraduate student housing in downtown would be good, though.  Pecanne Log made the point a while back that there is more to do on downtown Athens, and I think this is because students actually live there.  

GSU currently has 2,450 beds downtown - 2,000 in University Commons, and 450 at University Lofts.  They have a total enrollment of 27,137, which means that 9% of students live on campus.  If you can get enough students in on-campus housing to create a real community, you can then create a demand for private student housing downtown.  There are a few options right now, but not many.  All of this, of course, helps fuel nightlife - again, see Downtown Athens or any number of college towns.  I'm not saying that GSU has enough students to totally revitalize downtown nightlife, but I think they can seed it and get things going.  

I really see these students as the seed for a vibrant downtown generally speaking, not just for nightlife.  Getting young people downtown increases life on the street, since they will be walking more often than not to class and to places to eat and drink in the evening. Additionally, they can act as a draw for other non-students of similar age.  Finally, if a vibrant student culture can be established then you start having a generation of GSU students who enjoy living a truly urban lifestyle, and maybe stick around after they graduate.  You sort of start grooming your young professionals to want to be downtown.  

The best thing about why this can work is because students are a captive population.  You don't really have to entice them much - they need to be close to school, and there are massive benefits for them to be living near each other.  Freshman and sophomores especially don't know the city well enough for the most part to seek out better deals, so they naturally gravitate to the dorms.  If you build it, they will come.

And we have a public entity, GSU, in a position to tell them exactly where to live by virtue of where they build the dorms.  The next dorm's connectivity to classroom buildings and to University Commons will create natural arteries of foot traffic for retail development or apartments.  It is a rare chance to really shape how downtown will grow.

GSU has stated that they want to get more students on campus, and have plans for more dorms and even for a Greek row.  It just can't happen fast enough, in my opinion.

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