Saturday, May 30, 2009

Visit to Serenbe

My girlfriend Kari and I took a trip out to Serenbe, in Chattahoochee Hill Country, about 45 minutes south of downtown Atlanta. Meandering through the "Hamlet," which has a small town center, we were impressed and surprised.

The development has great character, and is taking shape nicely. Some might complain that the architecture is a bit pastiche, with many styles borrowed from the turn of the century: Tudor, Victorian, and Georgia. However, there is also quite a bit of good modern architecture. Although the economic malaise has certainly taken its toll on the project, there are still some neat shops. I thought Ecomeme had a very innovative line of products, and is
worth stopping by to check out.

We had lunch at Blue Eyed Daisy. The food was inexpensive and quite good. I had the tuna wrap and Kari had the curry chicken salad sandwich. Also, the house baked chocolate chip cookie was awesome.

The cafe is housed in a building that achieved a LEED-NC Silver rating in 2006, but looks like it is over 100 years old.

I'd highly recommend a day trip to Serenbe to anyone looking for a quick getaway from the city.

Stop by the sales center and pick up a map, then check out the trails, notably the one that connects the Hamlet to the Inn at Serenbe.

I'm certain that as the project expands, it will increasingly draw people to come visit, growing the town's amenities and shops. The next phase calls for an expansion of the town center and more residential.

Serenbe is one of three hamlets proposed for this massive area of preserved land. The Chattahoochee Hill Country is over 65,000 acres, of wich 80% will be preserved as farmland. This is a much more European model of development, and I'm glad to see these ideas being implemented in metro Atlanta. Take a drive down South Fulton Parkway, and you'll notice the difference. Instead of strip mall after strip mall, there is something new happening.

Friday, May 29, 2009


I've been completely unmotivated to blog lately. It isn't for lack of interesting things to write about, such as Mayoral candidate Lisa Borders' third home burglary in nine months, which happened at 3:40am while she was asleep in bed. There has been plenty going on in the city culture wise, as well (I'll be going to see the Tempest tomorrow night, for example). Nor is the political front boring - the Mayor and the head of the local police union are really going at it, and frankly neither of them is looking very good at this point.

The truth is, I'm a little bit overwhelmed by what is going on in the city. It is all a bit depressing, and I feel quite powerless. My neighborhood watch sent an email around the other day describing how one neighbor saw a guy just walking around in broad daylight and walk around behind the house next door to him. When he went to investigate, he discovered the thief had broken into the house, and when he yelled the thief ran out the front. But this happened a block from my house, in the middle of the day when I'm home a lot. I've gotten a bit paranoid about making sure the back door is locked all the time, and I live in one of the safest neighborhoods in town. I ran into an acquaintance the other day who was in tears because her house got broken into and they took "everything". Another friend who works at a restaurant has started keeping a gun in his car after a string of local bars got robbed after closing. He's already pulled it once when a someone started following him to his car one night and kept advancing after he got in and closed the door. Most everyone I know has similar stories.

I hate seeing this stuff happen in my city, and it has kind of sapped my desire to write. I mean, what more do you say? I've bitched about the APD, and the mayor, and now I don't really feel like I have much left to say. These property crimes are awful not because people take stuff, but because they violate our perceptions of safety. We like to think that when we come home, we can relax - now we feel like we always have to be looking over our shoulder. When I take my dog out at night, I find myself sizing up every car that drives by. It sucks. But what do you do, what more do you really say? I find I'm just thinking out loud, not saying anything that original.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lazy blogging

I'm done with school for the semester, and I'm just not motivated to post much.  Instead, I'm just going to link to Downhome Traces, which posted a neat little video about a 1925 movie set in part in Atlanta.  There is some great old footage of downtown Atlanta, and a lengthy discussion about Decatur Street.  

Also worth checking out is a video with George Mitchell, author of the fantastic book Ponce de Leon.  The book has incredible pictures, as well as a ton of interviews with people who used to live on and around Ponce.  Mitchell opens the book with an explanation about what makes Ponce, well, "Ponce".  He says that it is in many ways the fact that the establishments on Ponce were special, and that going to them was an experience that you couldn't really replicate anywhere else in the city.  He mentions Mary Mac's, but also Plaza Drugs and the Majestic.  Obviously Plaza Drugs is gone, and I don't think the Majestic is a special experience anymore.  But in many ways, Ponce is still a very unique piece of Atlanta.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why early polling isn't important

I'm sure Mary Norwood will be trumpeting her lead in the lastest poll from Insider Advantage.  I still don't think it means much.

Take a look at the demographic breakdown (.doc file) for the latest mayoral poll from Insider Advantage.  Sure, Mary Norwood has three times as much support as the next candidate (36.5% to Lisa Borders 10.4%), but the poll also shows Norwood with 35% of the black vote to Borders' 12% and Reed's 5%.  43% of the entire electorate is still undecided.    There is simply no way these numbers stay this way, and I would be surprised if Norwood really got 1/3 of the black vote when there are two high-quality black candidates with ties to the civil rights movement and/or the current administration in the race.  

I wouldn't put much stock in this polling data until the campaign has really started and ads have started to air.  In some ways, I wonder if this isn't a ceiling for Norwood, as I believe the more folks learn about her the less interested they will become.  This isn't a candidate with a lot of depth, y'know.  Reed and Borders have much heftier resumes and (for Borders at least) a much more compelling personal story.  They also both exude an intellectual capacity I haven't seen in Norwood.  Now, I'm not saying Mary Norwood is stupid, or anything.  Far from it.  I just haven't seen indications of intellectual curiosity in her actions.  But hey, I've been wrong before.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Shooting fish in a barrel..

I really had to hold my tongue on the last post about Karen Handel and the VRA., as well as earlier when the Ox said he wanted to privatize MARTA.  I want to be able to give member of the GOP the benefit of the doubt when it comes to racial issues, although the local party makes that hard at time.  So I left it alone - there was enough B.S. in those statements without bringing that into the mix.  I'm not really sure what to do about this tweet from the Ox:
Ivy, JW and I had a great afternoon.  We finished the nursery for baby Jake.  The room is Confederate Gray.  Reminds me of why I am running...
What do you do with that?  How am I supposed to give that the benefit of the doubt, or even just turn a blind eye?  Tack this statement onto the Ox's recent comments about states' rights and his inability to believe that MARTA could be run even decently, and it is hard to have a doubt what constituency he is angling for.  

Is this supposed to be a dog whistle?  If so, it is the most ham-fisted dog whistle I've ever seen.  I would at least hope not-so-secretly racist gubernatorial candidates could be smart enough not to lead with their chin.  The sad thing is that he wouldn't be so blatant about it if he didn't think it'd help him in the GOP primary... 

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Further stupids as the GOP primary battle lurches to the right

Karen Handel apparently does not like the Voting Rights Act:
While the creators of the VRA were noble in their intentions, the continuation of its control exists for the sole reason of Washington bureaucrats control over the people of Georgia and other states – especially those that tend to vote for Republican candidates.

This is not about fairness or competency. Georgia has proven that time and again with its election fairness. Rather it is to gain a political advantage through what Democrats call the “administrative firewall” of elections...
Let's see... Georgia has a Republican controlled House of Representatives, a Republican controlled state Senate, a GOP Lt. Gov, a GOP Gov, a GOP Secretary of State, a majority of the Congressional delegation are Republicans, both US Senators are Republicans, and GA has voted for the GOP nominee for President since 1992. Yeah, man, the VRA is really giving the Dems a political advantage in Georgia.

Nevermind that since the VRA the South has trended consistently to the right and towards the GOP, Barack Obama's wins in NC and VA notwithstanding. I could say more, but this was really the only point I wanted to make. Ed Kilgore makes good point at the end of the linked article, anyway.

UPDATE: I should point also to the entire Kilgore article. It makes the case for the VRA much more cogently than I ever could.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How useful will this piece of paper be?

Finals are done, so hopefully I can resume some semblance of normal blogging. A short post to get back in the groove...

I was reading the New York Times the other day, and came across this article on Warren Buffett and his take on the current downturn/recession/who-cares-what-you-actually-call-it-because-it-blows. A few 'graphs into the article was this wonderful nugget:
Charlie Munger, Mr. Buffett’s 85-year-old business partner, added his two cents: “Some of the worst business decisions I’ve ever seen are those with future projections and discounts back. It seems like the higher mathematics with more false precision should help you, but it doesn’t. They teach that in business schools because, well, they’ve got to do something.”

It reminds me of when I was making the rounds with developers in town interviewing for information and trying to break into the business. Everyone said, "nah, you don't really need an MBA to do this. You just need to find someone who will beat you up for a few years and show you the ropes." Of course, everyone who said this a) had an MBA; and b) wasn't willing to hire me and beat me up for a few years.

I did finally get hired and learned a lot of stuff at my firm, but the financial crisis was killing the development world when I was looking for work again. So, now I'm done with another semester of b-school and have decided to tack on a finance minor in addition to my real estate major. Which apparently is all pretty worthless, according to some of the richest men in the world.