Wednesday, August 5, 2009

10th and Midtown rezoning appropriate

I have always thought the hullabaloo over building something at the corner of 10th and Monroe was overblown. Now, I did think that Wayne Mason's proposal was too large, but I have always supported a middle ground of around 10-11 stories. For crying out loud, there is a high-rise condominium building practically across the street.

I grew up in this neighorhood. I walked home from Grady High School by this very intersection. I skipped class at Grady in this very park. I still walk my dog all over this neighborhood. A mid-rise building at this location would in no way ruin the feeling of the neighborhood. Perhaps folks who think this is a particularly charming intersection in need of saving are ignoring the ugly gray stadium surrounded by chain link fencing across the street. Or the ugly stip center where the Blockbuster used to be. This is not N. Highland and Virginia Ave, people.

The don't think this piece of land HAS to be greenspace, either. It is right across the street from some charming old storefronts, and a well designed project (i.e. not Mason's) could fit nicely with the area. So I (surprise) support the city's rezoning of the property. Please read Thomas Wheatley's entire article that I just linked to, but I particularly like this segment:
With smart development, officials say, the dysfunctional corner could serve as a “new gateway” to Piedmont Park and spur a nearby walkable village. They say the project also needs adjacent development to boost transit ridership, compete for federal funding, and fuel the tax allocation district that’s the chief funding source for the 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit.

The issue of density in the Beltline’s northeast segment has been a frequent topic of debate at recent planning meetings. (At last month’s presentation, the only topic neighbors wanted to discuss was the 10th and Monroe proposal.) Many in attendance were opposed to the concept for the same reasons outlined above. Others, such as Angel Poventud and Sally Flocks of pedestrian advocacy group PEDS, said that the Beltline plans outline a long-term vision for Atlanta, which is only expected to grow. Flocks said many of her friends’ children can’t afford to live in the city and that the Beltline might offer them an opportunity.
All of that sounds about right to me, and I think it is important to note that there is still a bit of reason left in the neighborhood.

Also, Thomas linked to the most recent NE Study Group plans (pdf), which have some great plans for how the BeltLine looks to improve that area. The improved intersection at Virginia/1oth/Monroe is great, and they have a plan for finally connecting Ponce and Monroe through the Midtown Arts property. The neighborhood can blame themselves for the design for Sembler's Ponce property, too, fwiw. They fought denser proposals, so we all ended up with another strip center.

While we are at it, can we get a new fence surrounding Grady Stadium?


  1. Amen to everything you wrote. That intersection is uncommonly unattractive for a space alongside a major city park. The proposal here is exactly what's needed to make better use of this land.

    And increasing residential density here with some medium-height buildings will allow more people to live near the park in walking distance instead of driving there. It's a good move.

  2. While I agree with you on the 'mid rise' proposal in the new sub-area 6 Beltline proposals (I too live less than half a mile from the intersection), I couldn't disagree with you more re:blaming the 'neighborhood' for the Sembler monstrosity.

    Just because we didn't want a large piece of junk means we 'deserve' a smaller piece of junk?

    Name one in-town Sembler property that is 'done well'.

    Is Edgewood any better than Midtown? Have you seen the plans for what they are planning to put in Atlantic Station?

    Sembler just does a poor job.

    They display no creativity or innovation. They seem to be under the pretense that if the project uses bricks, by default it integrates with existing historic neighborhoods.

  3. I can take Grady Stadium but the Grady Gym stinks up the whole neighborhood. I wish somebody would offer a prize for improving it's facades.

    10th/Monroe/Virginia seems easy to fix but what's the plan for Woody's?

    I'm not upset about Sembler on Ponce. A hellhole for 40 years is now a most practical neighborhood addition and is packed with our neighbors. That place has improved my life.

    Access though by Trader Joe's could make the whole area breath easier, traffic wise. I presume there is a lot of resistance though. I a bit concerned about what would happen on Monroe.

  4. RE: "A hellhole for 40 years is now a most practical neighborhood addition and is packed with our neighbors. That place has improved my life."

    I agree that it's great to have these useful stores in this location and that their presence has provided much-needed amenities to the community, but I also agree with Scott in that it was poorly done.

    My wife and I lived off of Greenwood Ave for a few years in easy walking distance to both the Ponce shopping center and Midtown Promenade, but we found that neither of them are easily or safely accessible for pedestrians. Both of these shopping centers are clearly built almost exclusively for access by car traffic. The vast, suburban-style surface parking lots are both uninviting and dangerous to cross for pedestrians.

    Seeing that they are located in the middle of a big city, this is illogical. Developments in the heart of Atlanta should either lean towards accommodating pedestrian access or at least accommodate pedestrians and car drivers equally. That so many shopping centers in Midtown lean very heavily towards car traffic is an unreasonable state of affairs for a major city.

  5. I will generally agree with the criticism of Sembler's product, although I think they have gotten better over the years. I think Town:Brookhaven has potential from a design stand point, and I think Edgewood is definitely and improvement over Ponce. I am less impressed with the Atlantic Station area plans. Every "big box" development in the city can't be like Plaza Midtown, and like Terry says, residents still need to buy clothes or go to Pet Smart.

    My "blame the neighborhood" was in regard to connecting Midtown Promenade with Ponce. I have heard (and it was irresponsible of me to have thrown around the "blame" word without something I can source and more definite knowledge) that original plans for the property were alternately residential (with another developer) or something more ambitious (and denser) that connected with Midtown Promenade.

    I was in high school when that deal was getting done, of course, and it is quite possible the alternatives were similarly packed with surface lots. I am fairly certain that the neighborhood fought connecting with Midtown Promenade, which I generally see as a loss.

    My general feeling is that the Ponce development isn't a piece of junk, but that all parties involved (Sembler and Midtown residents) missed out on an opportunity to do much, much more, in a way that would have benefited the neighborhood and the city a lot more.

  6. I'm really hoping having the Beltline cross Monroe here will force some changes. If only that whole strip could be like the buildings housing the bike shop and Sig Samuels. But mid-rises would be no problem either.

  7. Great discussion!

    Ben, so much of what you say in your post makes sense. And it's great to hear it from someone who's in the neighborhood a lot. I hesitate sometimes to weigh in on an issue in a neighborhood I only visit occasionally, but clearly you're in a position to say, this makes sense for that intersection.

    I also want to agree with Darin about how many of the big box developments are not actually pedestrian-friendly. Having a sidewalk doesn't make it pedestrian-friendly. As Darin says, they are totally designed and safe for the car.

    I am certainly not someone who doesn't want big box in the city; I agree with Terry that these places make life easier.

    But bear in mind, big box stores are now in Manhattan, and in order to get access to that lucrative market, the companies designed city stores, not suburban stores, that worked well with existing structures.


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