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Concerned Resident: Don't Hold Memorial Drive Hostage

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Mike, as we'll call him, bought a house in 2009 a couple of blocks south of Memorial Drive, in an area colloquially known as "Taco Town." For six years, Mike and his Grant Park neighbors have crossed their fingers that development would bring vibrant uses — maybe even a "renaissance," he says — to the vacant storefronts, ghostly plots and tire shops that dot Memorial Drive. Just as a resurgence seemed inevitable, the Atlanta City Council voted unanimously this month to impose "interim development controls" for six months on Memorial, from Capitol Avenue downtown to the city limits, several miles east. As the Atlanta Business Chronicle reports, the ordinance slams the brakes on all commercial building construction, putting a moratorium on new building permits for six months. Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong, the ordinance's sponsor, told the newspaper the measure will allow city officials time to catch their breath and work with communities on the Memorial Drive makeover that Georgia Tech graduate students recommended in a recent study. But Mike fears the ordinance will hamstring Memorial's mojo — and that more planning would be redundant. "Delaying development just as it's starting to gain momentum is a horrible idea," says Mike, who requested anonymity. "This is a shame."

Memorial Drive has buzzed lately with new construction, preparatory demolition and a multitude of proposed projects that would hope to cash in on the Eastside Trail's allure, once the Beltline wends through Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown and dead-ends at Memorial. The Leonard, a four-story apartment community, debuted on Memorial this spring, and Enfold Properties hopes to build a similar-sized, boutique apartment community closer to the Beltline called "841 Memorial." But the big fish is Paces Properties, whose $175 million investment in the corridor would include an overhaul of the former Habitat for Humanity warehouse near Oakland Cemetery and a mixed-use answer to Krog Street Market called "Atlanta Dairies." That complex would transform the 11-acre former Parmalat site, which has been vacant and moldering since 2004.

The Georgia Tech study suggested redesigning Memorial Drive with intersection improvements, traffic-calming measures and wider sidewalks to make it more walkable. Archibong, the councilwoman, told the newspaper a calmed-down Memorial has the potential to be a "front yard" for Atlanta. Unrestricted development, she fears, would hinder the study's effectiveness.

But Mike feels that further studying is overkill. Regulations put in place by the area's Beltline Overlay District and Special Public Interest District designations — coupled with oversight by the Grant Park land use committee, the Atlanta Urban Design Commission, applicable NPUs and other arbiters — should suffice, he believes.

"Either the city council is completely incompetent at being able to review applications, or they feel their staff is," says Mike. "And they are holding it up for a student-lead study. I'm sure the study has good recommendations, but why not just use the study as an advisory document to be considered when reviewing a development?"

· Atlanta calls timeout on Memorial Drive development [ABC; subscriber]
· First Look: Memorial Drive's Answer to Krog Street Market [Curbed]
· Warehouse Redo: Another Step Forward for Memorial Drive [Curbed]