Speaking with the Atlanta Business Chronicle last year, developer Jeff Fuqua said this of his mixed-use project near the junction of Piedmont Avenue and Cheshire Bridge Road: "It will change everything. It's really going to feel so much different over there in a year." It's that kind of talk that alarms Priscilla Padron, who's been "fascinated with Cheshire Bridge Road ever since arriving in 1970." This week, we broke news that developers hope to replace one of Cheshire Bridge's many adult-themed establishments, The Doll House, with 200 apartments, one of several high-density residential projects in the works. Two years ago, the Atlanta City Council ultimately voted down a measure that would "sanitize" Cheshire Bridge of its adult entertainment scene by 2018, showing at least some bureaucratic support for what the area stands for.
In a letter titled "Will we lose Cheshire Bridge?" Padron extols the quirks and grit of an eclectic thoroughfare that's been called "Atlanta's red-light district" — and that's loaded now with prime estate:
The looming apartment takeover of Cheshire Bridge Road should alarm anyone who really values intown character. Cheshire Bridge is Atlanta's only big-city street — a mongrel of fine restaurants, holes in the wall, high-end antique shops, auto-repair and pop-stands: the kind of streets, like Story Town in New Orleans and Pigalle in Paris, that make a vibrant urban scene.
Past efforts to gentrify Cheshire Bridge have failed, thankfully, because the businesses there know that this mix is a formula for success. Now generic mixed-use developments threaten this happy scene with now-dreaded gentrification that would put pressure on the sundry businesses and eateries that populate this great place. Will they succumb to the high prices developers will pay for the standard shtick: buy them out, tear them down, build a generic, boring development with a cutesy-woodsy name like "Mill Creek Lofts"?
While I'm not a big fan of signs, a glance down Cheshire Bridge trumps the best of kitschy resorts — three abreast sometimes. They often beg your attention with signs that don't scream but make a statement, like the one at the corner of Cheshire Bridge and Piedmont that has read, as long as I can remember, "Fortunes Read, Madame Bell."
Where else in Atlanta could Madame Bell practice her alchemy?
In Paris, the hipsters are invading the red-light district of Le Pigalle, but here apartment buildings are invading the landscape before the hipsters really have a chance. Historic preservation sometimes rescues architectural gems, but who will help defend Cheshire Bridge Road from the hungry developers that already nip at its heels?
— Priscilla Padron