Last night, the Atlanta City Council voted to relinquish control of sections of three of the city’s oldest streets in the heart of downtown to private development.
The upper and lower portions of Alabama and Pryor streets, as well as Plaza Way, were officially “abandoned” by a 10-4 vote through surprise legislation introduced days ago by Councilman Kwanza Hall, seemingly at the request of Mayor Kasim Reed, according to ThreadATL and various other sources.
Reed noted that abandoning the streets was the only way to move forward with the long-planned redevelopment of Underground Atlanta by WRS Realty — a South Carolina firm known for suburban strip centers that’s promising to revitalize the languishing property and surrounding blocks.
ThreadATL outlined a number of concerns with the legislation, including its limiting of public access on the thoroughfares, the potential removal of the roads, the demolition of historic infrastructure — all exacerbated by a questionably contracted timeline allowing for almost no public input.
And the public is reportedly not the only group left in the dark; it seems the architects on the project haven’t been involved in decisions in the last few months, leaving plans for the future as a major question mark.
The approved referendum notes, in part, that the relinquishing of city control of the streets will provide for:
However, it seems the Department of Planning may not have been consulted in the matter.
In response to concerns, the CEO of WRS Realty told the Saporta Report the company had no intention of closing down public pedestrian and bicycle access to any of the streets. But with the way the legislation is crafted, many fear that the company will have carte blanche to limit access — or even permanently close — streets that have long been gathering spaces for the community.
Additionally, the measure leaves Atlanta on the hook for costly maintenance of the (former) rights-of-way.
The move is not the first concession the city has made to assist the development.
Earlier this year, the City of Atlanta swapped land in Buckhead with the state to gain control of a parking deck adjacent to Underground.
With the final public usage of the property just weeks away, let’s go party like it’s 2016... because next year, who knows what Underground will be.