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Townhomes are claiming Manuel’s Tavern free parking lot along Highland Avenue

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As intown Atlanta densifies, it’s another sign that parking for free is becoming less common

At top is the formerly free parking lot where Selig Enterprises has fenced off a construction site.
At top is the formerly free parking lot where Selig Enterprises has fenced off a construction site.
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Two things Atlantans have traditionally loved: Manuel’s Tavern and abundant free parking.

But in the real estate hot zone that is Poncey-Highland, only one of them could stay. And that legendary intown watering hole isn’t going anywhere.

Recent years have seen an uproar over charged parking at Ponce City Market—leading one AJC reporter to quip that free parking is considered “Atlantans’ God-given right”—and implementation of metered parking along public streets in growing districts such as West Midtown, near the Howell Mill Road and Marietta Street corridor.

The latest change involves a surface lot in the 500 block of North Highland Avenue, where Manuel’s customers have parked without charge (and a freestanding ATM machine has operated) for many years.

Prominent Atlanta developer Selig Enterprises, which owns the lot and the Manuel’s property, has fenced off the parking area and begun construction on 16 townhomes, according to the AJC.

A mixed-use project by developer Green Street Properties planned for the site about four years ago never materialized. Selig told the newspaper Green Street won’t be involved with the townhome project; company reps said little else about the project, beyond stating that it had won favor with nearby neighborhood associations.

Directly across the street, a 15-unit project called Freedom Townhomes was announced more than three years ago, with initial expectations of opening in fall 2016, about the time a significant renovation of Manuel’s finished.

Adjusted timelines provided to Curbed Atlanta since then have not been met. Construction still has not begun.

This corner of Manuel’s, with its iconic signage, faces the lot in question.
Eater Atlanta

In a lengthy Facebook post, Manuel’s current management gave context as to why the business’s parking situation will be more constrained moving forward.

The tavern building in 2015 was all but falling apart—literally leaning enough to potentially collapse onto Highland Avenue—and required millions in repairs the business did not have. Thus, the sale to Selig, which committed to renovating the tavern and allowing a long-term lease.

“Selig was to develop the large parking lot across Williams Mill ... some day in the near future,” reads the post. “That day is here.”

Loss of the lot reduces Manuel’s free parking allotment by 30 percent. However, per the post, research showed that almost one-fourth of drivers using the lot weren’t patronizing Manuel’s anyway.

“While we don’t regret that old [parking] practice,” the post states, “we simply cannot afford to continue it.”