Cheshire Bridge Road to remain an “adult” district, if Atlanta City Council upholds ruling by its zoning board

By David Pendered

A proposal to shut down the adult shops and clubs by 2018 along Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta was rejected Thursday by Atlanta’s Zoning Review Board.

In 1968, the Cheshire Cat was the type of club that attracted crowds to Cheshire Bridge. Credit: atlantatimemachine.com

In 1968, the Cheshire Cat was the type of club that attracted crowds to Cheshire Bridge. Credit: atlantatimemachine.com

The vote is not binding and doesn’t end the debate. The battle continues to the Atlanta City Council, where the area’s representative, Alex Wan, had introduced the measure with strong support from an array of neighborhood groups.

The opposition that gathered at the ZRB meeting included a mix of gays, strippers and Atlanta’s real estate interests – including Scott Selig, whose family has developed in Atlanta since 1918. Their protests centered on issues including free expression and property rights.

The issue boils down to competing visions for the Cheshire Bridge Road corridor.

The road now is a conglomeration of restaurants, apartments, strip centers, strip clubs, warehouses, and a movie theater. It has evolved into this over the course of decades, from a retail center that offered businesses that seem mild by today’s standards.

One vision calls for Cheshire Bridge Road to be a commercial corridor with shops that cater to surrounding neighborhoods.

This is the photo chosen by Huffington Post to illustrate a story about strippers winning a lawsuit for unpaid wages. Credit: huffingtonpost.com

In 2012, this is the photo chosen by Huffington Post to illustrate a story about strippers winning a lawsuit for unpaid wages. Credit: huffingtonpost.com

Another vision calls for Cheshire Bridge Road to be a regional destination that caters to people who want to shop at adult stores and attend strip clubs.

It goes without saying that the employees who work in the shops that serve the different visions tend to have separate sorts of lifestyles. That said, one stripper pleaded for the ZRB not to close Club Onyx because she uses her income to help provide for her son – a student at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Also part of the mix is the city’s zoning ordinance, which protects the rights to develop particular types of projects.

Wan’s proposal called for all adult-oriented retail businesses to close by June 30, 2018. Wan had initially filed a more sweeping proposal, but withdrew it in the face of opposition. The legislation the ZRB considered was an entirely new proposal that Wan submitted in recent days.

The ZRB took about 15 minutes to vote against the legislation.

The board first rejected two motions to send the legislation to the council with a favorable recommendation. Both proposals failed for the lack of a second.

Then the board approved two motions to send the legislation forward with an unfavorable recommendation.

The ZRB had heard public comment for more than 90 minutes. The initial 40-minute period allotted to comment was extended in order to allow the opponents to speak. Then the same extension was provided to the advocates.

Selig used a portion of his time to say the area has not been a hotbed of redevelopment because of two factors: Competition from other intown neighborhoods; and the economic downturn. Selig said his company’s business is based on buying properties with the type of zoning common on Cheshire Bridge Road because they present strong economic bases for retailers. Those zonings should not be altered, Selig said.

The current fabric of Cheshire Bridge Road is not a deterrent to redevelopment, Selig said.

“Trying to create a quaint retail area on an arterial road doesn’t work,” Selig said.

Selig said the market is being affirmed by the recent – and as-yet unannounced – decision by Jeff Fuqua to develop a retail/retail complex at the corner of Piedmont and Cheshire Bridge roads. Selig said Fuqua confirmed Thursday that he planned to put a parcel under contract for the future development of 300 apartments and 33,000 square feet of retail.

Jane Rawlings was the first neighborhood representative to speak for the legislation. Rawlings serves as chair of NPU-F, the neighborhood planning unit for the area.

Rawlings contended that folks who don’t live in the area are the ones who want the corridor to remain as it is.  The folks who live nearby are tired of the current businesses and the activities they attract, she said.

“This organization represents citizens who live with the negative impact of conditions 24/7,” Rawlings said. “The greater Cheshire Bridge Road community has a right to be heard.”

 

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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8 comments
BigBlueChris
BigBlueChris

The Cheshire Bridge Road "adult" area of Atlanta has long been a very popular area for many visitors to Atlanta from out of town and out of state as well as from Atlanta itself. For a number of years I have made frequent trips to Atlanta and stayed in the area and love the entertainment it provides for adults, all within walking distance of the hotel. If people don't want to reside in an area such as Cheshire Bridge Road district, let them buy in Ansley Park and reside there, a neighborhood I also love because of cousins who reside in that lovely residential neighborhood. Any city that is "world class," as Atlanta long has been, needs to have districts where adults can go for adult entertainment. We already have too many theme parks, shopping malls, and Disney World types of places to go in America. All people are not children.  I long have been proud that Atlanta has been a place with enough good sense and solid understanding that a real city needs to offer all sorts of places and venues for all types of people. If anyone doesn't like one district in Atlanta, he or she can go easily to a totally different type district he or she likes. Instead of destroying a good district for "adult entertainment," the Atlanta city planners and powers that be ought to encourage the growth of such a district..  .


Chris in North Carolina

Morningside Neighbor
Morningside Neighbor

Not at all surprised that the ZRB doesn't seem to care about the quality of life for the residents of Atlanta, but has ample empathy for the poor working stripper mommies and the businesses who make money off them. These adult businesses in question are next to residential neighborhoods that were developed well before the adult shops insinuated themselves into the area. It is horrifying to think that there is even a thought to let these places multiply to make the area a destination for folks wanting these kind of services. In any metropolitan city these kind of businesses multiply on the seedy outskirts of town, not next door to some of the most family friendly residential neighborhoods in the town.  

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Well...I'd say Rawlings speaks for a very vocal MINORITY of residents (of which I am one of those residents).  Would I like it to be some wonderful upscale shopping district?  That would be cool, but its not realistic, and the market is not there yet to support it.  What you would end up with is a bunch of empty buildings which would be far worse.  I knew what Cheshire Bridge Rd was like when I moved into the corridor area in '98.  My guess is many of the pro-zoning change residents did too.  If it was that big of a problem for them...they should have gone elsewhere...period.  You should not impose you will on something that was already in existence just because you made a poor choice in where you live...you have the ability to go elsewhere, and probably should.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Cheshire Bridge Road also looks like a good candidate for a future streetcar line possibly between roughly Midtown and Doraville over the long-term (we're talking decades, not years) because of the road's long-term potential for high-density mixed-use development and the inability to further widen or expand the road's capacity to accommodate more vehicular traffic.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Mr. Pendered: {{"One vision calls for Cheshire Bridge Road to be a commercial corridor with shops that cater to surrounding neighborhoods."}}

David235: {{"In the 1980s Cheshire Bridge was a sleepy street as well as Piedmont Road. At 5pm, Piedmont Road was deserted of street traffic. I know, hard to believe today."}}

...It is because of the increased amount of traffic along Cheshire Bridge Road between Piedmont Road and I-85 and Cheshire Bridge's location on the increasingly heavily-populated Near-Northeastside of Atlanta directly between two increasingly highly-desirable urban districts in Buckhead and Midtown that Cheshire Bridge Road has become an increasingly prime piece of real estate in Metro Atlanta, which is what these conversations are REALLY about: Clearing the way for the type of development boom that has happened in Midtown and Buckhead to happen on the perfectly-situated Cheshire Bridge Road.

Increased development and re-development, likely of a much-denser and more transit-oriented nature, is coming to Cheshire Bridge Road because of its extremely-prime location, whether or not the adult businesses stay because the road's location is too prime for it not to, economic conditions permitting.

Because Cheshire Bridge Road is such a prime location for increased future development and re-development, neighborhood interests and the city don't necessarily need to use the force of law to push out the existing adult-themed and industrial businesses that they find to be undesirable because the market will eventually do it for them when those existing adult businesses are bought out and replaced with more-conventional non-adult themed businesses.

The free market process may not necessarily act as fast as the surrounding neighborhoods would like by coming in, buying out and replacing the existing adult-themed businesses overnight, but the free market will eventually act in a big way as Cheshire Bridge Road becomes more and more of a prime location with the road rising in importance as a major connecting node between I-85, Buford Highway, Buckhead and Brookhaven to the north and Midtown, Piedmont Park and Downtown to the south as those locations continue to increase in population and desirability over time.

The free market-guided redevelopment process is already well underway along the Cheshire Bridge Road corridor with the recent construction of such high-density mixed-use transit-oriented developments as the Archstone Cheshire Bridge Apartments at the north end of the corridor just south of I-85 and the continuing construction of the multi-stage high-density LaVista Walk mixed-use transit-oriented development on the southside of LaVista Road immediately just east of Cheshire Bridge Road.

Just like with neighborhood interests in other parts of the city trying to speed-up or force the redevelopment process along sections of the Atlanta Beltline where the free market is not yet ready to invest, the redevelopment process is not necessarily something that can be sped-up through force-of-law as attempting to do so may only serve to impede the redevelopment even more with costly court battles.

The free market redevelopment process is something that takes place over time as economic conditions and demographic trends dictate, which for Cheshire Bridge Road could be a process that continues over a period of 10-30 years as existing adult-themed properties are purchased by spectulators and redeveloped into higher-density mixed-use transit-oriented light-commercial/residential properties.

In any case, it is a process that surrounding neighborhood interests would be wise to be patient about as things are clearly headed in the direction they prefer but it will take time and patience as the free market will get to Cheshire Bridge Road in full force, but only when in it is ready and NOT a moment sooner.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

{{"Another vision calls for Cheshire Bridge Road to be a regional destination that caters to people who want to shop at adult stores and attend strip clubs."}}

...Don't you mean "Another vision calls for Cheshire Bridge Road to REMAIN a regional destination that caters to people who want to shop at adult stores and attend strip clubs"?  Since Cheshire Bridge Road is already well known to be a regional destination for people who patronize adult stores and strip clubs.

David235
David235


A short history of non-conforming Adult business on Cheshire Bridge and Piedmont Road / Circle, and how they came to be.

I served on the Morningside neighborhood board and the NPU-F board for over 10 years during the 1980 and 1990s. I also served on the original Cheshire Bridge Task Force.

In the 1980s Cheshire Bridge was a sleepy street as well as Piedmont Road. At 5pm, Piedmont Road was deserted of street traffic. I know, hard to believe today.

In the late 1980s the neighborhood notice so called “Lingerie Clothing Shops” opening in our area. These business opened under the mercantile zoning code classification. The owners said they sold lingerie clothing only. No adult entertainment services were provided. They could not locate so close to residential as an adult business. Therefore, the guise.

Eventually these “lingerie shops” became to be known as jack shacks or as adult massage pallor’s.

The neighborhood tried to have the city codes and police enforce the codes. The police were blocked form enforcing the codes by various lawsuits from these adult businesses.

This prevented the police from making arrest and gathering evidence.

The lingerie shops and strip clubs continued to the 1990s. By then, the adult video stores were stating to open, again under the mercantile zoning code, not as adult businesses.

They always denied being an adult business. We were told by city zoning inspectors that the adult video stores would never be able to have private adult booths because they had become non-conforming.

The city and neighborhoods fought to have the codes enforced again.

Today they all have private viewing booths.

The surrounding neighborhoods worked with the city in redeveloping Cheshire Bridge with streetscaping and new zoning.

The City’s legally has to provide proper zoning areas for adult businesses. The city has provided the proper zoning that protects everyone’s rights, residential and business.

The U.S. Supreme Court gives cities the right to properly zone businesses. It helps prevent crime and noise. Zoning places industrial uses like fertilizer plants, refineries, and adult business away from residential.

Proper zoning, protects every ones rights.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@ScottNAtlanta {{"Well...I'd say Rawlings speaks for a very vocal MINORITY of residents (of which I am one of those residents). Would I like it to be some wonderful upscale shopping district? That would be cool, but its not realistic, and the market is not there yet to support it. What you would end up with is a bunch of empty buildings which would be far worse."}}

...A bunch of empty buildings is likely just what Rawlings and that very vocal minority of residents is aiming for.

They know that a bunch of empty buildings and abandoned properties would be much easier (and much cheaper) for land spectulators and real estate developers to buy than a bunch of occupied buildings and properties full of thriving businesses because land prices for empty and abandoned properties are much lower than for occupied and thriving properties.

To those that don't like Cheshire Bridge in its current somewhat seedy, red-light district-like form, driving out the adult-themed, blue-collar and light-industrial businesses they don't like and leaving empty structures and properties in their wake would greatly speed along the process of transforming Cheshire Bridge Road into an upscale high-density mixed-use district.