Atlanta is reviewing its festival policies in the city’s parks

By Maria Saporta

The City of Atlanta is reviewing its festival ordinance and policies, according to George Dusenbury, commissioner of the City of Atlanta Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

A particular focus is Piedmont Park, the most popular gathering spot in Atlanta and usually the favored choice for any organization wanting to hold an event or festival in a city park.

Now that Music Midtown has announced that it will be resurrecting its festival at Piedmont Park, questions about the park’s use or over-use are resurfacing.

Music Midtown will make its comeback on Sept. 24 wit Coldplay as its headlining act. There also is a chance that a major artist will come the night before — turning the “new” Music Midtown in a two-day, two–stage event.

Peter Conlon, president of Live Nation Atlanta who co-founded Music Midtown in 1994 and is putting together the 2011 Music Midtown, said the music festival will be a responsible user of Piedmont Park.

In fact, Conlon has been the promoter of the Piedmont Park Conservancy’s Green Concerts, making him familiar with putting on a gated and ticketed festival in the same space.

“The Piedmont Park Conservancy is great organization that does a great job,” Conlon said, adding that after the Green Concerts, here was no damage done to the park. “When we leave, you can’t even tell we were there.”

Several years ago, the city adopted a policy that there would be no more than six “Class A” events in Piedmont Park each year. Those include the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, the Peachtree Road Race, the Gay Pride parade, the Atlanta Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival, which currently is on hiatus.

Dusenbury said Music Midtown, which will have a capacity of 55,000, would not be considered a Class A event because it will be a gated, ticketed event.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was careful to say that the city had only agreed to let Music Midtown take place in Piedmont Park for just 2011.

“This is the first year,” Reed said. “We are taking it very cautiously. There is no multi-year commitment. It is a one-year agreement.”

Dusenbury said the city’s review of its festival policies is not limited to Piedmont Park. Among some of the issues being reviewed include the use of the Atlanta BeltLine and the city’s new Historic Fourth Ward Park. The city also will need to figure out what kind of events would take place in Fort McPherson.

“We are looking at all the events we’re having in our parks,” Dusenbury said. “We all want to benefit Piedmont Park. We are still working to figure out what the best arrangement is. The park will be protected.”

Meanwhile, Conlon expressed his desire to make Piedmont Park the annual home of the revived Music Midtown.

“This is going to be a win-win for the neighborhood,” Conlon said. “This is going to give the city a new festival in Piedmont Park. I like the location, and the location is very important. There just aren’t a lot of options.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

9 replies
  1. salvaresse says:

    Piedmont Park is a City of Atlanta, taxpayer owned property. It should not be off limits to the citizens and taxpayers of this great City.

    I’ve noted that since we now have residents surrounding the park, it’s considered their exclusive view to increase their property values as well as “quiet enjoyment for them only”. This does not bode well for a City the size of Atlanta.

    Piedmont Park is our Central Park, it should be available to all for most uses that citizens can enjoy not just a post card for looking at.Report

    Reply
  2. urban gardener says:

    Irrespective of the issue of using only one park of many for the majority of major events in the City (I personally believe that utilizing other parks in the city would bring much-needed attention to them and thus financial and phyical support), I have had great qualms about the high number of high-impact events at Piedmont Park this year.

    The Atlanta region is only barely out of the drought zone (Georgia just made the NY Times for its drought), and Midtown suffers from the heat island effect greatly – so the rain blows over Midtown and reforms in points west or south.

    The park’s trees are in bad shape, diseases are continuing to sweep thru many species, the soil is compacted, and pouring multi-thousand event weekends upon the park only increases the toll.

    Aeriating (sp) the soil by plugging I don’t think begins to off-set the soil compaction from the stages, the heavy vehicles to set them up, etc.

    Last year we had rain, this year not so much – I was thrilled to look on the radar and see real rain over Midtown for the first time in a long while…

    As an aside, why not hold an event in the City’s newest park spaces along Memorial -? I was so excited to see that come to reality, to have now nothing come of it all…Report

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  3. cityzen says:

    We should not trash Piedmont Park in order to save it for the people, as commenter salvaresse seems to demand. There is a big difference between the park being accessible, as it always should be, to everyone for park recreation and it being made over to concert promoters.Report

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  4. cityzen says:

    We should not trash Piedmont Park in order to save it for the people, as commenter salvaresse seems to demand. There is a big difference between the park being accessible, as it always should be, to everyone for park recreation and it being made over to concert promoters.Report

    Reply
  5. cityzen says:

    We should not trash Piedmont Park in order to save it for the people, as commenter salvaresse seems to demand. There is a big difference between the park being accessible, as it always should be, to everyone for park recreation and it being made over to concert promoters.Report

    Reply
  6. Question Man says:

    Isn’t it bizarre that Music Midtown is does not count as a Class A event because it is a gated, ticketed event? Doesn’t this mean that there can be an unlimited number of mega-events as long as the public is prohibited from freely accesssing its own park? Is there any other city in the United States that does things as back-assward as Atlanta?Report

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  7. kreweofpersons says:

    Several neighbors inquired to the city, “Is Music Midtown and Outdoor Event or a Gated Park Event, and what is the difference. This is the reply from the Mayor’s Office of Special Events (MOSE). To view the actual code/ordinance to which the MOSE is referring, please see:

    http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=10376&stateId=10&stateName=Georgia, and scroll down to Chapter 142 “Outdoor Events”. It’s all very clear! 😉

    From MOSE: “The current Outdoor Events Ordinance makes a clear distinction between Outdoor Festivals and Gated Park Events. A Gated Park Event is defined as follows:

    “Gated park event means an outdoor gathering that is located in a city park and that is gated, thereby closing a portion of the park to the public and excluding members of the public, and for which a ticket and/or admission fee is required to attend the gathering.”

    (Atlanta Code section 142-2 (k))

    The Outdoor Events Ordinance establishes that gated park events are not subject to the Outdoor Events Ordinance.

    “A gated park event shall not be deemed an outdoor event for purposes of this chapter. Gated park events shall be regulated by the commissioner of the department of parks, recreation, and cultural affairs, in consultation with the police chief and the fire chief. The commissioner of the department of parks, recreation, and cultural affairs shall approve only those gated park events that certify that they will not deny admission to the gated park event on the grounds of race, color, creed, religion, gender, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or gender identity. In addition, the host of a gated park event will need to submit plans to the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department to receive a maximum occupancy, will need to have an internal security plan (as defined in City Code section 142-51) approved by the police department, and will need to obtain any applicable sub-permits set forth in article IV of this chapter.”(Atlanta Code section 142-3(e)

    In regards to your question about [Gated] ticketed events being exempt…. The Mayor’s Office of Special Events evaluates gated park events as outdoor festivals to insure that all precautions set forth in the outdoor events ordinance are required per APD, AFRD and all sub-permit sections of the outdoor events ordinance. Approval of the actual Gated Park Event must be provided by the DPRCA Commissioner (in consultation with the APD Chief and AFRD Chief).

    In regards to your statement as it pertains to MOSE adhering to the outdoor events ordinance code and MOSE requiring the same from all affected promoters. Please review Section 142-12 (1)“No permit shall be denied nor shall the applicant be given less favorable treatment as to time, manner, or place on account of the race, color, creed, religion, gender, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation, or gender identity of the applicant and or the participants of the outdoor event. Section 142-12 (2) “No permit shall be denied nor shall the applicant be given less favorable treatment as to time, manner, or place based upon the message of the outdoor event, the content of speech of the outdoor event, nor based on the identity or associational relationships of the applicant and or participants. Section 142-12 (3) No permit shall be denied nor shall the applicant be given less favorable treatment as to time, manner, or place on account of any assumptions or predictions as to the amount of hostility which may be aroused in the public by the content of speech or message conveyed by the outdoor event, provided that reasonable accommodation as to time, manner and place maybe required in order for the City to provide the resources necessary for police protection.”Report

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  8. Question Man says:

    Now that the City is selling Piedmont Park to the highest bidder, how long before the City starts selling the Office of the Mayor to the highest bidder? Or is that already happening?Report

    Reply
  9. Question Man says:

    Maria: Where does the money from this event go, especially since a gated event involves “closing a portion of the park to the public and excluding members of the public, and for which a ticket and/or admission fee is required to attend the gathering.” Do the City and Piedmont Park get a fair shake since there’s a lot of money to be made? It’s not possible, is it, that people are gorging at the public trough?Report

    Reply

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