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.”