Midtown Neighbors and NPU-E vote against 2014 Music Midtown festival application, but show will go on

By Maria Saporta

When Music Midtown 2014 takes over Piedmont Park Sept. 19 and 20, it will do so without the support of the Midtown Neighbors’ Association and Neighborhood Planning Unit-E, which surrounds the southern and western boundaries of the park.

NPU-E voted unanimously to “not support” the Music Midtown 2014 festival appiication at its meeting on Sept. 2 – validating the position of one of its constituent communities – the Midtown Neighbors’ Association.

Both the NPU and the Midtown Neighbors Association knew that their position would not stop the festival from taking place. They have been most interested in making sure that the City of Atlanta and the festival organizers are sensitive to their concerns about the event’s impact on the surrounding neighborhoods as well as on Piedmont Park.

Crowd listens to band Phoenix at 2013 Music Midtown (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Crowd listens to band Phoenix at 2013 Music Midtown (Photo by Maria Saporta)

In an email Thursday morning, Peter Conlon, president of Live Nation Atlanta, which puts on Music Midtown, said that they had done as much as they could to address the community’s concerns. In fact the other NPU that borders the park on the east, was satisfied with what had been worked out.

“NPU-F voted to support; NPU-E voted not to support based on the traffic plan,” Conlon wrote in his email. “There is nothing we can do. The police will not alter the plan to suit what the neighbors want. We do not set road closings. The police do. No festival spends the funds we do for comprehensive traffic control and security plans.”

Terry Bond, president of the Midtown Neighbors’ Association who also serves on NPU-E’s board, said he would share the neighborhood’s position about the two-day festival with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and copy representatives on City Council as well as the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board.

Here is a copy of that statement:

Midtown Neighbors’ Association Position Statement on Music Midtown 2014

The Midtown Neighbors’ Association does not support the current plan for the Music Midtown 2014 festival event scheduled in Piedmont Park on September 19-20.

The Music Midtown representative, Ms. Melissa Laurenceau, has worked tirelessly to address the Midtown Neighbors’ Association concerns with this festival over the past 2 months and has been able to effectively answer a number of our concerns. We greatly appreciate all of her efforts.

We continue to have concerns with the increasing scale of these events and the repeated damage to Piedmont Park – particularly the increased stress on Oak Hill which has been noted by the Piedmont Park Conservancy and the City Parks Department. These concerns for the Park are exacerbated by the apparent lack of City monitors capable of managing and minimizing the damage inflicted on the Park during these massive set-ups and break-downs.

Piedmont Park on Saturday night after close of Music Midtown - a sea of mud and trash (Photo: Amy Wenk)

Piedmont Park on Saturday night after close of Music Midtown – a sea of mud and trash (Photo: Amy Wenk)

We also are opposed to allowing Music Midtown to begin fencing in the Park while the Atlanta Arts Festival is in full swing.

However, the Historic Midtown neighborhood is most directly impacted by the traffic, parking issues, and the associated safety concerns which we feel have not been adequately addressed over the past 4 years.

Major Whitmire has stated that –“The best chance we have, in my opinion, is to promote this as a green event with all event information encouraging attendees to ride MARTA or a bicycle. … This GREEN PROMOTION SHOULD BE THE STANDARD FOR ALL EVENTS IN THE FUTURE.”

In principle the MNA supports the promotion of Green events that support a more sustainable and walk-able Midtown. But we note festival goers have a history of driving to and parking in Historic Midtown and believe this promotion will have minimal impact on the increased parking and traffic on our residential streets. Additionally, we know the district does not have the sufficient supplemental parking to handle the projected 75,000+ per day attendance even if half ride MARTA, bike, or walk.

As far as this most recent traffic plan is concerned, the Midtown Neighbors’ Association is still opposed to closing 10th Street for this or any other festival as there really is no viable alternative routing.

The latest plan calls for the complete closure of 10th Street east of Myrtle Street for the 2 days of the festival and diverts all festival traffic onto Myrtle and directly into the Historic Midtown neighborhood.

The preferred plan is to divert the traffic at Piedmont and keep the traffic on the appropriate collector and arterial streets using Piedmont and Monroe around the north end of the Park. Festival traffic should also be warned that parking is not available to the north beyond 14th Street and divert all festival traffic west at 14th Street into the Midtown Improvement District where there is at least a modicum of public parking lots.

Our other major concern which has been an issue throughout these discussions is the massive amount of festival parking within our neighborhoods. Regardless of how much we advertise a “green event” we must also recognize that those festival goers with a history of parking in Historic Midtown, Ansley Park, and Virginia Highlands will continue to attempt to park within our neighborhoods. If they are parking legally, that’s fine, however, as we all have seen, this is not always the case.

This is a major safety concern that spreads throughout Historic Midtown as street after street is made impassable by the influx of tens of thousands of festival goers. This creates real concerns about vandalism, theft, reduction in residential parking (many residents have only on street parking options), and limited access for emergency vehicles to residents and homes.

To this illegal parking concern, Major Whitmire wants to see more towing as a deterrent and he has stated that APD will “request that Park Atlanta have additional Officers and Wreckers available for violators to increase enforcement.” We agree that this is the best possible deterrent and it should help keep the streets passable for emergency response vehicles. But this can only work if we actually see the follow through with the increased presence of tow trucks and towing.

Should the City keep the current plan of routing 10th Street traffic directly into the neighborhood via Myrtle, we should also accept that this will invite more parking problems within Historic Midtown. We therefore request that the APD officers positioned within Historic Midtown take a more proactive responsibility to ensure no illegal parking for at least 2 blocks surrounding the locations where they are stationed.

Hosting these large Class A festivals in a park surrounded on all sides by residential neighborhoods is problematic and these problems continue to grow as these festivals grow. The City must address the effect of unrestricted amplified sound has on these residential neighborhoods and reconsider the existing noise ordinance exemption. The City must also find better traffic flow solutions and sufficient parking appropriate to the size of the event.

Terry Bond

President, Midtown Neighbors’ Association


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.

3 replies
  1. Keith W says:

    Before people start slamming Midtown and the Neighborhood
    Unit as NIMBYs (oh, it’s coming), consider that 85% of all Class A
    festivals are in Piedmont Park, that 10th Street was narrowed to a
    single lane along park in the past year, and that no event (it’s not
    even close) does the long term damage to Piedmont that Music Midtown.  2013 MM was the most damage to the grounds from a single event since 1992 (if
    it were only as simply as “grass grows back…throw out more grass
    seed!”).    The neighborhoods support the many large events at Piedmont Park so much so that
    their opposition and push-back to MusicMidtown must tell you something about Live
    Nation’s operation, scope and negative impact.Report

  2. Living the Dream says:

    NPU-F voted to support with conditions.
    Here is their list of conditions sent to me on July 28, 2014 from .  These conditions will not be met!

    Here are the promised conditions NPU-F has included on the COA OSE NPU-F Review form as promised.
    1) Amsterdam Ave be included along with the other streets east of Monroe as being limited to one-sided parking only and restricted to residents.
    2) Increased police coverage along Monroe from 10th street north to Piedmont to assist with security and traffic issues.
    3) Trash cans be placed at regular intervals along Monroe Dr. and along 10th St.
    4) Event organizer provide written information to area residents outlining times for set up, street closures, dates/times for festival itself, contact information for towing illegally parked vehicles, and APD contact numbers for security concerns/incidents.
    5) Protective measures taken for tree roots of impacted trees during set up, take down, event itself.
    6) Event organizer completely cover the cost of lawn remediation with no cost transferred to the public.
    7) One open travel lane be maintained along 10th St. in both east/west direction at all times.
    8) Noise impacts on surrounding neighborhoods be evaluated and noise ordinance be enforced.Report

  3. Travis says:

    I am curious after this event, what the neighborhood feedback is. I live in Howell Station and thought Music Midtown would have no affect on us. Friday night however our windows were rattling. I was off to look for a house party to complain about when I realized I was hearing Run DMC from over three miles away! I suspect the City does not have any specified noise restrictions for class A events unlike most municipalities. After a few terse emails, the only response I received was call 911 for noise related issues. 911 should be used of emergencies, not as a reactionary policy for large events.Report


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