Peter Conlon: Music Midtown is good for Atlanta — and Piedmont Park

By Maria Saporta

As we count down the days to 2014 Music Midtown, I wanted to spend time with festival organizer Peter Conlon to hear his point of view of how the event was evolving in relation to Piedmont Park and the surrounding communities.

Conlon, president of Live Nation Atlanta, has been a concert promoter in the city for decades. He has seen it all and done it all. Conlon and his former business partner – Alex Cooley – who now owns Eddie’s Attic in downtown Decatur, started Music Midtown in 1994 on a site that now holds the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

It has seen its ups and downs and even a six-year hiatus before re-emerging fin 2011 in a scaled-down form at Piedmont Park.

But during the 2013 Music Midtown, a serious downpour on the second day of the festival turned the grassy meadow at Piedmont Park into a muddy mess as more than 55,000 people came to listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers on that Saturday night for the main event.

That led me to write a column the following day with the following headline: “Loving Music Midtown and Piedmont Park shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.”

Conlon was not happy with that column, and we had tried to connect to talk about it. But months passed, and the year got away from us. Then when Music Midtown applied for its 2014 festival permit for Sept. 19 and 20, the issue resurfaced as the Midtown Neighbors’ Association and NPU-E voted to not support the event.

I asked Peter Conlon if he would sit down for an interview and share his thoughts.

Peter Conlon with the Piedmont Park meadow in the foreground and the Midtown skyline in the background (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Peter Conlon with the Piedmont Park meadow in the foreground and the Midtown skyline in the background (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The next day – on Friday, Sept. 5 – we were sitting at one of the outside tables at the Park Tavern overlooking the very meadow where the Chili Peppers had played last year.

“I hope last year was the worst-case scenario we will ever have,” Conlon said. “But we will always leave the park better than we found it. We did it when we put on the Green Concerts. And we did it last year.”

Conlon went through a long list of what Live Nation does for Piedmont Park and city as part of its agreement to put on Music Midtown every year.

It has negotiated a $400,000 permit fee that it gives the city – more than any other Class A festival. It also gives the Piedmont Park Conservancy $100,000.

It pays for all the city services related to the festival – security, traffic management and waste management. It pays to repair any damage to the park, including placing sod where grass has been damaged or destroyed..

“Last year, we spent more than $100,000 remediating the park,” Conlon said. “We put down mulch, and we put grass in places where there had not been any grass before. We did things that had not been there before we held Music Midtown.”

But the neighborhood has complained that after last year’s festival large portions of the meadow were fenced off for months as the park’s green space recovered from Music Midtown.

Inevitably they ask whether an event as large and impactful as Music Midtown belongs in Piedmont Park, the city’s most attractive and popular green space.

Conlon was quick to say that he loves Piedmont Park. Until two years ago when he moved to Buckhead, he had spent 35 years living in Morningside and Virginia-Highlands so he could be close to the park. He has seen it in its dilapidated days, and he has seen it be reinvigorated with the tender, love and care of the Piedmont Park Conservancy – an organization he personally supports.

But then he quickly added some historical context.

“Piedmont Park was designed for big events,” Conlon said. “It was designed for the Cotton States Exposition (in 1895), and 800,000 people attended that event.”

By comparison, Conlon said the 2014 Music Midtown will sell up 80,000 tickets – for a total of attendance of 160,000 over two days. The Cotton States and International Exposition also lasted a total of 100 days.

Still Conlon emphasized that Piedmont Park “was never designed to be someone’s backyard.”

In Conlon’s eyes, great cities have great music festivals. And the return of Music Midtown is a boost for the city’s economy.

“This is a good event for the city,” Conlon said. “It puts us on the map with other cities and their music festivals. They are economic drivers for cities. During Music Midtown, the hotels, bars and restaurants are full. People are spending money.”

Conlon also said it is one of the biggest weekends for MARTA ridership as well because so many concert goers take transit rather than drive.

When asked if Music Midtown should be located at a different site where there’s more hardscape (pavement) rather than green space that is vulnerable to being damaged when more than a 100,000 people trample over it during a weekend – especially a rainy one.

“There is no place to do these events other than Piedmont Park,” Conlon said. “We are under-parked as a city.”

We went through the list. What about the Civic Center site where Music Midtown was at for several years before it was discontinued for six years.

“The Civic Center site was a lousy site,” Conlon said. “Attendance went down every year. People didn’t like standing on asphalt. People voted on the site by not buying tickets.”

Then referring back to Piedmont Park: “You can fix grass.”

What about Centennial Olympic Park? Too small. It can’t accommodate crowds of more than 25,000.

Both Chastain Park and Grant Park – although they are large parks – do not have an area designed to handle the 100,000-plus patrons currently coming to Piedmont Park.

Eventually, the Bellwood Quarry park along the westside of the BeltLine could be an option, Conlon said, but it would be many years before the city developed the quarry into a water reservoir and the property into a park.

At one time, Fort McPherson – with 180 acres of existing green space bordered by two MARTA stations – had been viewed as an alternate site for major city festivals. But current plans by film-maker Tyler Perry to turn 325 of the 480-acre site into a studio complex would put most of that green space behind a sealed off area with undefined or limited safeguards for that open space to remain undeveloped.

A lawsuit challenging the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority and Tyler Perry is still waiting to be heard by U.S. District Judge Richard Story.

So Conlon said that Atlanta has few, if any, locations available for Music Midtown other than Piedmont Park.

As for the surrounding neighborhoods, Conlon said Live Nation has tried to be responsive to most of their concerns. But he added that the biggest neighborhood complaint – traffic plans and management – is controlled by the City of Atlanta and not by Live Nation.

And about the noise during the festival, Conlon simply stated: “It’s loud. It’s a festival. It’s a loud festival. But it’s only for two days.”

This will be the fourth year Music Midtown has been in Piedmont Park. The first year, there was only one stage (Coldplay was the big act in 2011) with about 35,000 people attending the one day festival.

The second year, the festival expanded to two stages over two days with about 50,000 attending each day (the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam were the big acts).

The third year, the festival expanded to three stages and had about 125,000 attendees over both days (Journey headlining Friday night and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Saturday night).

“We lost a tremendous amount of money the first two years,” Conlon said about the resurrection of Music Midtown. “It takes years to build up an event. We made a little bit of money last year. But we didn’t make enough to recoup what we had invested the first two years.”

This year, he hopes the festival will do even better, but there are no guarantees. Conlon said his budget is about $12 million with half going to paying the artists.

Putting on outdoor festivals can be a gamble – making sure people buy their tickets well in advance of the show so they won’t be fair-weather fans.

Conlon said he believes there’s potential for growth, and he will work with the city and the community about any plans to add other stages or an extra day. But he also added that it will never be the size it once was.

Conlon also said that after the neighborhood association and NPU-E voted against the festival permit, he was glad the City issued a statement in support of Music Midtown:

“The Department of Parks and Recreation is committed to ensuring that Music Midtown continues to be an integral part of our city’s arts and cultural fabric, while minimizing impact to the surrounding communities of Piedmont Park.  While we faced extremely challenging weather conditions last year, the park recovered relatively quickly and the Department will continue to work with the festival organizers to remediate the park grounds in a timely fashion.  The festival organizer is 100 percent responsible for those costs.  Together, the Department of Parks and Recreation, Mayor’s Office of Special Events, and the Atlanta Police Department with the support of Piedmont Park Conservancy, will continue to work together to make Music Midtown successful for both patrons and residents.”

Conlon obviously is doing everything he can to minimize the opposition to Music Midtown because he does not see other short-term options for the festival.

“This is our Central Park. It is a great place for music festivals,” Conlon said. “There is no other place where can do major festivals in the city. If we can’t have Music Midtown at Piedmont Park, there’s nowhere to go. We’re done.”

Then he added: “We are not here to trash the park. We are always going to leave it in better condition than we found it. We are trying to give Atlanta the festival it deserves. We are a big national festival again.”

So you tell me.

Is loving Music Midtown and Piedmont Park mutually exclusive? Or can we do both?

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.

28 replies
  1. Woody Eadie says:

    Funny how there’s another Class A event at the park with multiple music stages over multiple days that draws tens of thousands of people and they don’t close off 10th Street except for a few hours for a parade on one day… it’s called Atlanta Pride. Can someone PLEASE explain why 10th Street has to be closed?Report

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  2. urban gardener says:

    I really don’t know where to begin…. When the little old ladies of Old Fourth Ward raised holy heck about the pictures falling off the walls of their homes b/c of how loud it was, the City listened but quick. When Midtown howls about gridlock, park damage, disruptions to two schools for a week, EMS safety access concerns, lack of trash cleanup, etc etc etc, the City tells us to go suck an egg. – See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2014/09/peter-conlon-music-midtown-is-good-for-atlanta-and-piedmont-park/#sthash.5cqcv5jT.dpufReport

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  3. Midtown Loyalist says:

    Let us observe two disingenuous remarks by Conlon:
    1) “Piedmont Park was designed for big events,” Conlon said. “It was designed for the Cotton States Exposition (in 1895), and 800,000 people attended that event.” Yes, Music Midtown will have 160,000 and 160k is less than 800k. Excellent math skills, sir! Yet highly irrelevant. Was Atlantic Station once the site of a steel mill? Yes. Is it now a steel mill? no. Would it be appropriate to do steel milling activity on the site now? No. Likewise, Piedmont Park was once the site of the massive Cotton States Exhibition, but is it that now? No. It is now redesigned as a residential park now dramatically scaled down from its origins. And when it was built for a massive exhibition, it was deep in what was then the sparsely populated countryside. Today it is the epicenter of the cultural hub of Atlanta surrounded on all perimeters by very expensive single family homes and very sophisticated high-rise dwellings. Like Atlantic Station’s unsuitability for steel milling in its current configuration, Piedmont Park is nob longer appropriate as a massive exhibition site. Our Mayor just doesn’t really care… but we knew that already about a great many other issues of concern to citizens’ neighborhoods.
    2) “Still Conlon emphasized that Piedmont Park ‘was never designed to be someone’s backyard.’” See above. What it was originally designed for is not what it is today. But more to the point, even our semi-governmental overseers, Midtown Alliance (whom I support very much) — the group that, with local citizen input, created Blueprint Midtown and re-birthed this area– has over the last decade openly referred to Piedmont Park as Midtown’s FRONT YARD! So, you have only made matters worse for yourself in that regard. For while one may throw a blow out bbq and party with amplified music in their backyard on a Saturday afternoon, I think all civilized persons would find it inappropriate to have their party in the front yard. It is just bad form to have the party in the front yard, but Conlon and the Mayor don’t consider such proprieties.
    The Mayor must pave and repair our misshapen, disheveled, and crumbling streets and infrastructure he’s neglected during his terms, and must now sell our community assets or even sell “us” out to do so. And we are all the poorer for it. Conlon and the Mayor were made for each other. Personal goals trump all citizens’ concerns… always.Report

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  4. esa says:

    Conlon wants to have a festival with the cheapest acceptable venue possible so he goes to Piedmont Park eschewing purpose built venues that would cost more such as Verizon, Lakewood, GA Dome, Turner Field.  He pays the City $400,000 for the permit, $100,000 to the Piedmont Park Conservancy and $100,000 for remediation to accommodate 160,000 fans.  That’s laughably cheap.  It’s only 5% of his budget and his cost to use the Park then is $3.75 per attendee day.  He insists on using the Park because it allows him to maximize his take on the event.  Nothing wrong with that but the City needs to say no to people acting like they own the Park when what they are really doing is making a big mess and a profit for themselves.
    What always galls me are the roadies setting up for and taking down the event ordering people around like they own the place before and after the event.  It’s a public park.  If you have equipment there before and after the event that’s your problem and doesn’t give you the right to tell me where I can and can’t go in a public park.Report

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  5. Living the Dream says:

    Conlon? 
    Disingenuous?!!! Read all about it:  “Deep thoughts by
    Peter Conlon”…  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4kyiyd3jpfygetw/AAAbwb8OFU06jlaixLtooCUaa?dl=0
    The $100K to Piedmont
    Park Conservancy?  That was a consulting contract, not a gift (see
    link above).  It was more like “hush money,” as they
    took very little that the PPC suggested under advisement.
    The $100K to repair the
    park?  Conlon whined and moaned and tried to blame other festivals to
    minimize remediation (again, see link above).
    The $400K to the
    city?  That’s a measly education grant (does it even go to the Centers of
    Hope?)… I’ll be happy to write that grant to move MM15 to a more
    appropriate venue or scale it WAY back.   I’ll call it the “Save our Park” education grant. 
    Not making money on MM11 and MM12?  I’m sure TomorrowWorld,
    Bonnaroo, and the Wanee Fest make plenty of money out in the
    boondocks.  Piedmont Park is grossly inappropriate for the size and scale of this event, and it is surrounded on all sides by residential neighborhoods.
    Speaking of education…
    this festival imposes on 2 adjacent schools (Grady HS and The Children’s
    School)… MM negatively impacts student and educator access, imposes
    on administrators time/energy to plan for and to mitigate safety and
    access concerns, and this festival takes up some of the limited staff/student
    parking for these schools.Report

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  6. Mark says:

    Of course the MAYOR’S office of special events issued a statement in support of the event.  Livenation was Kasim Reed’s only client when he was a lawyer in private practice.  They bought and paid for his support and loyalty.  I would also be more supportive of Music Midtown if Peter Conlon didn’t insist on offering up such a terrible and disjointed lineup as well.Report

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  7. Mac says:

    I agree with “Living the Dream” below. He acts as if there’s no other place to go. Have you heard of Counterpoint? or even bigger, Tomorrowworld? Tomorrowworld will have more people than Music Midtown, it’ll last 3 1/2 days, AND they don’t have any issues. Why? Cuz they’re in a space that can accommodate it WAAAAAY out in Chattahoochee Hills. As the popularity of Music Midtown grows, so must the venue. You can’t keep squishing people in Piedmont Park, especially when you’re rolling the dice with the weather. 
    I say move it to the Dome and make it 3 days long. If you wanna keep it outside? Go to that huge field in Liliburn or Chattahoochee Hills. If anything the city should take over the festival and have it run by the city. Live Nation ATL is horrible and unprofessional. 
    “We made a little bit of money last year. But we didn’t make enough to recoup what we had invested the first two years.” <<< You made a little bit of money… but as stated in the article, you moved from Virginia Highlands to Buckhead. Not just anywhere in buckhead, a penthouse in Terminus? I have to agree with everyone else on here, he just doesn’t get it. He and Live Nation ATL are greedy and disingenuous.Report

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  8. IveSeenWorse says:

    Look, I’m 100% against people screwing over the city/neighborhoods/citizens for their own personal gain (I’m looking at you, City Hall), and maybe LiveNation does pay too low a price, but MM is a great addition to this city and something I look forward to each year.  It brings in tons of people, makes Midtown/Piedmont Park a vibrant area, and gives those not from the area a chance to see what living on the eastside of Midtown is like.  Does it mess up the park?  Yes.  Should the promoters pay to fix every bit of damage that is done?  Yes, again.  But those people asking for MM to be pushed out to the boondocks are missing the fact that we are in a big city, the influx back in-town is because people want to live in a big city, and crowds (and festivals) are something that happens in big cities.  Are there problems?  Yes, but a lot lands on the back of the city government that has failed to create any acceptable infrastructure in the area to accommodate the crowds (i.e., mass transit).Report

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  9. EvanZinner says:

    It costs $400,000 for a permit for the park for 2 days; $200,000 per day.  I believe this amount of money should be paid to the city for everyday that the park is unusable afterwards.  Peter Conlon says he returned the park better than he found it, but he took well over a month to do it.  If LiveNation had to pay for every day that the park wasn’t better than it was found, it would be returned to its initial state immediately.  
    I don’t care about the traffic or the noise.  These are things that accompany any large festival, and I don’t see a problem with them.  However, there is no excuse for taking over a month to lay some sod.  
    Peter Conlon says that last year was a worst case scenario.  According to https://weatherspark.com/averages/29669/9/Atlanta-Georgia-United-States, there is between a 7% and 17% chance of thunderstorms on a September day in Atlanta.  There needs to be a better plan than “well it’s not our fault, it rained.”  Rain can and will happen again.Report

    Reply
  10. Living the Dream says:

    A rebuttal on the design and limits of the Park:

    https://nextdoor.com/profile/1771487/?lc=1&ct=hPsoNdYzIncilANQwZcaHF9zRK2xkKHF-kpBMvUA6z-tSfub85WjI7WG4Wqe64Ad, https://nextdoor.com/news_feed/?broadcast=false&ct=hPsoNdYzIncilANQwZcaHF9zRK2xkKHF-kpBMvUA6z-tSfub85WjI7WG4Wqe64Ad&t=demm&lc=3

    In 1993 my firm was
    selected to provide master planning services for Piedmont Park. From 1993
    until 2007 I along with a design team and Piedmont Park Committee’s completed
    the 1995 master plan for Piedmont Park Conservancy and the North Wood’s
    Master Plan and subsequently implemented many design projects from the two
    above mentioned master plans. Design projects that I have overseen are many,
    the ones I’m most proud of are, The redesign of Clare Meer (the lake), the
    design of the Bridge at Clare Meer, the Active Oval, the Meadow, the Parking
    Deck (lost a number of friends over that one) and the completion of schematic
    design for the North Woods.

    As a designer
    Piedmont Park has played an important role in my design Legacy. For the last
    year and a half I have taken the beltline and Piedmont Park via bike or
    walking to my office each day. Obviously, what I write today is biased
    towards the park and more importantly the protection of the park.

    We have to remember
    the city of Atlanta contributes very little maintenance funds (if any)
    towards the parks in Atlanta. If it wasn’t for Piedmont Park Conservancy the
    park would be in deplorable condition as it was in 1993. The current city
    administration seems to have very little empathy for parks in Atlanta. Doing
    the 1993 master planning process I’ve visited Prospect Park in New York City.
    I spent two days interviewing Tupper Thomas and other Park employees. The
    most significant finding was, Prospect Park limited festivals and music
    events in the park due to the destruction that these events caused. The park
    charged a minimum of $25,000 per event. This was 1994 dollars. The Piedmont
    Park master planning committee determined that it was very important to limit
    the number of the events in Piedmont Park due to it size. Prospect Park is
    over 900 acres, Piedmont Park including the Botanical Gardens is
    approximately 134 acres. For many of you that were around doing the 90s you
    can remember that the Art Festival went on for over 10 days and caused large
    amounts of damage to the infrastructure of Piedmont Park. For that reason the
    Art Festival was downsized to three days and ultimately the Art Festival left
    for a number of years.

    I can tell you the
    Piedmont Park Conservancy and its members fought very hard to limit the
    number of festivals in the park and set very stringent setup and take down
    guidelines for anyone using the park. Unfortunately when the last Executive
    Director left Piedmont Park about five years ago all wiliness to protect the
    park has been lost.

    I can professionally
    tell you that there is no way that the park can survive the Midtown Music
    Festival with that number of people coming into the park. As I understand it
    Midtown Festival is not paying nearly enough for reclamation damages to the
    park. Over the last 20 years so many people have worked so hard to protect
    and reclaim Piedmont Park, this saddens me to see us forget the history and
    allow the park to b to be treated with so little respect.Report

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  11. Keith W says:

    Maria – MusicMidtown had two major stages in 2011.  Avett Brothers
    played on one stage followed immediately by Coldplay on the second.
    Geez, the Parks Dept quickly changed their tune on Music Midtown and the use of Oak Hill. Reed has really put his political weight behind what has quickly becoming a very unpopular
    event among City residents.  The Parks Dept lack of oversight over the
    event setup last year was nothing less than negligent / absent.   Real Conservancy concerns
    were ignored at virtually every turn and Live Nation arrogance was on full display.

    And
    now this year, there are nearly two weeks of lane and partial park closure just for setup/take down. 

    And yes, Conlon is very disingenuous
    claiming Live Nation improves Piedmont Park.  They take it out of
    service and damage it like no other Class A event (2011 saw a lot of damage and extended fencing off of sections, too).   The Meadow has been
    in steady decline since Music Midtown started.   It was in miserable
    shape this Spring and it took an unusually favorable summer of weather
    for it to get back to where it is at this point (a year later and still
    not back to pre-MM 2013 condition).   Did he really say that stuff with a straight face?  

    And after all that, who can really take him serious that he was unprofitable in year one and two in Piedmont Park?
    However,
    the most disingenuous comment may have been Conlon taking credit for
    the Green Concerts.   He essentially blocked with the Conservancy’s ability to
    deal directly with artists (like they did with Dave Mathews, Allman
    Brothers and McCartney).  His interference in the third one made it barely profitable.   
    Oyyyyy.Report

    Reply
  12. Gogreeno says:

    “Last year, we spent more than $100,000 remediating the park,” Conlon said. “We put down mulch, and we put grass in places where there had not been any grass before. We did things that had not been there before we held Music Midtown.” 
    Yes, Peter. Mulch is so lovely. It holds up really well on those hillsides during rainstorms where there used to be grass. Not.
    Yes, Peter. You did lots of things that had not been there before Music Midtown, like destroy the roads, pathways, TREE ROOTS, etc. with those massive, overweight semis.
    Yes, Peter. You laid sod in October? Do you think that we cannot remember the park being fenced off all winter long? We should change its name to “Patchwork Park,” has a nice ring to it, huh? We can see exactly where your “grass grows.”
    “Then referring back to Piedmont Park: “You can fix grass.” 

    Please, Peter. Tell that to Patchwork Park.
    “It pays for all the city services related to the festival – security, traffic management and waste management. It pays to repair any damage to the park, including placing sod where grass has been damaged or destroyed..”
    Thank you, Peter. Perhaps you and Mayor Greed can cut a better back-scratching deal this year and get the taxpayers to pay for all these things for a better bottom-line for you and Live Nation. We applaud you at such savvy negotiating. Taking the Green Concert over from the Piedmont Park Conservancy and lining your pockets. Bravo!

    “Then he added: “We are not here to trash the park. We are always going to leave it in better condition than we found it ”

    Yes, Pinocchio, I mean Peter….Report

    Reply
  13. BruceGarner says:

    Much has been covered below.  But Conlon’s opening remark about The Cotton States Exposition is way off the mark.  Those huge crowds used the entire park.  Exhibition halls, large ones, were built for the displays, etc.  There was no issue of traffic, because few had anything other than human or horse powered vehicles.  I would also wager that the attendees were dressed to the nines and displayed impeccable manners and decorum during the entire time they were at the Exposition.   To compare Music Midtown being held in one “corner” of Piedmont Park to an exposition that involved the entire park when it was not surrounded by urban neighborhoods is ludicrous.

    It’s nice of him to blame the city for the traffic problems, but he could suggest to the city something as simple as widening the perimeter where only residents can enter and park.  We will see thousands and thousands of vehicles routed down 8th and Myrtle when neither was designed to accommodate such traffic.

    Music Midtown may clean up the park itself, but what do they do about the trash left by concert attendees in the surrounding neighborhoods?  Nothing at all.

    The fact that the city gets $400,000 is absurd.  It should get several times that amount and it should require a deposit or an insurance certificate that guarantees that everything gets returned to a condition that is acceptable to the Park Conservancy and the city and the neighborhood groups.

    Let’s stop comparing this to Central Park.  New Yorkers are not in cars.  They are on foot, on the subway, in taxis, in buses and on bikes.  

    Yes we need music festivals, but we also need to preserve the fragile green spaces we have.  The city killed off the nightlife in Midtown rather than enforce existing laws.  Closing times were not the issue.  Enforcement of the law was the issue, yet City Council took the chicken way out rather than deal with the issues.  

    Bottom line:  Who is REALLY benefiting from Music Midtown?   Looking at the numbers, it’s no one but Conlon.

    Bruce Garner
    Resident of Midtown since 1978 and native born at St. Joe’s when it was downtown!Report

    Reply
  14. John Brown says:

    It just keeps getting worse.
    Due to the north side traffic lane, cycle track and sidewalk being closed to facilitate the Music Midtown work zone, the following temporary solution has been put in place between Charles Allen and Monroe:
    For Eastbound bike and pedestrian traffic, the narrow southside sidewalk is the option police are giving.   Bikes also have the option of riding in the single temporary eastbound traffic lane (normally parking places).  At points adjacent to the Grady football field, the sidewalk is overgrown with vegetation, making it passable for only one pedestrian at a time.
    For Westbound bike and pedestrian traffic, the option for pedestrians is to cross 10th street and use the southside sidewalk.  For bikes, the option is to use the narrow temporary westbound traffic lane.  
    Never mind that access to and from the Beltline and Piedmont Park is now incredibly confusing and ultimately dangerous.   
    Was no thought given to this?  What about the crowds arriving for this weekend’s Arts Festival via the Beltline?  Will they share the southside sidewalk with bikes and pedestrians?  What about the narrow parts of that sidewalk where two people cannot pass abreast?  Should someone step into the temporary traffic lane?
    I’m a long time Midtown resident and generally supportive of festivals in the Park.   But this one is too massive and too disruptive to be safe.   
    And, it benefits no one but Peter Conlon.Report

    Reply
  15. Keith W says:

    John – Don’t forget there is a double header of high school football at Grady Stadium tonight.  The Atlanta Children’s School on 10th Street has given up and are just closing tomorrow.Report

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  16. Midtown Bike Commuter says:

    Speaking for cyclists, here: I ride my bicycle to and from work, hopping off the BeltLine and onto the 10th Street bike lane. I saw no signage notifying cyclists of the lane closures earlier this week, and so yesterday afternoon it was quite surprising to nearly be run over by a semi truck backing INTO the bike lane, casually driving over the knock-down dividers. This was an open lane that police officers were freely allowing cyclists to travel.

    At 10th and Monroe, cyclists had to turn back around, ride on the sidewalk, ride on the grass, and try to get to the BeltLine using Piedmont Park paths. A MM worker walked, staring blankly, in the middle of the sidewalk, no instructions, and another cyclist was in a heated conversation with the police officer at 10th and Monroe.

    In Piedmont Park there were more sidewalk/green closure signs and fencing up and so runners, cyclists, walkers were all moving to the grass around fences and construction. The one open sidewalk was blocked by another parked semi. 
    This is all without saying that vehicular traffic was at a standstill on the open lane on 10th.
    Perhaps a few dollars of that $12 million budget could be allocated to detour planning and some better signage? 
    I won’t pass judgment on the legitimacy of an event headlined by Eminem, but I will say there is NO excuse for such poor planning that endangers pedestrians and cyclists like this.Report

    Reply
  17. Guest living in Downtown says:

    Hello,
    When I was crossing over 10th street, towards Park Tavern, coming from the Grady School Stadium side, I did witness this “Midtown Bike Commuter:, A MM worker walked, staring blankly, in the middle of the sidewalk, no instructions, and another cyclist was in a heated conversation with the police officer at 10th and Monroe.”.
    I continued to walk down on the sidewalk, trying to ignore the scene, did encounter the police at Park Tavern, the gate by Charles and Piedmont Park, no comments. Then a little bit down walking on the sidewalk, right across from The Atlanta School, a police officer informs me the sidewalk is closed, I have to move. In my response, I made the comment that it is a public sidewalk, asked can you please show me where it is stated that it is closed, she needed to see my ID. This did not happen quick enough, since I was more less not really willing to just accept I am not allowed to make any comments, ask questions, etc., I was informed when she would put her hands on me I would be under arrest.
    When mentioned that more people are walking, running on the sidewalk, her response was, that she can not get everybody, just a few seconds before she did talk to a lady, who just continue her walk on the sidewalk too, I happened to talk to her too.
    To keep my comment short, I did end up with a Citation for disobey the lawful order of a office in a prohibited area, City of Atlanta ordinance Code 110-59-6, Prohibited Conduct. Needles to say, it took her, and another officer about 30 – 45 minutes to look in books, papers, to come up with this citation code.
    After this, I was standing around in the park, taken pictures, talked to another officer who was doing nothing about people walking on that same sidewalk. He informed me that he didn’t know anything.Report

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  18. Midtown Resident says:

    EvanZinner I don’t know what the appropriate amount for a festival ought to be. But it certainly seems to me that the $400k (+ 100k to the park) is too low. They essentially take Oak Hill and the lower field for 10 days (in addition to 2 lanes of traffic, the main artery through the park, etc). If it’s $200k/day, $2 million might be a fair price. I don’t know what the total gate + concessions will be, but my guess is that it’ll be around $20 million. $2 million is 10% of the total. This would seem appropriate. It’d also help if that money went to help benefit the neighborhood, the parks of ATL – or at least had some sort of transparent use.Report

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  19. Midtown Resident says:

    @IveSeenWorse I’m with you. And I’ve been a huge supporter of MM in the past. But between the bad concert management last year; the terrible damage to the park last year, and the 10 days of traffic mayhem this year, it seems to be too much. I like MM, and I’ve been to every one. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to: a) make sure that Livenation is paying the city / neighborhood a fair rate b) potentially limit the concert to the lower fields, leaving Oak Hill available for neighborhood use c) try to implement a better traffic plan; d) not take over the park for 10 days when only paying for 2.
    Conlon is clear that he wants this to be like Austin City Limits (which now takes up 2 full weekends in Austin). I’ve been to that event as well. It’s really well run, family friendly, and my guess is that the finances are more transparent and less corrupt.Report

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  20. Midtown Resident says:

    @Mac Yeah. Agreed. I don’t know what the finances are. It would be nice to get some transparency from both LiveNation and the City. But my guess is when he says “we didn’t make much money” – that’s after paying salaries and bonus. So, if you can write yourself a nice fat salary and bonus check and not claim any profit…Report

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  21. Midtown Resident says:

    Living the Dream This is an amazing stash. I’d love to see the details on the 2014 contract. In addition to what I found interesting (as you note above), is that according to the contract, LiveNation is given only non-exclusive access for setup on a few days before the event. They don’t pay for this – or, if they do, it’s part of the $400k. I’m not sure how many days they got this year, but certainly it doesn’t feel like non-exclusive access when the park is fenced off for 10 days beforehand and several months afterwards. They should have to pay a fine for every day that the park isn’t useable by the public. And they certainly shouldn’t be able to execute exclusive access when paying for non-exclusive access.Report

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  22. Midtown Resident says:

    I was initially a supporter of MM. But between the poor festival management last year, the damage to the park, and the seemingly poor oversight by the city, I have turned into an opponent. Conlon wants this to be like Austin City Limits. I don’t know exactly how the residents in Austin feel – but given that their city council VOTED on it (and voted unanimously) to extend it to two weekends, my suspicion is that ACL’s organizers are doing something a lot better than LiveNation and Conlon.

    I do know that ACL is a much more family friendly event – kids under 10 are free and they have special bracelets in case kids go missing. I do know that they minimize traffic disruptions. I do know that they at least appear to be more of a neighborhood friendly event that benefits various good causes. I’d like to know more about how much Austin profits from ACL. I’d like to know more about the finances, etc. But I do know that LiveNation would be better off if they could be as good as ACL’s organizers.Report

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  23. Travis says:

    Th bottom line is Live Nation wants to make money, we would all like to think they would be ethical in that process but we all know that is rarely the case. This is where the City comes in. Policies should be in place to support an event of this nature and not let the profiteer take advantage of residents and public property. Sadly as we have seen many times, our City cannot manage such an event let alone any mild crises. This issue needs to taken to the city in a serious and collective manner if we want to see this situation change. the bottom line is when special permits are issued, they need to come with a guide book written in a fashion to minimize cut corners. Maybe a junket to Austin City Limits would be beneficial to see how a hippie town can manage events better than our city can.Report

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  24. Travis says:

    While I was not directly affected as NPU E & F residents, I involuntarily listened to Music Midtown on Friday evening on the west side of Atlanta. Past I-85. Past Ga Tech. My window at times would even rattle over three miles away. The bottom line is Live Nation wants to make money, we would all like to think they would be ethical in that process but we all know that is rarely the case. This is where the City comes in. Policies should be in place to support an event of this nature and not let the profiteer take advantage of residents and public property. Sadly, as we have seen many times, our City cannot manage such an event let alone any mild crises. This issue needs to taken to the city in a serious and collective manner if we want to see this situation change. When special permits are issued, they need to come with a guide book written in a fashion to minimize cut corners. Maybe a junket to Austin City Limits would be beneficial to see how a hippie town can manage events better than our city can.  – See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2014/09/peter-conlon-music-midtown-is-good-for-atlanta-and-piedmont-park/#sthash.sK7sDfw2.dpufReport

    Reply
  25. urban gardener says:

    The saga of poor management continues. I have had two more neighbors relate their issues with being yelled at by officers for unposted sidewalk closures.
    Then come to find out a man was shot during a mugging Saturday night just after the peak wave of folks left the park in Midtown (he was drunk and went for the gun, was shot in the hand). Further, seems there were two other muggings even closer to the park, I assume still under investigation to determine if related or not.
    I’ve not yet heard if there were any muggings in Virginia Highlands yet.
    So APD patrols before and during the event, but no protection for late at night when attendees are wandering about trying to find their cars and are at their most vulnerable.Report

    Reply
  26. RobbieC says:

    Music Mudtown
    It’s the Monday after Music Midtown 2016 and I just biked through the park with two friends from DC. The Park is trashed. A cost-benefit analysis is not decidedly in favor of Music Midtown even if the weather obliges, but when it rains, as it did this weekend, the damage far exceeds the negotiated fees for amelioration. Large crowds and rain create deep mud that destroys roots and makes rejuvenation a long term proposition. Promoters like to cite indirect benefits such as hotel & restaurant business to show a large net positive effect. These numbers are always hyperbolic. What is not measured are the very real costs as measured by the Park’s diminished value to visitors and neighbors for some time to come. The City neglected the Park for decades and even now underfunds maintenance. While the Park is being enlarged, masonry crumbles, facilities are not washed and repainted as often as needed. I would be very surprised if any of the $400,000 permit fee is earmarked for refurbishment and improvement. Money is fungible and the permit fees are lost after commingled with other revenue. Park maintenance just becomes another appropriations issue and not high on the list.Report

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