By Guest Columnist JIM KEGLEY, a partner in 10th and Monroe, LLC, which intends to develop property along the Atlanta BeltLine at Piedmont Park
We have lived in Midtown for 15 years. We share our neighbors’ love of the residential area. We also share our fellow Atlantans’ ambitions for our city, particularly as they’ve been articulated in our most transformational vision for our future: The Atlanta BeltLine. The land in which we have invested near the intersection of 10th Street and Monroe Avenue represents an opportunity to express those values.
One of the most complicated intersections in Atlanta – where the BeltLine intersects with 10th Street and Monroe Drive – will face even more challenges with a new proposed development on an adjacent 4-acre site.
The plans for the redevelopment became public in December when the Invest Atlanta board approved a memo-of-understanding to sell a 1.47 acre strip of land along the BeltLine to a joint venture of Jim Kegley and Jeff Fuqua for $2.5 million.
Philanthropies and the city of Atlanta are planning a $100 million spend on an expansion of Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Botanical Garden, part of which will extend green space to the corner of Piedmont and Monroe, Mayor Kasim Reed announced on Friday.
Atlanta’s development agency took the first step to selling a piece of prime Midtown Beltline-front property that a developer is eyeing as part of a big mixed-use build. But acknowledging the alarm from some neighbors, Invest Atlanta did impose conditions, including community engagement, for closing the deal.
The weather was gorgeous (no rain or storms and not too hot) on both Saturday and Sunday. The music was fabulous (at least most of the acts I saw). And, as always, it provided some of the best people-watching in town.
But I kept thinking – what if Music Midtown had happened a week earlier when Hurricane Irma was making its way through Georgia.
Though the Piedmont Park Conservancy reports investments of more than $66 million to restore and nurture Piedmont Park, the city of Atlanta still tends the park. Atlanta’s attention to detail is evident in the pending deal to maintain the lawn and flower beds.
One of the most popular trees in Piedmont Park – a stately magnolia near the bridge between the two lakes – toppled over in late July when its root plate cracked. The city quickly cut it down because it posed a danger to the public.
Portable hammock (that conveniently zips shut): check. Paperback book: check. Very pleasant, comfortably warm afternoon at Piedmont Park (this past Sunday): check. This is how you relax on a nice fall day in Atlanta.
The 2015 Music Midtown just wrapped up Sept. 20 in Piedmont Park ─ the fifth time the music festival has been held in Atlanta’s signature park. Every year, Music Midtown and the surrounding neighborhoods struggle over a myriad of issues ─ from lanes being shut down to the area of the park being closed off before, during and after the festival.
True confessions: I love Music Midtown.
Crowds listen to Hozier on Friday – with “Super VIP” area in background (Photo by Maria Saporta)
I have been to every Music Midtown since it began at 10th and Peachtree in 1994. It was such a disappointment when Music Midtown disappeared between 2006 and 2010 ─ leaving Atlanta without a signature music festival.
In 2011, Peter Conlon of Live Nation, announced he was bringing Music Midtown back to Piedmont Park.
Since then, crowds have grown from 35,000 people in 2010 to roughly 125,000 by 2013 – and Music Midtown expanded to three stages over two days
Festival-goers were not deterred in 2013 by a severe downpour that left the normally green meadow a mixture of mud and trash. Sections of Piedmont Park were closed for months as the grounds were restored and the grass took root.
The last two years, the weather has been near perfect. This year, the traffic flowed much smoother than in the past. Despite having four stages, the festival felt less crowded than previous years.
Conlon attributed it to the closure of 10th Street, having more police and learning how to improve it every year. But he did not share attendance figures or talk about what it might mean for Music Midtown in 2016.
People listen to Panic at the Disco on Saturday at the Belk Stage (Photo by Maria Saporta)
Music Midtown is a lightning rod in some communities surrounding Piedmont Park. Maybe people resent having a gated, ticketed event that benefits Live Nation rather than Piedmont Park.
Some folks may have a “not in my backyard” attitude. But as someone who has lived within two blocks of Piedmont Park for more than 30 years, I can tell you Music Midtown can’t solely be blamed for stress on park grounds.
The city of Atlanta has allowed so many event permits in Piedmont Park, our special oasis of green often turns into a special events space where cars and trucks are supposed to be prohibited.
At one time, the city and Piedmont Park Conservancy had a strict policy to limit the number of events in the park because it was “being loved to death.”
We have beautiful parks throughout the city that can be used for events ─ and the city should invite organizers to try alternative spaces. We also need to ensure all funds from permit fees go directly into park maintenance and not into the general fund.
Sadly, we have few options to host mega festivals in Atlanta. So we’re left having to shoehorn Music Midtown into our precious and overused Piedmont Park.