Saturday, August 29, 2009

What a wonderful smell you've discovered

I had a whole long post written about Ox's idea to revive I-485, but it basically degenerated into a string of curse words. All I can say is that I find the idea of a parallel connector to be one of the most offensive, divisive, disgusting ideas I have heard in a very, very long time.

If I try to write anything else I will devolve into a spluttering mess and just embarrass myself. Perhaps I can prepare a cogent attack on this idea later, but I'd give it's chances for passage about a -10%.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mayoral forum on alternative transportation


The Atlanta Bicycle Campaign is hosting a mayoral forum focusing on alternative transportation. Reader Doug alerted me to the event, which I unfortunately will be unable to attend. So many of these events coincide with my classes...

The pertinent data:

Tuesday, September 1
6:30pm
Loudermilk Center Auditorium
40 Courtland Street NE
Bicycle valet parking will be provided

Click the picture at the top of the page for a bigger version of the flyer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mid-week links

Class has curtailed blogging thus far this week. Also, I'm going out of town tonight and through the weekend. I have no idea if blogging will continue on vacation. I doubt it. I'm spending some free time looking at the Larceny from Auto crime stats, so hopefully I'll have a post for that early next week.

Here are some links to tide you over:
  • A recent shooting has led to several anti-crime rallies in Kirkwood.
    The “safety” rally, which is intended to bring light to Hagen’s shooting and other recent crimes, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Bessie Branham Park on Delano Drive. All Atlanta residents are invited, said Anna Knipfer, one of the organizers.

    “The rally is intended to positively promote ideas on how we can get city officials more involved and to shed light on how the rezoning of Zone 6 police station has threatened the safety of all our neighborhoods,” Knipfer said. “It is also is intended to show the criminals that we are standing together and not backing down.”
  • Mayor Franklin and Chief Pennington attended a national summit on gang crime in DC earlier this week.
  • Mary Norwood has a profile in the AJC.
  • I'm really enjoying the new Karen O song from the Wild Things soundtrack.
  • Stephanie Ramage endorses Kasim Reed, and doesn't have terribly nice things to say about Lisa Borders or Mary Norwood. I read this when it was posted, but apparently Reed thought enough of the endorsement that I also got an email from him about it.
I like that Ramage is endorsing, but basically she has stated she is just disclosing her biases in the race. I would do the same, but I haven't made up my mind yet. I think I'm pretty straight forward with what I think about the candidates, though.

Monday, August 24, 2009

GIS images for residential burglaries

This post updates my first post regarding the increase in residential crime in the city. This is the first in a series of posts looking at different types of crime over the last five and a half years.

Cassie created some awesome GIS maps that really illustrate how various parts of the city have seen an explosion in residential burglaries. Click on the slide show to go see the entire album in Picasa in very high quality.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday links

I'll try and get back to regular posting on Monday. Here is what has caught my eye in the last two days:
  • I ate a massive breakfast at Parish that darn near killed me - it was so good I couldn't stop eating. I don't usually link to the stuff I post on the Metblog here, but I mention this because the building that houses Parish is really cool. If you like adaptive reuse, you should go eat there. Also, the brunches are fantastic.
  • Interesting report by the AJC on the rise of gangs. Grisly stuff.
  • Stephanie Ramage takes a look at how the rise of foreclosures might contribute to the decrease in robberies on in certain areas.
  • AJC article on how a lot of decrepit properties Downtown have been redeveloped over the last few years.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Weekend links

Some links to get you through Friday afternoon and to the weekend:
  • Atlanta is still in consideration for World Cup hosting duties. The US bid committee is narrowing down potential sites in case the US is awarded the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. Yay, footie! Also, how could they exclude Atlanta? Um, Olympics? I think we can handle a soccer game.
  • The city council voted to award the Crum and Forster building landmark status.
  • GDOT is including commuter rail in its request for federal bucks.
  • Kasim Reed picked up some labor union support.
  • Steve Brodie gets some endorsements from police unions and Stephanie Ramage

Skeptical about home sales data

Existing home sales are up nationwide, but I'm not convinced that it means that "The housing market has decisively turned for the better," as the National Association of Realtors' chief economist says.

I think a lot of the demand for these homes is coming from the tax credit, and that there is a high likelihood sales rates will drop again beginning next year. I guess that is too far out to really predict, and the economy could pick up enough by then that demand could naturally continue. I doubt it, though.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Atlanta crime data: Residential burglaries

This is the first in a series of posts looking at APD crime data. For an overview, including methodology, see Atlanta crime data: project overview. UPDATE: You can view the series of here.

The first piece of crime data I wanted to look at was the residential burglaries category. Paulie recently got hit, and I've had a few other friends get hit as well. Burglaries are particularly important when it comes to that nebulous "perception" issue, as well.

When someone breaks into our home, we feel personally violated and extremely vulnerable. Even with no one physically hurt, the violence done to our property threatens our physical safety. Could they come back and do that to us? I've seen people completely lose it over a break-in, and it wasn't over the things they lost.

The short version of this post can be summarized succinctly:
  • Residential burglaries are up significantly across the city
  • Southwest Atlanta has seen the highest increases in burglaries
  • East Atlanta and Grant Park had high levels of burglaries, and they've only gotten worse
  • Mild improvements in 2009 aren't enough, given the increases of the last three years
Residential burglaries are up across the city

One thing that is lost in the overall numbers that get reported is how specific categories have performed. Residential burglaries are up significantly, both city-wide and even more in certain NPUs. From 2004-2008, the number of home burglaries increased 65%.



It is no surprise, then, that people feel less safe. Their homes are being violated at an alarming rate. This also places the statistics from 2009 into better context than I reported earlier. Through the first six months of 2009, residential burglaries are actually down slightly:


The fact that burglaries are down by 2% so far doesn't negate three years of double-digit increases from 2006-2008. When it comes to residential burglaries, the city gets a big, fat, FAIL.


Southwest Atlanta hit the hardest; East Atlanta and Grant Park stay high


While burglaries are up overall, certain areas of the city have been hit the hardest. Southeast Atlanta neighborhoods have consistently had some of the highest levels of home break-ins, and burglaries have increased significantly in those areas. The biggest explosion in burglaries occurred in 2007 and 2008 in west and southwest Atlanta.

You can see that some of the most significant increases in 2007 are in NPUs G, H, I, J, and K, while in 2008 NPUs P, R and S skyrocket. These NPUs are geographically concentrated in the west and southwest of the city. These areas went from relatively low levels of activity (100-150 burglaries per year) to having very high levels of activity (350-500 burglaries per year). NPU J (Dixie Hills, Grove Park, around Simpson Road) has always been bad, but the rest of the NPUs haven't been awful.


You can also see that the NPUs most associated with these types of crimes in the media, O and W, aren't doing so hot, either. NPU O, which includes Edgewood and Kirkwood, started off with one of the highest levels in the city before decreasing a bit from 2005-2007. However, 2008 was an awful year for NPU O as the number of burglaries shot up to just over 400.

NPU W, which includes Grant Park and East Atlanta, saw moderate increase in 2005 and 2007 before also exploding in 2008. 2008 was a bad year for the city as a whole, but particularly bad for NPU W - it brought them in to position as the #1 NPU in the city for residential burglaries for the year.



Overall, SE Atlanta is worst area for home burglaries

Taking a five-year average for each NPU smoothes out some of the wild variations between years and lets us see which NPUs over the last five years have been the worst for break-ins. This diminishes the rapid growth on the west side, since initial burglary levels there were relatively low. Still, NPUs I and J rank 3rd and 5th overall in average activity.

It also highlights just how bad things have been in the southeast. NPUs V, W, and Z rank 2, 4, and 1 overall in average number of incidents, while O and Y are 8th and 6th, respectively.


2009 results are mixed

2009 has been mildly successful, although again we are comparing against a banner year for criminals. So far this year, burglaries are down the most in west-side NPUs. Almost all of the NPUs with decreased level of burglaries are on the west side. NPUs W and O on the east side has seen a slight decrease in activity, but the NPU V has skyrocketed.

The trends on the west side are hopeful, but "status quo" for the east side means a continued high level of burglaries. If the west side trends continue for the rest of the year, perhaps 2007 and 2008 were just rough years, as opposed to indications of a permanent increase. The same cannot be said for the southeast.

Below is a summary of numerous statistics referenced in this post, as well as annual averages for the increases for each NPU.

Waffle House domination

I spent most of my afternoon free time in high school at Waffle House. I went there just about every afternoon, sometimes twice. Coffee, hashbrowns, maybe a grilled cheese sandwich or a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. Every day. Sometimes I'd meet friends at the Waffle House before school, too. It was a little sanctuary from your typical teenage-related drama at home or school.

I don't make it to the Waffle House as much as a used to. I didn't note it in this space when Waffle House opened at Underground, although I took a picture with my phone with the intention of doing so. So I feel a need to post that Waffle House will be opening a new location at Georgia State University in their new Science Center at Piedmont and Decatur. Plans are set to open in the spring.

This is pretty much the sort of retail that can do well in the GSU area, as opposed to what the Macy's building folks were originally proposing. College students should devour some hashbrowns.

photo courtesy of hensever

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Link round-up

It has been a while since I just posted links to stories I read recently, but didn't really have much constructive to say about them. So, here's some (hopefully) worthwhile links:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

APS' Hall is on the right track

Atlanta Public Schools' superintendent Beverly Hall gave her annual "state of the system" address this morning. Among the things she highlighted:
In her annual “state of the system” address, Hall lauded students’ achievements -- a 33 percent increase in graduation rates; one in three elementary students exceeding state standards -- and riffed off the real estate industry to make her pitch.

“We know that after homebuyers narrow their search to a particular neighborhood, two key factors influence their purchasing decision: the quality of the house and the asking price,” Hall told an audience that organizers expected to top 300, including local educators and corporate leaders.

“Similarly, parents choose schools for their children based on the quality of the academic program and the value provided,” she said.
I'd add that homebuyers often narrow their search for a particular neighborhood based on school district. So improving the APS is a big deal in terms of making Atlanta competitive with the rest of the metro area for families.

One reason I harp things like crime and the city's schools is because these are the issues that make Atlanta less competitive for attracting residents than say, Cobb or Gwinnett. I want to see Atlanta grow into a vibrant, urban city. I want to see the seeds of urbanity in Midtown, Downtown, and Buckhead grow into a world-class city. But it all starts with attracting residents to they city.

Sustainable growth means attracting young people and families. I love GSU being Downtown because it can serve as a vehicle to introduce urban living to young people who may then stay in the city post-graduation. Likewise, attracting families mean that you have kids who grow up in the city and don't want to leave (like myself).

To get families, you have to have good school districts. So it is good to see Atlanta doing well for a change. The CRCT cheating is a stain, but overall things are looking better. There is still a long way to go, but we should recognize progress when it occurs.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jack Fleeman dead

I had no idea what the condition of Mr. Fleeman was when I wrote about Fleeman's Pharmacy recently. Turns out he had cancer, and died Saturday.
Atlantans started their days there with a cup of joe. They saddled up to the marble counter top and old-school soda fountain — circa 1914 — for malts and shakes. Herman Talmadge and Lester Maddox were regulars.

This was more museum than drugstore. Memorabilia adorned almost every inch of the joint. Photos of drugstore employees and famous customers graced the walls. Medicine bottles and prescription books that dated to the late 1800s were on display. Coke trays, bottles and related beverage items were omnipresent.

Overseeing it all was Mr. Fleeman, nicknamed “Mr. Coke” for his love of the drink.
How can you not root for a guy called Mr. Coke?? Anyone who knows me knows I have a serious Diet Coke problem. I'm talking between 20 oz. and 60 oz. a day.

Downhome Traces history video blogging

The always great Downhome Traces has a nice video about Atlanta's historic markers. After noting that the vast majority of Atlanta's historical markers were erected during the 50's and seem obsessed with the Civil War, Steve Bransford proposes a pretty neat concept for how to use technology to improve Atlanta's geographic/historical markings.

What does AJC move mean for Downtown?

So the AJC is moving its main offices to Central Perimeter. The AJC presently occupies only 30% of its Downtown headquarters after moving printing to Gwinnett and some significant downsizing. I suggest reading the actual memo to staff, which has been posted on Skyline Views. It notes that the AJC will retain bureaus at the State Capitol and somewhere intown "for use by our reporters and photographers who need to be close to downtown." Hopefully urban reporting will not suffer.

This is (in theory at least) a real estate blog, and the current AJC building is what I'm primarily concerned with. What is happening to the AJC's Downtown property on Marietta Street?
Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, which owns the AJC, said it has no plans to sell the downtown location at 72 Marietta St., which includes six acres of property.
I assume this is simply because the current market is rather crummy for selling this kind of property, although maybe they would be interested in a 99-year lease. Also, Marietta Street isn't exactly the best place to be investing right now.

In the short term, the AJC's move can be grouped into the "bad news for Downtown" category, but I'm not sure if it isn't a good thing in the long term. The existing AJC building is pretty bland, and doesn't bring a lot of vitality to the street:


View Larger Map

I wonder if Marietta Street will basically have to get so unattractive to investment that it can be affordable to tear down or retrofit a piece of property such as this. The property backs right up to (and kind of contributes to) the Gluch, so maybe an empty AJC building could create an opportunity for doing something with the Green Line.

Anyway, there are a lot of directions this could all turn out, and they aren't all awful. In the short term, it is a bit sad that the AJC is leaving downtown after basically being there for its entire existence as either the Journal, the Constitution, or the AJC. I think the move is as more about the economics of the newspaper industry than about downtown being an unattractive place to work.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Downtown Macy's building update

The AJC has an article about the Downtown Macy's building in today's paper. The plans have been scaled down a bit:
The Grand Atrium and The Gallery events spaces are scheduled to open in early 2010, along with two restaurants, Meehan’s Public House and Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint. Later, a traveling exhibits venue will open on the ground floor.
Previously they were planning on much more retail space, as opposed to event space. Both restaurants seem slightly touristy theme-restaurant type of places, although both have existing locations elsewhere.

My real estate market analysis class last year actually did a market study for this building, so I'm not surprised that the developers scaled down the amount of retail they were programming. There simply isn't that much demand for traditional retail Downtown, despite the growth of GSU and new developments like Allen Plaza and Renaissance Walk. Well, there is decent demand for the lunch crowd, and there are pockets of demand for GSU students and other residences. Still, when you are competing with Lenox as well as hipper intown areas like Virginia Highland or Little Five Points, attracting the small amount of people living Downtown is tough.

Another odd note from the AJC article - they have decided to change the name of the building from 180 Peachtree to 200 Peachtree. I guess they though a round number would be easier to remember? I feel decidely "meh" on the new name.

Trying a different header again...

So I'm still experimenting with headers. I think you need to see the banner in association with all the posting, etc. to get a good feel for it. Comments on the "skyline" banner? For comparison's sake, here is the previous banner:

Firefighter endorsement of Mary Norwood is significant

Mary Norwood got the endorsement of the firefighters' union. This is significant because the union has proven capable of making an impact in the past. Not only is the union a source of volunteers, but the word of mouth ability is important in my mind.

A well organized campaign will seek to identify the opinion-makers in each neighborhood. These are the folks on your street who have a reputation for "knowing what is going on" in the city or district, and whose opinion others trust. When walking the dog, or at a neighborhood meeting, you ask them, "hey, what is the story with so-and-so," or, "hey, who do you like in this election." My dad is a lawyer, so I ask him about who to vote for when it comes to the Clerk of the Superior Court. My friends ask me who he's voting for, too. We simply don't know enough, so we defer to someone we trust.

I think firefighters serve in a similar capacity. They may not be quite the same as the neighbor who goes to all the NPU meetings, but they have two important qualifiers:
  1. They work for the city, so it is assumed they know what is "really" going on and what the city "needs"
  2. They have had an adversarial relationship with the mayor and council over the years.
When most folks are blaming city hall for any number of issues, being on the opposing side may help voters feel that firefighters are on "their side," as opposed to being part of the city machine.

The firefighters' support was also very important in Steve Brodie's near upset of Ann Fauver in 2005. I wasn't as plugged in to local politics at the time, but I heard about Brodie's campaign from my parents. They had decided to vote for him because a friend up the street, who was a firefighter, told them about Brodie. And that is how they told me about him. "So-and-so, who is a firefighter and knows a lot about what is going on, said this guy Brodie is who we should vote for." I ended up voting for Brodie for a few reasons, but I'm pretty sure a positive endorsement/introduction was important.

The longer she campaigns, the more viable I think Mary Norwood is. I still don't think she'd be a good mayor, but I think she is a very strong campaigner.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Atlanta crime data: project overview

I've been working on analyzing the city's crime data from 2004-2008, which I pulled from their crime mapping page and threw into a database. The crime mapping data actually provides the raw data about each incident, including address, number of victims, etc.

El hermano, who is a data monkey by day, has been helping me pull aggregate summaries for different types of crimes, which i've then thrown into a speadsheet to analyze. This post will be a bit of "housekeeping" and methodology, and future posts will be all about what I've found in the data.

For starters, there is a lot of data. It is a bit too much data to be manageable without isolating particular types of crimes or areas of the city. I have decided to focus first on what I hear about the most from friends and in the papers:
  1. muggings
  2. home break-ins
  3. car break-ins.
While obviously all of the "big seven" crimes (Homicide, Rape, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Larceny, Auto Theft) are important, these three types of crime, to me, represent the types of crimes which make most people feel unsafe. Well, ALL the crime categories make people feel unsafe, but these three represent our most common fears and are fairly common. In 2008, there were 105 murders in Atlanta but 8,216 home burglaries. I'll be looking at all the crime categories over the next few weeks, but I'll be focusing extra attention on these.

I'm breaking the data up by NPUs. The APD zones are too large and there are too many neighborhoods or police beats to be useful. Atlanta neighborhoods are also vastly different sizes, so they aren't great for comparing data against each other. Using NPUs should break the city into manageable chunks of roughly similar sizes, but with small enough areas that we can see meaningful patterns.

Cassie Branum, a grad student at Georgia Tech who I worked with on the ULI Competition earlier this year, is helping out by putting the data into GIS. She is fantastic to work with, and like el hermano is helping me out for free. We'll have some pretty neat maps showing which parts of the city are "hot spots" for various crimes, as well as where which areas have seen large increases or decreases in activity.

Finally, there has been quite a bit of discussion with el hermano about what sort of summary measurements we should be looking at, and how best to present the data. I'd love to hear from you, my readers, about what you'd be most interested in finding out while we are crunching the data.

I foresee this being a weekly or bi-weekly feature, as we work our way through various crime categories. Classes start on Monday, so things will need to be staggered by necessity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

GSU freshman dorms open

Georgia State's new freshman dorms are open at Piedmont and Edgewood. I thought this plot of land was going to be just for greek housing, but apparently these freshman dorms were always part of the mix. The nine fraternity and sorority townhomes are on hold according to wikipedia, but I can't find any other sourcing for that.

I've long been beating the drum for GSU to build more dorms, so of course I'm very please. Architecturally, the building is ..... meh. It doesn't offend me, but it isn't superb. This is about how the University Commons building strikes me. It'd be great if the architecture was a bit more interesting, but I'm mostly concerned with just getting students on campus.

Another interesting thing about the dorm is that the freshman dorm room are all suite-style, but without kitchens. The University Commons are true apartment style rooms, and they all have kitchens. I make note of this because I'd love to see private housing downtown for GSU students, and it is worth knowing what you'd be competing against. The new dorm does NOT have on-site parking - students have covered parking half a block away and across the street at University Commons.

Personally, I LOVED living in a dorm without a kitchen. No dishes to wash, I didn't have to cook or shop for food...I just wandered downstairs and swiped my card.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Good news for intown condos

The ABCs reports that Haddow and Company's mid-year condo report is surprisingly good. Developers have cut prices 30% to 40%, with relative success:
In the first half of 2009, 572 condos were sold, versus just 66 in the previous six months, Haddow & Co. said.

The turnaround puts the intown market in good position to surpass the 645 sales it posted during all of last year.
That is still way less than when the condo market was booming. According to Haddow's data, a "normal" condo market seems to sell around 2,000 units a year. That got up to almost 5,000 in 2005.

New header

I changed from the historical Terminal Station photo (for which I never actually had rights) to an architectural-style shot of mostly Allen Plaza. While I loved the picture, I also felt it was a bit antiquated in style for the topics we deal with here.

I started to edit up a mix of Atlanta scenes, but decided I liked the simplicity of the single picture more. It is also a much smaller photo, so you can see the content easier. Thoughts?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A model police chief?

The LA Times has an interesting editorial in the wake of William Bratton's retirement. William Bratton was the police chief who turned around the LAPD after similarly turning around departments in Boston and New York. He's leaving LAPD to do private consulting.

What I find most interesting is the LA Times description of Bratton's leadership model:
It once was accepted wisdom that this city, like others, had to choose between two types of policing: one that was aggressive and brutal, trampling on the rights of suspects and bystanders, alienating communities, especially the poor and nonwhite, while cracking down on crime; or one that was restrained on the street, respectful of civil rights and human dignity but weak on crime. Bratton showedthat the city didn't have to make that choice. He demonstrated that effective policing demanded officers with the best equipment, the most up-to-date training, capable administration, respect for the communities they serve and an unswerving commitment to ridding the streets of crime....
APD Chief Pennington needs to see this contrasting vision of what a police chief, and a police department, can be. Pennington's editorial in todays AJC makes some good points, but it feels as though Pennington only felt it necessary to respond when the public pressure on him got so strong he had to say something. Well, and after a celebrity got killed and a councilman got robbed. It all reads as a very personal response:
We have enough resources. We have added more than 300 police officers during my time here. When I arrived in 2002, I had one police officer for every 35 violent and property crimes committed that year. Now I have one police officer for every 26 of those crimes committed. That 30 percent improvement is entirely due to the city’s commitment to give us the resources we need.

During my term, we have reinvented policing in the city. We implemented all of the recommendations of the turnaround plan of Linder & Associates. We built a crime-mapping tool that tracks crime geographically and helps us concentrate resources. We redesigned our beats and instituted foot patrols for the first time in 30 years. We have new police vehicles, facilities and a state-of-the-art 911 call center. A new Atlanta Police Foundation advocates for the department and attracts private funding. We have created Crime Stoppers and Neighborhood Watch groups.

Since I joined the force crime is down 25 percent. Where is the chief? Working hard for you and employing 30-plus years of professional training and experience on the job.
Here is the thing, Pennington - it isn't about you. Never has been. It is about people not feeling safe in their homes or when they go out at night. The chief's job is to serve the public and to be present to instill confidence and calm during crisis. In the absence of actual leadership, Pennington gets defensive and trenches in. Compare with LA's Bratton:
Each shooting, each clash was serious and raised tensions in the city, as they had under previous chiefs. The difference is that under Bratton the tensions dissipated, in large part because the chief made it clear that he took anger and outrage seriously, that while he backed his officers, he was willing to question their actions, training and command, and that he was intent on making sure the same mistakes never happened again.
What a novel approach....

Pennington makes some great points about how crime is actually down statistically, so I'm trying to reconcile that with all the stories of friends who are getting shot and robbed. I'll hopefully have some data analysis on how various types of crime have changed in different areas of the city over the last five years or so. El hermano is a data minkey (a chimpanzee data minkey) and is helping me slice and dice the data, but that also means I have to wait for when he is free.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Can small grocery stores survive?

A new neighborhood oriented grocery store is set to open in Inman Park. According to Repeat Atlanta!, Savvy Urban Market is going to open on Elizabeth Street in the new development behind Fritti and Sotto Sotto.

I guess I'm a skeptic, but I really wonder if this sort of store can work. The Candler Park Market has made it work for years, but I'm not sure how good of a model it is. For one, the rent has to be a lot lower for an older building in Candler Park vs. a brand new building in Inman Park. McLendon gets a lot more traffic than Elizabeth, so the visibility for the new store shouldn't be fantastic. Obviously being on N. Highland would be preferable to just off it. They have also been around quite a while, and have some (mostly positive) brand equity.

Grocery stores tend to make money off high-volume, low margin items. Savvy Urban Market is aiming to go a more Whole Foods route, but I don't know that there is really enough demand in Inman Park alone for a whole store. In urban markets, neighborhood bodegas work because of the density, which clearly isn't the case here. Combine that with the success of the Whole Foods on Ponce (not to mention the Publix and Kroger also nearby), and I don't have high hopes for Savvy Urban Market. I'm also skeptical of places with names that try to sound to "hip".

Finally, this reminds me of the Superior Foods grocery store that used to be on N. Highland. They closed down in the early 90s I guess, but when I was growing up this was the only place we bought groceries. I'm not sure how many other options there were, of course. But my mother absolutely loved this place - the folks who worked there were super nice, and knew everyone in the neighborhood.

Superior Foods, Tim's Ice Cream and Fleeman's Pharmacy dominate my memory of 1980's/early 90's Virginia Highland. It was a great little community where everyone seemed to know each other. I don't actually have a memory of being inside Fleeman's, but I've heard about it so much it has become a legend in my mind. Tim's was where Highland Gifts for Men used to be (I can't remember what it is presently), next to Mitzi's Shoebox. He gave us $1 off ice cream every day as we walked home from school. Tim's was the best place in the world to a 10 year old.

My mother cried when Superior closed and was replaced with the CVS. In my mind, that is when Virginia Highlands began to change. Traffic got worse and the bars got packed.... I STILL think about Superior Food whenever I drive by that CVS, and I still get a little sad. I still have (and wear regularly ) a "25th anniversary" shirt from Superior Foods. Also, my dad will on occasion still refer to the Chevron at Virginia and North Highland as the "Jim Wallace," which was a locally-owned business. That gas station was a Jim Wallace maybe 20 years ago, and has since become first a Shell and then a Chevron. Nowadays, people still know each other, but it doesn't have the same small town feel. Correction: we still know tons of people who have been here since the 1980s, because we've all stayed.

Anyway, since Superior closed, there has only been one attempt at a neighborhood-oriented grocery store, the Harry's Farmer's Market/Harry's in a Hurry in what is now Urban Outfitters on Ponce. That obviously didn't succeed. I guess area incomes have gotten better since then.... but I'm still skeptical of how well something like Savvy Urban Market can do, especially in a out-of-site location.

*The above photos is by biskuit, via flickr. It is actually of the sign's present location on Peachtree Street in Buckhead behind the La Fonda/Fellini's.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

GDOT: Same old story

I am running out of rage to throw in GDOT's direction. Turns out the department's transit program is a complete mess. Sigh. I seem to have tons to say about small stuff, but big glaring screw ups leave me pretty speechless.

10th and Midtown rezoning appropriate

I have always thought the hullabaloo over building something at the corner of 10th and Monroe was overblown. Now, I did think that Wayne Mason's proposal was too large, but I have always supported a middle ground of around 10-11 stories. For crying out loud, there is a high-rise condominium building practically across the street.

I grew up in this neighorhood. I walked home from Grady High School by this very intersection. I skipped class at Grady in this very park. I still walk my dog all over this neighborhood. A mid-rise building at this location would in no way ruin the feeling of the neighborhood. Perhaps folks who think this is a particularly charming intersection in need of saving are ignoring the ugly gray stadium surrounded by chain link fencing across the street. Or the ugly stip center where the Blockbuster used to be. This is not N. Highland and Virginia Ave, people.

The don't think this piece of land HAS to be greenspace, either. It is right across the street from some charming old storefronts, and a well designed project (i.e. not Mason's) could fit nicely with the area. So I (surprise) support the city's rezoning of the property. Please read Thomas Wheatley's entire article that I just linked to, but I particularly like this segment:
With smart development, officials say, the dysfunctional corner could serve as a “new gateway” to Piedmont Park and spur a nearby walkable village. They say the project also needs adjacent development to boost transit ridership, compete for federal funding, and fuel the tax allocation district that’s the chief funding source for the 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit.

The issue of density in the Beltline’s northeast segment has been a frequent topic of debate at recent planning meetings. (At last month’s presentation, the only topic neighbors wanted to discuss was the 10th and Monroe proposal.) Many in attendance were opposed to the concept for the same reasons outlined above. Others, such as Angel Poventud and Sally Flocks of pedestrian advocacy group PEDS, said that the Beltline plans outline a long-term vision for Atlanta, which is only expected to grow. Flocks said many of her friends’ children can’t afford to live in the city and that the Beltline might offer them an opportunity.
All of that sounds about right to me, and I think it is important to note that there is still a bit of reason left in the neighborhood.

Also, Thomas linked to the most recent NE Study Group plans (pdf), which have some great plans for how the BeltLine looks to improve that area. The improved intersection at Virginia/1oth/Monroe is great, and they have a plan for finally connecting Ponce and Monroe through the Midtown Arts property. The neighborhood can blame themselves for the design for Sembler's Ponce property, too, fwiw. They fought denser proposals, so we all ended up with another strip center.

While we are at it, can we get a new fence surrounding Grady Stadium?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ballpark design and historic preservation

I am watching the Braves play at San Diego, and for the first time I noticed the Western Metal Supply Company building that is part of San Diego's stadium. The building is an early 1900s building that was incorporated into the design of the park.

Apparently the building was originally slated to be demolished, when it was declared a historic landmark. The building was incorporated into the design of the park:
The building is incorporated into the ballpark, with the left-field foul pole attached to its southeastern corner. It houses The Majestic Padres Team Store; a souvenir shop; on the ground level, party suites on the second and third floors, a public restaurant on the fourth floor, and seating areas and bleachers on the rooftop.
Pretty cool adaptive reuse. Not that there was anything of note worth saving when Atlanta built the Ted, but I find the contrast interesting. I'm pretty sure that a lot of neighborhood buildings were demolished for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, but I think even then the area was pretty bombed out. If I recall correctly, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was supposed to revitalize the area. Oops.

One city works to incorporate a ball park INTO the city, while another caters to suburbanites and their car dependencies. San Diego's stadium appears to have some surface parking surrounding it, but also a decent amount of other structures surrounding it. Atlanta, of course, has a sea of surface parking and deserted lots.

Also very cool: I recently saw a friend who has moved to San Diego. He was wearing a pretty awesome retro Padres Hat:

Perception of crime?

Via Decatur Metro, an interesting article from the NY Times on a national drop in crime, despite the recession. The basic gist of the article is "we have no freaking clue what to do." We simply don't know enough about what works and what doesn't. Further, our perception can truly be different from reality:
Along with its report, The Third Way released a poll showing that by a 5-to-1 ratio, Americans believed crime was worse than it had been the year before. By year’s end, though, the national crime data showed a decrease. In Atlanta, where crime is down 10 percent, a recent series of high-profile incidents has spurred critics to hammer the mayor over what they call a crisis.
At least it isn't just Atlantans who suffer from a perception problem. Still, the idea that crime is actually down is hard to believe given the reports about people getting shot and mugged all the time, even after giving up the keys to the car. I happen to know the fellow in that last incident, although we aren't close. I know Paulie via my writing on the Atlanta Metblog, who is now a two-time property crime victim in East Atlanta. Reading the incident reports from my neighborhood organization doesn't help, either.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly (or probably even in passing) knows that crime is one of the issues I'm most concerned about in the city. It is something that I've been writing about long before police officers were furloughed. I've been hearing about an increase in crime since 2005/2006, when folks started blaming Katrina refugees. I'm not endorsing that idea, btw, it is just when I started hearing people perceive a crime increase.

Despite this, I really dislike basing policy ideas on sensational news stories or anecdotes. It would be reallllly easy to pile on the mayor and the police chief. For the moment, I'm going to avoid that. I have some time off between classes, so for the next few days I'm going to do some digging into the police department's crime data to see what I can find. At first glance, crime this year does indeed seem to be down. (If you want to follow along, I'm looking at the data from January - April, yearly comparisons.)
  • Rape is up 5% (from 44 to 46 cases)
  • Non-residential burglaries are up 12%
  • Every other category is static or down. Robberies are down 23%.
It also appears that the number of cases solved is up.
  • APD has "cleared by arrest" 60% more burglaries, from 273 to 437
  • To compare, last year APD have arrested folks in 50.8% of burglary case, and this year in 79.5% of burglary cases
  • APD has cleared 300 more aggregated assault cases this year, an increase of 52% over last year's amount.
Sure, I could pull the "you can't trust the police's own data" line. Maybe I'm misreading the crime data. I'm not really sure what else to do, though, other than trust the data. I'll be doing some digging into the zone-by-zone data, as well as trying to pull data for multiple years. Hopefully something useful will come of it.

UPDATE: I should link to Atlanta Unfiltered's post about how certain types of crime are up in some neighborhoods. Excellent post, and it begins to look at the sort of data dissecting I will be doing.