Brother can you spare a Beemer?

if you dwell in downtown/midtown and NEED something, like a new car, or a pair of Off-Broadway brand shoes ... you are SOL (Scootin’ Outside the Loop)

Editor's note: The following is an opinion piece from a Local Voices blogger and does not necessarily reflect the views of Midtown Patch.

Not a lot of things get me going on a rant about living in Midtown more than the lack of basic services for the Central City Modern Citizen™. Yeah, you can get a phone and a bagel, or an expensive kitchen 20th century euro style makeover, but what about a minor car part? Or a new car?

Let’s go back. Well, not too far back. If you want to go back to the beginning, go here.

Back before my day in this area, I understand Midtown was generally a cool counter-culture neighborhood. It was a place of residences, and of business that supported a residence. But it was a rough area, according to local historians who frequent local bars. Always has been, since Sherman cleared the landscape.

Exit the hippies, enter the gays. As those wonderful rainbow empty nesters tend to do, they bought up, tidied up, fixed up, dwelled a while, paid copious taxes, and then flipped their ‘projects’ like Johnny Appleseeds spreading…seeds of prosperity. Families started to buy the nice rehabbed houses and family gentrification bloomed like a yard with an azalea fetishist gardener. It developed a robust night life and people came from all points to live and play in Midtown.

Because money was made, Midtown became known as a “Development Opportunity.” For some strange reason, people in charge of making such decisions decided that Midtown should be every bit as sterile as Buckhead had become, well because! Developers gobbled up empty lots (thanks to some helpful zoning changes lobbied by the local neighborhood association) to build glass monsters with *unique* architectural features, to keep them from looking like mirrored Tetris pieces.

People bought a few condos and, like housing owners of yore, refused to live in them. Who wants to live in an investment that could ‘flip’ any day? So that part of the neighborhood became less stable and more fluid with renters and corporate transient ladder climbers. They could care less beyond the needs met within a three-block area of their micro-verse. So there is a slice down the middle of Midtown made up mostly of people whose main neighborhood issue is where to get a cup of joe while preening.

Sales of exterior glass panels skyrocketed. The result is an area of Midtown known as The Midtown Mile; I prefer Glass Box Canyon. You guessed it, Midtown became every bit as pretty and empty as our equally overdeveloped competitor Buckhead on the Northern Front.

And of course, there were the pesky street folk, congregating a block from the Southern Front (North Avenue) located at Pine. They are indeed part of the Midtown Experience.

As a result, most of Glass Box Canyon is either used as rental property, reproduction farms for dust bunnies, or can’t be used for much due to restrictive *bobs head to words* Special Public Interest District zoning rules. (ex: you can open a business repairing scooters, but you can’t to repair AND sell new scooters)

The result of all of this is if you dwell in downtown/midtown and NEED something, like a new car, or a pair of Off-Broadway brand shoes, or your motorcycle serviced, even a well-stocked grocery store, you are SOL (Scootin’ Outside the Loop). Don’t even talk about that car repair place at W. Peachtree and 3rd. Just don’t go there. Literally. Westside Midtown Publix makes you pay for their rent as well. But it is better than nothing. Until it closes. Thank the Gods for Vag-Hi and Ponce Place or we would all eat out daily.

Headlight burned out? Try to find an auto supply in Midtown (west of Monroe, the Eastern Front of Midtown). Janitorial supplies? Real Mexican Food? Fast food drive through? Well, there IS Arby’s and Checkers.

So why does GM or Honda or Kroger or Off-Broadway shoes plant their locations all outside the Perimeter? I don’t want to hear about ‘population densities’ and ‘demographic profiling.’ I got all that.

So what does Midtown and Downtown have, besides artificially obscene land prices, that the Northern area does not? Hmm…let me think on this. Could it be a perception about what *certain* kind of people live here?

The irony is, the tables have turned and the customer base they want is now where the businesses are not.

Me, I just want to be able to ride my scooter to a Central business district like Decatur has and spend $ supporting local business. And you can even buy a new BMW in Decatur. Why not near Midtown Atlanta?

*Disclaimer: I own a Cooper Mini and a scooter.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

JustinK July 10, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Why would I go to an Audi showroom w/ a few showroom cars indoors when I can drive 15 min to see a lot w/ 200 cars? Not a ton of people impulse shop cars (nor should they) so it's not an imposition to travel out a few minutes to get tons more selection and greatly increase the chance of finding the exact car you want in the lot when you only do this every 3-5-10 yrs. Maybe in NYC or Chicago where the cost of parking makes ownership an order of magnitude more expensive, people are more willing to pick cars from a catalog of options and wait patiently for delivery but in most of America people like instant gratification which means inventory. Dealerships in NYC/Chicago exist in high density areas b/c otherwise there's simply no way to get your car serviced at an authorized dealership within an hr's drive otherwise. I searched for that magical Audi dealer and found only 1 Audi in Chicago proper and it's a 2 story small building shared w/ VW. The MB across the st has a few more stories of deck but it's not a condo tower. Minor zoning issues aside, if a BMW dealer thought it was a good idea to locate at 12th & Midtown, they'd be there w/ a waiver created for them after some palms were greased. Also, do a quick search for this article: "Hell's Kitchen Going Deaf Due To Noisy Mercedes Dealership" and see if putting a dealership is really a high density utopia. There's multiple articles covering how much the neighborhood hates its MB dealer.
But wait, July 10, 2012 at 04:33 PM
My point was... this is not an unheard of proposition. Also, it may not be so much for sales, but rather an in-town certified dealer maintenance location. But you are right, they exist mostly because of density- which gets us back to how poorly planned Atlanta is. As one of the epitomes of urban sprawl, something needs to be done to make living and developing "in town" (ie. densifying between downtown and buckhead) more feasible. Which comes down to lower rents for businesses and realistic land values as opposed to overinflated ones. Oh, and kicking the Dewberrys of the world in the ass to do something with some of the most prime real estate in the city.
But wait, July 10, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Oh and as for the Hell's Kitchen dealership... there is probably only one car that "sounds like a jet engine" which is the SLS and the solution is not having douchebags rev it up when they test drive it. Besides that, having a dealership in a condo would not produce any more noise than typical street traffic. I can't help but think these residents are making that issue highly overblown.
JustinK July 10, 2012 at 04:39 PM
The issue definitely is the business model behind the rents on Peachtree. Some Excel wizard years back came up w/ rent models that crowded out any value retailers/brands and set targets far beyond anything sustainable in Atlanta. Those unrealistic projections made for expensive developments that they refuse to reprice. They want Apple level retailers and ask for those types of rents while being able to only create small amounts of foot traffic in the area b/c despite thousands of people living in those "empty" glass towers, most of them pass by Lenox or another similar retail destination in their daily commute. Something like DSW needs a solid chunk of space so if you haven't noticed they take the cheaper upstairs rents wherever possible but they still need a lot of traffic to make it work and anything resembling a parking meter is anathema to non-residents. Cars can generate fairly decent revenue/sf but not when there's 2 BMW dealers already within 15-20 minutes of downtown. Cars generally are a destination thing (think how many people come from afar to shop at Ikea). I'm sure if we continue gentrifying intown areas some enterprising dealer will build a showroom/service center eventually although Atlanta has no natural geographic boundaries (try taking a tunnel to Jersey to get an oil change on your Bimmer) so it's appeal will be limited.
JustinK July 10, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Chicago/NYC weren't necessarily planned well. They're better now b/c quality land is such a scarce resource and they've had much longer to correct mistakes. Think about Manhattan...it's a supply chain nightmare being an island. Chicago is bordered by water on 1 side and it already shows far less density and far higher sprawl to the west. Short of closing every town/city outside Atlanta and creating massive zoning laws that outlaw development OTP, you'll never stop all the sprawl in Atlanta. We simply don't have geographic barriers to entry. Even in Chicago and NYC for the few high density dealers they have, there's a multiple of suburban equivalents covering the huge metros which look little different than ours. Go check out Atlanta Classic Cars' lot. They have an 86k sf showroom and driving range on 9 acres. If a dealer could pull that off in NYC, they'd do it instantly. What potential buyer wouldn't like to see their dream car in half a dozen shades and w/ every potential option combination possible. Here we have millions of acres accessible by car within 30-40 min so there's zero incentive to build a micro dealer at Peachtree Center where you risk killing tourists on every test drive for the 50 people likely to buy a car that work in that complex in the next few months.


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