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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.

Steven Ivey July 09, 2012 at 06:11 PM
The car one is very very simple. Sales tax for one. There used to be many intown dealers (Ford, Pontiac, Cadillac etc.) up until the 80's. Why pay 8% on a $40,000 car when all you have to do is drive a few miles? Also, in case you didn't notice, most car lots are five, ten, or 15 plus acres. Midtown real estate of that size ain't cheap. One of the best Krogers in the city is at Ansley. Can't you make it that far? On what piece of over priced land could they build a Kroger that size. You answered your own question. A developer can build a 20 story condo building up. Kroger can't build a 20 story grocery. Publix made a valiant effort building under a development. There is a very nice DSW at Atlantic station, and the Dillard's is nice, too. The idea of building a one story auto repair, or one story anything just isn't feasible at those land prices. Any possible profit is gone before you even get started. You answered your own question.
Rick D. Day July 09, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Steven, good points describing the situation now. I think more of "what if?" I also think about that vast area that desperately wants to be called "West Midtown": the NW Marietta Street Corridor. These amenities do not have to be IN Midtown, just nearer inside the loop. You are correct, I can't make it that far to Ansley from where I live. Technically its as fast to hit the Connector to the Howell Mill WalMart, or even faster, 3 blocks to Publix as it is to motor from West Midtown through traffic to Ansley. Atlantic Station? No free parking; not an option. and just YUCK, OK? The term "overpriced land" is quite antiquated in today's depressed market. There are quite a few good deals out there for those liquid enough. And again, these examples do not have to be in Midtown proper, but in adjoining areas, benefiting many inside the city limits. If you want to dodge sales tax and further cripple the very city you reside in, feel free; that is a decision mostly of conscious, given the meager savings. what you have outlined are all simply issues that can be circumvented. Most car lots are based on a footprint more than 60 years old. There are ways to have satellite service centers, sales offices and other dealership amenities. To be honest, we bought our Mini's on the internet. Most transactions can be completed online, and a signature only needs a room big enough for 3 people. Cars can be delivered. Be well.
Steven Ivey July 10, 2012 at 12:30 AM
So, you would buy a $40,000 to $60,000 car off the internet without ever looking at it in person or sitting in it. I imagine you are in a very limited category. I personally can't afford that car, but I can get to a place that is one & 1/2 miles or so from my apartment. Unless you are trying to get there at exactly 5:30 PM, there is no traffic. Also, parking is free at Atlantic station for under two hours. If you stay longer, you simply walk up to the parking machine, insert your ticket and get an additional two hours. The so called "West Midtown" is only a marketing concept. If you aren't willing to venture to the examples you already have, why, as a company "liquid enough," would I want to invest. You have another Walmart coming soon.
Rick D. Day July 10, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Stand corrected on the parking issue; A.S. is not an area I frequent.IMHO, A.S. is a "development" not a true Atlanta historic neighborhood like most every place else. Let's not go into the history of the land use before A.S. was developed *grimace* Yes indeedy, we spent about that much on both our Minis. Selected them by option available on the showroom floor, picked them out online and the rest was a formality. To each, their own, eh? That you keep thinking what is convenient for you, is also good enough for everyone else, begs I reference the type of 'three block' neighbor I described in the original post. It's not a bad thing. It just is what it is, for some.
SM July 10, 2012 at 02:26 AM
As someone who works and lives in Midtown, there are definitely a lot of businesses that I would love to see--however a Kroger or a Car Dealership are definitely not on that list. Large businesses especially car dealerships take up a lot of space and are not sustainable to creating a walkable/bike friendly community--which is why I live in Midtown. There are grocery stores on each side of Midtown between Publix on Spring and North/Piedmont - Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Kroger on Ponce/Ansley. I maybe go to a car dealership once a year and do not mind driving to go there---meanwhile---I like Midtown having small shops, side walks, and plenty of biking/walking traffic !
Lynda Idleman July 10, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Car repair shops are in the Midtown vicinity. I frequently go to Midtown Tire (Goodyear) on Ponce. I can walk back home or they provide great transportation. I have my car at the Atlanta Import Collision right now. Got a ride back home at 7:30 this morning. There are options intown. Car dealership do not need 15 acres...they can be in a parking garage. Just saw a TV show where a car dealer was vertical, not horizontal. Has anyone just tried to think outside the box? As for Publix at 8th and WPeachtree...I was there yesterday, barely could find a parking spot. I was told when Tech is back in session, the lines at checkout are down the aisles on Mondays. I don't think they are struggling. What Publix did have to do was think slightly outside the box and reconfigure their cookie cutter store into something slightly different. To me, it looks like it has paid off. What I would love to see is more stores that cater to people who do not want to spend $500 on a pair of shoes or $5000 on a couch. The boutiques are fun to visit, but most of us go to DSW or Crate and Barrel (not CB2) to BUY things. What I do not understand is the economic model that leaves more than half of the retail space in the high rises empty. Would it not be better to lower the rents and get some businesses that are sustainable and appeal to more residents?
Rick D. Day July 10, 2012 at 01:30 PM
or $20,000 on a new kitchen. Hi Lynda, on much we agree, as usual. I did not want to recommend otherwise decent service at GoodYear because of an issue I had with them earlier this year (food for another blog post in the near future). I was referencing more 'authorized dealer service centers' that would take the same footprint as that GoodYear, in my dreams. But one GoodYear for 5,000 (or however many in 30307 and 30308 vehicles? On Publix, I'm with you 100%. The downside of scooter riding to Publix is the limited mass one can tote. The upside is always guaranteed decent parking :D
JustinK July 10, 2012 at 01:47 PM
The sales tax is based on where you register it now vs. where you buy it so buyers in Atlanta get kind of screwed. This will change next year though when they abandon Ad valorem + sales tax for a single 6.5% tax that will climb to 7%. If the TSPLOST passes, it'll be welcome relief from 9% car sales tax + annual Ad Valorem which is still $300+ on my 6yr old car.
JustinK July 10, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Your avg new leased BMW needs an oil change every 15,000 miles which is included in the purchase/lease. That's maybe twice in its life in the glass box canyon as you put it. Given BMW 3 series run about 1/3-1/2 of the cars in the area, coupled w/ the specialized needs of German cars to begin with and you're not left w/ a ton of space for independent repair shops to make much of a living. People that prefer mature vintage Bimmers tend to visit those repair shops along Howell Mill which is a short tow away. While there's no intown BMW dealer, you can still do plenty of damage 3 miles up Piedmont where there's Mercedes, Jag, Land Rover, and Rolls Royce all in about a mile before Buckhead gets nice. The end answer is the lack of cheap real estate to honestly have a dealership/repair shop. A parking lot w/ minimal infrastructure costs can generate tons of revenue already for the area. People in the condos don't fix their own cars. I consider myself in the minority when I had my g/f drive me down to Memorial Drive to pick up a new battery for my Infiniti. Most people likely would have gotten frustrated and called AAA or had their car towed to a dealership under warranty. Auto parts stores reside in lower demographic areas where rent is cheaper and the clientele are more likely to work on their cars.
Steven Ivey July 10, 2012 at 02:22 PM
My point exactly.
Steven Ivey July 10, 2012 at 02:44 PM
There was Boomershine car dealership in a parking deck that lasted many years but finally gave up do to earlier mentioned problems. It sat next to the Spring street on ramp turn to 85/75 South, which is now a W Hotel (?). Again, property value won out. It is much more feasible to have a 20 story hotel charging $300 a night for a room. I have never has a problem at that Publix. Just don't go at the prime time. That line would only be on the exact date they get back and their parents are buying them all their food. The same applies for the very nice Target on 18th(?). Their parents are buying all their stuff for the dorm. Just don't go that day. The Target usually opens another line if it gets past three people. Common sense.
Steven Ivey July 10, 2012 at 02:47 PM
JustinK, you are correct!
But wait, July 10, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Has anyone that posts on these articles ever been to another city? A REAL city? There is an Audi dealership at the street level of a highrise condo building in the heart of Chicago. It is not a sprawling lot with 100s of cars but simply has a few of each model that customers can test drive plus a maintenance shop. As Lynda said, think outside the box. The problem is the piss poor planning in the city of Atlanta. I should rephrase my first question to, "has anyone that makes decisions for the city of Atlanta ever been to another city?" There's a reason Chicago and NYC are among the greatest thriving cities in the world. They are doing something right.... Atlanta should start to take note instead of making ass backward development rules that make no sense whatsoever.
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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