Music Midtown and the neighbors

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

I’ve covered and attended Music Midtown since it started at a site where the Federal Reserve Bank now sits on 10th Street. Midtown was a different place in 1994, with more open space and fewer residents for big rock concerts to disturb. Now a denser, more attractive residential neighborhood surrounds the festival’s new home, Piedmont Park, and some wonder whether such an event is even suitable here. As the festival kicks off today, a neighborhood group details its complaints. A city official responds.

Commenting is open.

Festival plan hurts the ‘hood

By Terry Bond

The Midtown Neighbors’ Association does not support the current plan for the Music Midtown 2014 festival in Piedmont Park this weekend.

The Music Midtown representative, Melissa Laurenceau, has worked tirelessly to address the Midtown Neighbors’ concerns over the past two months and has been able to effectively answer a number of our concerns. We greatly appreciate her efforts.

We continue to have concerns with the increasing scale of these events and the repeated damage to Piedmont Park — particularly the increased stress on Oak Hill, which has been noted by the Piedmont Park Conservancy and Atlanta’s Parks Department. These concerns are exacerbated by the apparent lack of city monitors capable of managing and minimizing the damage inflicted on the park during these massive set-ups and break-downs.

However, the historic Midtown neighborhood is most directly impacted by traffic and parking and associated safety concerns, which we feel have not been adequately addressed over the past four years.

Zone 5 police Cmdr. Maj. Wayne Whitmire has stated that “the best chance we have, in my opinion, is to promote this as a green event with all event information encouraging attendees to ride MARTA or a bicycle. … This green promotion should be the standard for all events in the future.”

In principle, the MNA supports promoting green events that support a more sustainable and walkable Midtown. But we believe this promotion will have minimal impact on the increased parking and traffic on our residential streets. Additionally, we know the district does not have sufficient supplemental parking to handle the projected 75,000-plus daily attendance even if half ride MARTA, bike or walk.

As for the most recent traffic plan, Midtown Neighbors is still opposed to closing 10th Street for this or any other festival, as there really is no viable alternative routing. The latest plan calls for closing 10th east of Myrtle Street for the two days of the festival, diverting all festival traffic onto Myrtle and directly into the historic Midtown neighborhood.

The preferred plan is to divert the traffic at Piedmont Road and keep the traffic on appropriate collector and arterial streets, using Piedmont and Monroe Drive around the north end of the park. Festival goers should also be warned that parking is not available to the north beyond 14th Street, and all festival traffic should be diverted west at 14th Street into the Midtown Improvement District, where there is at least a modicum of public parking lots.

Our other major concern, which has been an issue throughout these discussions, is the massive amount of festival parking in our neighborhoods. Regardless how much we advertise a “green event,” we must recognize that festival goers — with a history of parking in historic Midtown, Ansley Park and Virginia-Highland — will continue to attempt to park in our neighborhoods. If they are parking legally, that’s fine. However, as we all have seen, this is not always the case.

This is a major safety concern as street after street is made impassable by tens of thousands of festival goers. This creates real concerns about vandalism, theft, reduced residential parking (many residents have only on-street parking options) and limited access for emergency vehicles.

Maj. Whitmire said he wants to see more towing as a deterrent. He has stated Atlanta police will “request that Park Atlanta have additional officers and wreckers available … to increase enforcement.” We agree this is the best possible deterrent, and it should help keep the streets passable for emergency response vehicles. But this can only work if we actually see follow-through with an increased presence of tow trucks and towing.

Should the city keep the current plan of routing 10th Street traffic directly into the neighborhood via Myrtle, we should also accept this will invite more parking problems within historic Midtown. We request that APD officers take greater responsibility to ensure no illegal parking for at least two blocks surrounding the locations where they are stationed.

Hosting large, Class A festivals in a park surrounded on all sides by residential neighborhoods is problematic, and these problems continue to grow as the festivals grow. The city must address the effect unrestricted amplified sound has on residents and reconsider the existing noise ordinance exemption. The city must also find better traffic solutions and sufficient parking for the size of the event.

Terry Bond is president of the Midtown Neighbors Association.

Atlanta knows big events; we’re ready

By Michael Geisler

Atlanta knows how to handle big events. We’re the fourth most-visited city in the country, with 45 million visitors last year. Labor Day weekend, we saw record attendance for Dragon Con, while the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic went off without a hitch.

Many of Atlanta’s biggest events take place at Piedmont Park, including the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Dogwood Festival, Latino Festival and Music Midtown. Music Midtown brings an unmatched level of energy and excitement to the park and Midtown by attracting music lovers from across the city, state and nation every year. The festival has become an integral part of the city’s arts and cultural fabric.

At one time, the festival occurred over three days. That number is down to two, but that still means thousands of residents and visitors are expected to attend this year’s concert. The city is prepared to handle the crowd and ensure inconveniences to surrounding neighborhoods are minimized. We sympathize with the Midtown Neighbors’ Association concerns about the festival’s impact on Piedmont Park, as well as the traffic, parking and safety issues associated with the event. We will do everything the city can to alleviate any negative impacts Music Midtown might have on our neighbors.

The city is working closely with event organizers to ensure the festival is handled in the best way possible to minimize its impact on the park. Festival organizers are responsible for 100 percent of the costs for full restoration, and the city will make sure repairs are handled effectively and efficiently. Last year, festival organizers spent $100,000 to remediate the park and donated another $100,000 to the Piedmont Park Conservancy.

The Atlanta Police Department is working to address the impact of noise and traffic and the limited public parking in surrounding neighborhoods. Just as we are committed to protecting our green spaces, the city is committed to monitoring and managing crowds, excessive noise, traffic and illegal parking during these permitted events.

APD will have an expanded number of on and off-duty officers to execute the traffic plan for Music Midtown. We recognize the limited legal parking options around Piedmont Park. The event organizers and the city promote large-scale events like Music Midtown as a “green event,” meaning no parking will be available around the venue. Illegal parking will simply not be tolerated, and we are prepared not only to ticket vehicles, but to impound them. The city and event organizers are encouraging attendees to take MARTA to Music Midtown, and to walk or bike to the nearest MARTA station whenever possible.

While the closing of 10th Street may be an inconvenience for nearby residents, we find it necessary for a number of reasons. These include the number of walkers and bikers who overwhelm the capacity of the sidewalks, causing people to walk in the streets and create a public safety hazard. Further, the street closure allows for fast access to the venue and surrounding neighborhoods in case of an emergency. The city is confident the security and traffic plan for Music Midtown is built on sound practices and decades of experience.

Music Midtown not only supports our city’s art and culture community, it contributes to one of our most important initiatives – the Centers of Hope. Each year, the city receives a portion of the proceeds to use for ongoing maintenance and operations for our neighborhood parks; funding also goes to our Centers of Hope after-school program that engages Atlanta’s youth in healthy and safe activities.

Midtown is one of our city’s most thriving and dynamic neighborhoods, and Piedmont Park is the crown jewel of Atlanta’s park system. Make no mistake; the city will work tirelessly to protect two of our greatest assets during this year’s Midtown Music Festival.

Michael Geisler is Atlanta’s chief operating officer.


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