After initial exuberance Avondale Estates’ commission deferred voting on the temporary closing of a portion of Center Street for use as a “gathering space.” They agreed to further discussion during an April 17 work session.
The change of heart came during a May 25 meeting after they heard from two Center Street business owners who vigorously oppose the scheme.
Center would get closed for three months from North Avondale Road to Potter Street, the portion alongside the Avondale Towne Cinema, currently getting renovated by 37 Main into a music club and restaurant. There’s still no news of an official opening though it’ll probably be this spring, with the venue’s capacity getting doubled to 600, partly explaining the attractiveness of an outdoor “gathering space.”
According to a recording of a March 20 commission work session, the city could, after those three months, consider a permanent closure.
Four of five commissioners (Adela Yelton gave no opinion) unequivocally favored the proposal. Sam Collier, Interim Executive Director of Avondale’s Downtown Development Authority, told commissioners, “We’ve been talking to all the owners around here. In fact, that’s why I was late to the meeting tonight. Fisher Paty (partner with Oakhurst Realty Partners, which owns Towne Cinema) likes it, 37 Main likes it.”
“We have notified the property owners along Center Street of this trial balloon,” City Manager Patrick Bryant told commissioners. “We think it would be a great improvement to the flow of both vehicles and pedestrian traffic through the central business district.”
But Ed Rieker, who owns three commercial buildings on Center, told commissioners on March 25 he learned about the plan only one day before the March 20 work session.
“I talked to [six] property owners,” he said, “and no one was contacted. I talked to one of the assistant chiefs at the fire station—their emergency vehicles use Center Street— and they had not been notified.
“I think,” Rieker added, “you’ve been told all business owners are in favor of it. I can tell you, they’re not.”
George Kennedy who owns the Aikido Center of Atlanta on Center Street spoke at length about his adversity to the project. Among others, Kennedy cited concerns with noise, traffic, parking, security and cleaning up.
Rieker, Avondale mayor from 2008-14, said a number of vehicles including food service trucks and parents who pick up/drop off children at two nearby day-care services use Potter daily and need access to Center. He also said closing Center would be detrimental to his own businesses.
After Kennedy and Rieker spoke, the commission declined a motion to vote and tabled the matter.
“I like to make sure,” said Commissioner Lisa Shortell, “when we re-visit this, that plenty time is given to the business owners to give us feedback.”
“I apologize,” Commissioner Brian Fisher told Rieker and Kennedy. “I thought [the March 20] conversation was just a first step. I didn’t realize we were ready [to vote]. The tenants in the [Tudor Village Building, which houses the Towne Cinema] have to be part of the conversation.”
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