Friday, September 7, 2007

Sembler Co., DeKalb County and the billion dollar disco ball.


Did I ever mention to you that I hate developers, more to the point Atlanta developers, with a passion? I also hate the infill folks and the “urban pioneers” who completely erase the historical legacies of the neighborhoods that they feel they are gracing with their presence, bad taste and bad manners. Cabbagetown is a shell of what it once was, the Oakhurst district is threatened and the newest threat to the way things are is the Sembler Co. looking to redevelop the North Druid Hills Road area just south of I-85.

Sembler has given us a new wrinkle to this mad money grab in the area of the traffic problems. If you have ever driven through that area at rush hour you know how it goes, for those not familiar with what happens here is the 411. If you are heading south on North Druid Hills Road, heading in the direction of North DeKalb Mall, on the worst day traffic will back up at Buford Highway. It’s a stop and go crawl all the way down to the Target Super Store across the street from the school. Traffic will thin out a little until you reach LaVista, where it’s stop and go all the way down to Clairmont. I have no idea how bad it stays past Clairmont but I am assuming it does follow a similar routine all the way down to the mall and Stone Mountain Parkway.

So, what is Sembler’s plan to relieve the already growing congestion to make room for the thousands of cars that will be added because of their billion-dollar project? They want to send the “regional” traffic (folks not stopping at their shrine to greed) underground. Yes, they want to make the rest of us mole people. There is a problem though. Have these knuckleheads ever seen the folks merge from the 85 exit onto N. Druid Hills? Have they ever seen people trying to scoot across 3 lanes of traffic to get onto Briarcliff? They expect us to believe their redesign of the roads will take that into account? Bullshit, I say.

What do they have planned for the “local traffic”, which would be those wanting to stop off at their greed shrine or at the Chik-Fil-A or the Target or Picadilly? Well let’s just throw a roundabout in the mix. These waterheads are convinced that a roundabout will solve all the traffic woes. Have those folks ever driven through a roundabout in America at a heavy traffic intersection? The fuckers don’t work in any way except to keep the auto body shops in business fixing sideswiping idiots.

A Sembler style project can work and be a benefit to the community if it is in the right place. Atlantic Station, for example, did a service to the community by cleaning up an abandoned industrial site and expanded an already expanding Midtown district. The area that Sembler wants to redevelop doesn’t need redevelopment. We need a better traffic plan but the answer isn’t building a billion dollar mixed-use development.

That area has numerous offices, thriving businesses and residential areas. I don’t see Loehman’s Plaza hurting. I don’t see the Picadilly, my favorite one in the Atlanta area, having trouble filling seats on any day or night. Guitar Center is PACKED on any given day. The Chik-Fil-A always has customers. The Target even expanded a few years back because the business is good. There is always a long line of cars at the QT waiting to fill up on their gas.

So, why does Sembler NEED to “redevelop” this area? It’s not needed, it’s unnecessary and it will make a horrible mess of an already congested area. Why does Sembler NEED to redevelop? Simple answer. They aren’t satisfied with just having a shitload of money, they want a king hell shitload of money. A billion dollar investment is one hell of a risk to take, especially in this economic downturn, and if they are willing to risk it they must have studies and reports sitting in their offices that show they can make a killing by doing a quick fuck job on the citizens of DeKalb County.

If you think this redevelopment plan is a good idea I think you need to talk with the folks who have seen how the Perimeter Center development has adversely affected the folks who live and work around that area. If you aren’t convinced you need to also ask yourself what is going to happen if this plan goes through and all the warnings you have been given come true. How would it even be possible to repair the sort of damage they want to do? How is DeKalb County going to pay for the upkeep of those tunnels they want to build?

If you think it’s a good idea, WHY do you think it’s a good idea? Is it because you want new places to shop? Go to Buckhead and shop, its only 15 minutes further away. Is it because you want the development to increase your property values? If your property values are so strongly tied to local commercial investments you should have moved your happy ass to Buckhead or Midtown and NOT the bedroom communities that surround this area. Is it simply because your easily distracted by shinny things? If that’s the case buy a disco ball and stare at it all you want.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a Contractor(not a Developer) in good standing in Georgia,I find The Sembler group deplorable.You must have missed how they just magically donated $20,000 to a Lakeside High School Cheerleading Booster club.The High School would take the brunt of the overflow of students that would have no school IF this developement on North Druid Hills goes through.Strangely enough,the woman that solicited the"donation" just happens to work for Dekalb County where the proposed Sembler project will go.Forget anything else.When your local schools go then so do all the neighborhoods and surrounding businesses.The residents of Dekalb plan to fight the Dekalb County Board of Education and The Sembler group at each and every turn!

The CT blogger said...

Many thanks for your comment and observations. In your position you have a much greater opportunity to see first hand what Sembler and others are doing behind the scenes, so to speak.

It's actually quite troubling to me that our local press has kept this story on the backburner as much as they have. This is a massive project, Sembler has quite the reputation of buying their way through these projects in other communities and the AJC and local TV stations are quietly keeping the story to a low murmur.

After doing more research on Mel Sembler, or Buddy Sembler if you want to be more exact, I can't imagine the good folks of DeKalb County wanting this person to have such an enormous impact on their community. This goes beyond the typical developer/resident squables.

You are completely correct in addressing the point that if the schools go, so does the neighborhood. Our neighborhoods and the sense of community in parts of the metro area are critical to the quality of life that many people have rightfully come to expect. Do we want someone destroying that simply for the profit of one small clutch of people who live in the Tampa-St. Pete area and have no roots, or interest other than their own profit, in the Atlanta area? It should be *our* choice, not the Sembler Company. We live here, they don't.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to disagree. I would just like to point out that Atlanta is changing and Dekalb County is in the heart of this change. 900,000 new people have moved here in the past 7 years and we now have 5.1 million people here. A higher density is the only way to accommodate so many people. Sprawl actually causes more traffic overall than a high density.

To hate someone for having more is human; to bar someone with the force of government from investing their money because they will make even more money is the downfall of our economy. Would you invest 1 billion dollars if you had it? I wouldn't I would buy my own country somewhere and retire, permanently. Perhaps, we should be making sure that Dekalb County will include more pedestrian, green space, bike paths, parks, and insure peoples safety in / around this Development. Traffic sucks on N. Druid, Creative Loafing recently had an interesting article on how Dekalb County tax structure prevented road improvements for the past 40 years... but this is Atlanta. I don't think the fact that too many people drive too far to work and that there is no SAFE way to walk / bike has anything to do with a Developer. This is a problem with Dekalb county and the people we elected to govern it, along with our own attitudes of car, car, car...

I know that people have a knee jerk reaction to this - but really there a lot of people in this world and if there are too many we should all start with eliminating ourselves.

We should be so lucky that we are in a highly coveted area already - that is on the up and up... not the other way around

The CT blogger said...

Thanks for your well though comments but we will certainly have to disagree.

Anonymous wrote, in quotation marks (with snippage on my part):

"I would just like to point out that Atlanta is changing and Dekalb County is in the heart of this change. 900,000 new people have moved here in the past 7 years and we now have 5.1 million people here."

If we are going to talk about actual population numbers, the 5.1 million your quoted would be for the Metropolitan Atlanta area. We aren't cramming 5.1 mill into downtown, midtown and Buckhead. Since this is about the quality of life just in Dekalb Co. let's stick with the people who live and work and Dekalb for the sake of this comment.

"To hate someone for having more is human; to bar someone with the force of government from investing their money because they will make even more money is the downfall of our economy."

I don't hate the Sembler company or developers simply because they have more than me. What I hate is how their tactics to earn far greater money than they have places a burden on those who have less. Sembler Co. Has no real roots in this city. They could care less about the overall quality of life for those in Dekalb County. They only care about the all mighty dollar and the residents of Dekalb can be damned in their eyes. *That*, I hate.

Government is the bond of society. Without some form of government regulation, chaos will reign. Government should be fair and equitable but sometimes government needs to place the needs of all it's citizens above the desires of the few. There are overbearing government regulations and abuse of government, I don't deny that, but I find it interesting that big business is always able to get what they want simply out of the virtue of their deep pockets, regardless of how adversely it effects the private citizens of this country.

"Traffic sucks on N. Druid, Creative Loafing recently had an interesting article on how Dekalb County tax structure prevented road improvements for the past 40 years... but this is Atlanta."

Traffic sucks because there are only 4 main roads between Cheshire Bridge and Shallowford Road that cross I-85. Those 4 main roads are handling local, through and access traffic to and from I-85. If we had more north/south routes that crossed 85 with no access to the Interstate the load of traffic would be lessened at Cheshire Bridge, North Druid Hills, Clairemont and Shallowford.

Then again, it isn't road improvements we need, even though we have potholes like the woods have trees; what we need is better and more wise control over growth, redistribution of our transportation loads, access to roads that transverse 85 for local and through traffic only and greater access to MARTA.

"I know that people have a knee jerk reaction to this - but really there a lot of people in this world and if there are too many we should all start with eliminating ourselves."

Knee jerk reaction? Hardly on my part. I'd say that your de-population analogy is more knee jerk than my rant about a project that *will* have a direct impact on a lot of us. Let's cut to the chase. You are an appologist for the developers. There has been nothing in your comment that calls out developers for what they do and the consequences that members of the community have to live with, but you certainly advancing the "knee jerk" agenda against the local government.

"We should be so lucky that we are in a highly coveted area already - that is on the up and up... not the other way around"

We should be so lucky that development were more tightly restrained so that we could get a better handle on the issues we face. Basic utility services are on the verge of collapse because the developers have been given everything they want. The issue with the overloading of our water system is due to the developers and their ability to dazzle government with their lobbying branch.

Sometimes up and up is not the best analogy. Icarus...