[Opinion] Are condos ruining Atlanta?

Urbanistindustry insights, real estate80 Comments

suburban family ~ what now, atlanta?

Urbanist, guest columnist, says condos are stunting Atlanta’s urban growth. His solution? Apartments.


UPDATE (July 3) : Are Atlantan’s ready to rent luxury high-rise apartments?

Home ownership, Middle America’s status symbol that ignorantly proclaims “I’ve made it in life,” has undermined Atlanta’s capability to grow into the global urban center that it has the potential to be.

The perverse conception that granite counter-tops, a finished basement, and a Lexus SUV is superior to social interaction, civil cohesion, and progress has taken the most important of all resources – human capital – and diluted it to the point where it’s social contribution is as effective as an education from Kennesaw State.

The urban interpretation of this, which Atlanta has taken to the extreme, is the speculative condo development that plagues what little Atlanta has of an urban core.

Don’t believe me?  Chew on this: 3,800 condo units were added to Atlanta’s skyline between 2004 and 2008.  From 2000 until 2010, the city added 3,529 people.  The math is simple.  Instead of developing urban apartments – dense structures, that house racially, socially, and economically diverse people – the city has allowed the irrationally exuberant development of multiple condo towers, many of which sit largely vacant.

Do many of these units become rentals?  No.  Sure, some, but many don’t due to a variety of issues — pricing and condo board regulations amongst them. And worst of all, condos are segregated housing available to people within a narrow socioeconomic profile and discourage diversity.

So why hasn’t Atlanta created smart development that can bring people into the city core?

The answer is shared between weak politicians and an idle culture stepped in a regressive tradition.  Inertia is the name of the game.  We’re taught that owning a home has merit and renting is for irresponsible louses.  However, the progressive world bucked this thought process well over 100 years ago.  New York City, Paris, London, Singapore – the cities in this world where things happen first, not last – all have a huge supply of apartments, which demand meets head on.

Sure, housing costs are high in these places, but millions who could afford to own outside of the city, choose to rent inside of the city.  Also, these cities aren’t run by politicians who favor front page photo opportunities and cheap alliances over truly valuable development.  If this weren’t true in Atlanta, Atlantic Station and The Gulch redevelopment plan never would have made it to the drawing board.

Can Atlanta make the appropriate change and put itself on the path towards successful, dense, diverse urban growth? — Absolutely.

First, Atlanta needs to focus on the most important asset in any city – the people.  The city can zone and promote development (urban apartments) that integrates these people into dense areas and provides the critical mass of population that creates the necessary demand for local business.

Second, Atlanta needs to use the plethora of vacuous space in prime areas to foster this development into a preexisting urban infrastructure.  No city needs the amount of parking space that Atlanta has.

Third, the city needs to expand its relationships beyond the PR pirates (Daniel, Cousins, Forrest City, etc.) that pillage large swaths of land and build pretty towers that don’t serve the economic interests of the city and its people.

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Urbanist[Opinion] Are condos ruining Atlanta?

80 Comments on “[Opinion] Are condos ruining Atlanta?”

  1. mad

    Terrible article, seems like it was written by a third grader. Makes no sense and lacks flow. Atlanta is not NYC.

    Let me address the two points, I think, you were suggesting:

    You want to get rid of parking and bring in and mix lower income housing in to, lets say, Midtown? Thats a no, and a no.

    I’m disappointed you posted this article on your website sir. Losing credibility with me……

  2. CP

    This article presents overgeneralizations with little data to back up its claims. It treats the notion of “condo” with an extremely broad brush, as if all developments were identical and identically opposed to issues like diversity. This is just factually incorrect. I get some of the sentiments here–especially the distrust of big developers trying to turn a huge buck. But not all condos in the city are soulless high rises.

    Many are loftish conversions of properties that were failing or crumbling structures–i.e., adaptive reuse. And many are live-work-play projects promoting greater walkability and environmental values.

    I think some of the truly empty buildings should be converted to luxury apartments, sort of what Mezzo did. But keep in mind that many condos will generate a mortgage cheaper than what you can pay for the equivalent in rent. Density is density, and to my mind it makes little difference if it’s condos or apartments getting filled. (Well, except that maybe condos tend to be taken care of by their residents better than apartments–yet another point glossed over by this piece.)

    Lastly, the Kennesaw State line was absolutely unnecessary and really quite unfair and offensive.

  3. Donald

    what an insulting article full of weak minded stereotypical arguments. Quotes like “regressive tradition” and “the progressive world bucked this thought process 100 years ago” and finally “the cities in this world where things happen first, not last” all speak to anger and resentment that the author seems to have for our city and the South in general.

    Lighten up. The world is driven by supply and demand. If there is demand for additional apartments then someone will step in to fill that need in order to generate profits. City leaders don’t dictate what projects get greenlighted and what doesn’t. They want all development and tax revenue and hopefully try and encourage that by cutting red tape and lowering taxes to help the projects make financial sense.

  4. Jungleland2

    Stupid article. I would not live downtown ever, espeically not in an apartment. In-town apartments are overpriced, cramped, loud, and not family friendly. My in-town friends get out of apartments and into homes or rental houses as soon as they can. Yes there are too many overpriced condos left over from the pre-real estate crash. hopefully some of these will end up sold at a huge discount. And why the Kennesaw State bashing? ITP snobs annoy me.

  5. kat

    I’m not sure the author of this article realizes that many condos ARE apartments – condominium is the legal structure, but most often, the physical structure of the building IS apartments. I live in a condo building (conversion of an early 20th century building) that is a “dense structure, that houses racially, socially, and economically diverse people” in downtown Atlanta – yes, ACTUALLY downtown, not Buckhead or something. And because it’s a condo – so most of us have lived there for more than one year – we’re actually a *community* of diverse people that work together to improve our neighborhood, instead of just moving out.

    And, yeah, the writing generally sucks.

  6. Urbanist

    To address some of the early comments:

    @Mad – (i) Where in the article did it say “lower income housing”? (ii) Traffic & congestion is a major social and economic problem in Atlanta. Replacing parking (which adds little economic value to the city) with development that brings people into the city, increases commercial demand, and creates a more walkable city would be a great thing.

    @CP – You’re right, not ALL condos are a bad thing, and adaptive re-use is one of the greatest things a city can do. There are some over-generalizations here, because it isn’t possible to lay down all the finite details and specifications between good & bad development in a short article. It’s similar to the idea that it’s a bad thing to stereotype, but the fact that stereotypes exist for a reason. I’m glad the KSU reference was offensive. It was meant to be.

    @Donald – The progressive world did buck these trends well over 100 years ago. The continuing economics around apartment living in the cities I mentioned (and many others) support that. Unless you’re trying to tell me that you don’t consider NYC, Paris, Hong Kong, etc. progressive cities?

    You’re also wrong about the “world being driven by supply & demand”. The world of urban development should be driven by demand. However, if that were the case, many of the condo developments that were built over the last few years wouldn’t have been built. Instead, Atlanta’s development has more recently been run by a host of speculators, and the city has accommodated this speculation by zoning and approving the developments. It’s grossly incorrect the say that “city leaders don’t green-light what gets built and what doesn’t”.

    @ Jungle – Stupid response. You may not want to live in-town, but there are thousands, if not millions, of people in this city that have a different opinion than you do. Having a large supply of distressed real-estate for sale isn’t a good thing either.

  7. Mike

    Jungleland2, nobody cares you don’t want to live in an in-town apartment. I’ve lived in one for awhile now and there’s been minimal noise and I don’t need 5,000 square feet of space. I pay more to be able to walk to Piedmont Park, restaurants/bars and MARTA and it’s worth it.

    To get to the article, I do agree Downtown and Midtown Atlanta could use more apartments (think ones like Post Parkside on 10th and Piedmont or Post Biltmore on W Peachtree, even some mid-rise apartments – 10 to 15 stores – would be good), but I can’t believe you gave Urbanist a story on here. Must be a slow day…

  8. CP

    @Urbanist. Credit to you for responding to the critiques posted here. I agree that this is a short article, which has obvious limitations in what you can present. At the same time, short pieces don’t necessarily have to lose a sense of nuance. Your argument would be even more effective if it acknowledged those developments that DO factor in walk-ability, diversity, community, etc. And perhaps if it also acknowledged that apartments aren’t ipso facto representative of such values. It’s all about smart planning, and you’re absolutely right to say that the city does bear some responsibility in not accurately addressing housing demand.

    Even so, you don’t really explain *why* the Kennesaw State reference was either relevant or reasonable in this piece. You’ve established an intent to offend, but why? What does that offer to your analysis? (And why insult your readers, including yours truly?)

  9. Rick Day

    As a business owner and resident in Midtown, I say AMEN. My business needs PEOPLE and I’d rather see a building full of upscale renters than an empty glass box stripped of its copper.

    And the Kennesaw State comment is 100% right on target. Who is the most successful KSU grad? *crickets*

    Wonder how many of the above folks, um, either make a living off condo’s or have heavy losses invested in their little concrete boxes, within their glass gated communities

    Great writer; spot on. Will read future content.

  10. Mike

    Also, technically more than 3,000 people moved into the city during the last 10 years. The 3,529 was the net amount. There has been a huge shift in the demographics of the city. For example, over 20,000 white people moved into the city and Hispanic and Asian populations increased as well, although not as large as the white population. However, around 30,000 African Americans moved out of the city (in mostly poor areas in the South and West)… this is why you only get a net of a little over 3,000. Just simply looking at a lot of the balconies on these condos/apartments many of them are filled with furniture – some condo towers like Luxe are now 90% sold. Contrary to popular belief, the majority are not sitting empty. There are only a few high profile projects that are empty or half empty but are slowly starting to sell now.

  11. JT

    1.) Who let the OTPer comment? isn’t there a gardening blog you can follow?

    2.) Urbanist, it does seem hidden somewhere beneath your usual misinformed superiority complex there is some sort of half formed point. Nestled in with your off base assumptions on life, humanity and that it REALLY matters where one received their higher education ( a notion that society bucked 25 years ago and most individuals come to realize doesn’t matter after about 26 years of age)is the idea of more urban apartments in Atlanta, which as you mention is sorely needed. You however twist this in your usual infantile fashion to be so simply black and white, right and wrong, a notion again that most drop early in life, things are usually gray, not black and white.

    Yes, more apartments are needed,if for no other reason than to boost the resident population of Midtown and provide alternate living situations in this real estate cycle, but condos are not the enemy and apartments are not the hero. In fact you need both to create the very socio-economic diversity you yourself mention. The truth of development is (and believe it or not you aren’t the only one in the industry who reads this blog) young families make a sustainable neighborhood, and they buy not rent. Having a neighborhood of only apartments creates a transient, bus station vibe in a neighborhood, there is nobody to invest, take ownership, and fight when cycles inevitably turn bad. The problem in Midtown was the completely new condo animal spurred on by the boom, the cheaply built, moderately priced buildings designed to be marketed to 22-30 yr olds who otherwise would be 10 years out from owning a home, the model doesn’t work.

    To say however that condos are the bad guy is misinformed at best. Go to any great city, NYC, Chicago, and go to the most prestigious areas like Michigan Ave. or Central Park West and I think you’d be surprised at the number of condos to rentals, people who can afford to buy will never rent. There will always be a place in a vibrant urban area for buildings like The Four Seasons, The Mayfair, Luxe, and the Lowes. This is the market of buyers who invest millions of dollars in their condo home and to protect their investment invest time, money, and energy making the neighborhood safer and the quality of life higher.

    Renters have no ownership in where they live, there is nothing at risk to them in regards to the neighborhood or even their own living space ( You know we all in our younger days resigned to the notion we wouldn’t be getting our apartment security deposit back, $200 returned at the end of lease is hardly incentive to really give a damn about taking care of your neighborhood). When crime rises, real estate cycles slump, or rents increase, these people can simply and cleanly pick up and leave at the end of lease, there is no connection to a neighborhood.

    I own in Midtown, I take an invested stake in my neighborhood, it’s MINE, it’s my HOME, not just where I am staying for awhile. I watch every development that will positively affect the neighborhood with bated breath and fight for their approvals and completion. I’m engaged in the happenings of the neighborhood creating the kind of social interaction you refer to, which i’m sorry, does not come from renters. When crime increases I fight, write the mayor, city council members, zone commanders, because I can’t simply wait my lease out and move, this is my home not somewhere I lived for awhile until I didn’t like it anymore.

    There is a place for rental development, living solutions for the recent grads and young professionals who were being targeted by the ill conceived condos of the 2000′s. But to somehow connect the two and make home ownership the villain and ostracize those who are making a real investment in the long term viability of Midtown is not at all the right way to go. The developers are not the enemy either, it was the marketplace and the consumer. A good developer, develops what the market wants, not what he wants, you don’t make a very good living building things for yourself, and right or wrong the market wanted condos and the ones built at the right time were very, very successful.

  12. Kevin

    It’s like he’s reading from a liberal phrase handbook: “social interaction”, “civil cohesion”, “progress”, “sustainable”. You left out references to social justice– which, of course, is code for “I’m going to take what you take what’s yours and redistribute it to others– usually at the point of a gun.”

    I own a condo in Midtown. I pay an enormous amount of tax for the privilege. I’ll let free markets decide if condos or apartments are built.

    I want my five minutes back.

  13. Urbanist

    @ Mike – The gross number doesn’t really matter. If I give you $1,000,000, but require you to return $999,997 of them to me, does that make you a very wealthy person? Shifting demographics (and the subsequent sterilization that it tends to bring in Atlanta) isn’t a good thing either. Way to go on your first comment too…essentially agreeing with me, and then bashing the author of the site for allowing me to write an article you agree with.

    @ CP – Thanks. The KSU is a generalization/stereotype that, while I’m sure isn’t true for every single graduate to walk through it’s doors, is mostly true.

    @ JT – I’m just going to dissect here: (i) It doesn’t matter where you get your degree? So all those kids who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend Harvard, Yale, Stanford and so on should just save their money and go to Kennesaw State? If you want to make your commentary seem relevant, you shouldn’t start by making a comment that seethes with stupidity.

    (ii) Perhaps you need to go back and re-read the article. There isn’t an explicit accusation that all condo development is horrible. I make it clear that it’s the “home ownership is great” notion, that fuels the speculative development, that damages the city by creating a lot of empty units, and diminishing the value of human capital present, that could be a consistent revolver of economic and social activity . You also can’t compare condo development in NYC or Chicago with condo development in Atlanta. Chicago, NYC, etc. can sustain condos because there is a demand for them, and because they also have a huge supply, and a huge demand, for apartments. If there was demand for the condos in Atlanta, their development wouldn’t create half the problem that it does.

    (iii) Are you out of your mind!? “It was the marketplace and the consumer”!? 3,800+ units in 3 years, with the net addition of just over 3,500 people, and that’s not speculative to you!? You began and ended your argument with two of the dumbest things I think I’ve ever read.

  14. Anonymous

    I kind of agree with Urbanist. I’m in property management for an intown, luxury high-rise. Most of our homeowners own multiple homes and are only here a few days out of the month. Even the homeowners that use their condo as their primary residence add nothing to the neighborhood.

    The renters that we have tend to be young and are always staying busy (not always in a good way).

  15. Darin

    Interesting article (despite the smackdown of my school KSU). My wife and I are committed urbanists and we go back and forth on the rent vs. buy thing. We had a really bad experience in selling a ViHi condo when we needed more space for our kid and it informed our decision to become renters so we could stay in the walkable intown area we love.

    We rent an apartment in a condo building downtown and I sometimes get the feeling that we’re looked at as second-class residents among intowners because of our renter status. But the truth is that we couldn’t really afford to buy in the building we’re renting in now (or in any of the buildings near by). To become owners, we’d have to leave the neighborhood we’ve become attached to. We moved here for the walkability and MARTA access and I don’t want to give that up just to become an owner.

    I disagree with the idea that renters are innately less attached to/involved in their neighborhoods. There are a lot of neighborhoods in places like Manhattan and Brooklyn that are dominated by renters but have no shortage of community spirit among residents. I think the perception of renters exhibiting neglect for their neighborhoods comes from a history in this city of rental units largely existing for low-income, transient people. There hasn’t been much of a middle-income market for rentals intown.

  16. Nigel Jones

    Over the years, Atlanta will be able to handle more condos. If we’re too hasty to get a more dense Atlanta by adding too many apartments, then the Atlanta that will exist by the time the Beltline is finished, and the streetcars are functional, and the Midtown Mile is more successful will be a transient one who’s not invested in the city.

    And apartments already exist ITP.

  17. JT

    Yes, actually, kids that go to private schools like Yale or Stanford and pay for it out of pocket are throwing their money away, fact, its becoming a more and more accepted notion. Atlanta’s power structure is dominated by folks from UGA, Auburn, GA State, and yes Kennessaw, are you going to sit here now and say they are somehow less qualified or less prepared than someone that paid for a name on their college sweatshirt? Because that, actually, is the dumbest thing I will ever read. With the way professors now move from school to school, many of them leaving those private institutions to escape the nepotism and pretentiousness (which i know people like you mistake for actually BEING better than someone, big difference) that make these schools so undesirable to attend as a student, the quality of education is becoming increasingly consistent across the board.

    Also, way to go “What Now?” for removing every shred of credibility from your blog and pandering for hits, welcome to the ranks of quality reading like Perez Hilton. You had crushed “Tomorrows News Today” by being more in depth, first to report, and not letting opinion cloud your analysis, you have thrown that away. Luckily there are actual professional blogs for industry folks that will stick to reporting the relevant happenings in the CRE world without inserting their own bias, like “bisnow”.

  18. Bobby

    Right on Urbanist. But I think the commenters prove why the city is so ass-backwards. It’s not just politicians or developers, it’s the average Atlantan holding their city back.

  19. Mike

    Actually Urbanist it does matter, because most of the 20,000 plus people that moved into the city moved into areas where these new apartments and condo buildings were built. The people that left were in poorer areas to the south and west in mostly single family homes or in housing projects that were knocked down. And with Atlanta being a majority black city for a long time, it’s about time we got some racial diversity here. If adding white, Hispanic and Asian people is considered sterile then you really are an idiot.

    And I only agreed with you on needing some more apartments, but I don’t agree with you on anything else – especially the way in which you present arguments. You just love the attention this article will bring to you and the owner of this blog loves that you create controversy with your douche bag posts so he gets more readers on here. It’s really pathetic.

  20. JT

    Resulting to insults, which unfortunately I have let you reduce me to as well does nothing to improve or advance your argument especially when YOU are the author of the actual article. It is beyond unprofessional and I unfortunately expected more from this site. I work for a LARGE brokerage here in town and will make damn sure we stop spreading this site around the office as a good source of CRE “news”.

  21. Donald

    @Donald – The progressive world did buck these trends well over 100 years ago. The continuing economics around apartment living in the cities I mentioned (and many others) support that. Unless you’re trying to tell me that you don’t consider NYC, Paris, Hong Kong, etc. progressive cities?

    —————-
    You didn’t seem to grasp my point. I wasn’t arguing about the measure of progressiveness of NYC, Paris or Hong Kong. My point was that your tone in the article is condescending and negative and I used three direct quotes to make my point.

    If you don’t think there are enough apartments, I suggest you buy a parking lot and start building. I don’t think anyone is going to stop you. You could name them the NYC/Paris/Hong Kong progressive apartments.

    finally to your second point:

    ——————-
    ….”You’re also wrong about the “world being driven by supply & demand”. The world of urban development should be driven by demand. However, if that were the case, many of the condo developments that were built over the last few years wouldn’t have been built. Instead, Atlanta’s development has more recently been run by a host of speculators, and the city has accommodated this speculation by zoning and approving the developments. It’s grossly incorrect the say that “city leaders don’t green-light what gets built and what doesn’t”.”
    ———-

    The world is absolutely driven by supply and demand it seems silly to have to point that out to you. With no demand for condos, condos wouldn’t be built. The condo market in Atlanta came out of the real estate speculation and boom just as in every other major US city. The demand was huge when the buildings were conceived, designed, financed, permitted and built. It was as they were being completed that the demand dried up. It is extraordinary times and the demand suddenly went away, just as it did in most US cities. I re-assert my statement that city leaders don’t dictate what gets built. They simply allow or disallow building permits based on popularity. They work for the voters and as such they do as they are told. Zoning boards are driven by the economic need to increase overall property value and therefore tax revenue. Do you think anyone at the city of Atlanta decided to build a Porsche facility next to the airport? No, they were delighted that Porsche decided to come and they quickly cut red tape to make it easier.

  22. Johnny Simmons

    A few good points and a few not so good points. The good points were tainted by very apparent griping and a very apparent chip on your shoulder towards a school and a few developers.

    I think on the surface your population analogy sounds good, but while the overall population of the city of Atlanta barely changed, Midtown and surrounding neighborhoods saw an absolute surge in population and a huge spike in median household income. Neither the population increase nor the surge in income were enough to completely feed the condo boom (which was truly a boom like no other city aside from Miami, Seattle, Austin, Portland, and Chicago saw), but on some levels we have done better than Miami, a city that is truly a condo market. There are only a couple of buildings that are sitting mostly vacant in Midtown (now) and we did it without relying on foreigners taking advantage of a weak dollar and a slumped condo/housing market.

    I do like your point that developers should also focus on apartments more than condos. There is trouble to be had as we all found out when condos dominate the local housing industry over rentals. I do think that developers will have to shift strategy entirely in order to properly develop apartments, however. That’s a different ballgame entirely from condos. Some people might have actually forgotten how to do apartments.

    Also, I thought you took a couple of cheap shots at Daniel, Cousins, and Forest City Enterprises (which I thought was random since I don’t believe they are a major player in town outside of being a part of the team that ‘may’ redevelop the Gulch). Is it because Daniel opposes the new Reign Nightclub? Is it because Cousins is one of the country’s most successful developers? I think each has the city’s economic interest at heart because if they didn’t, their projects would fail, ultimately.

    Lastly, coming from a major Florida city, I believe that leadership here is relatively progressive in terms of promoting urban development. Do I think the city and county governments have major flaws? Sure (can we mention massive patronage??). Do I think that leaders get it, or at least know they must cooperate with progressive developers in order to make central Atlanta a better place? Yes I do!

  23. JT

    I can only hope Mr. Toro realizes he should find another forum to engage this community, like sticking to Facebook and twitter. Being a part of a site who’s contributors are resulting to name calling of the area residents and insinuating that we are all “idiots” for our chosen lifestyles to own condos is a great way to ruin all the traction and trust he has gained with the neighborhood.

  24. James

    I like how all of Urbanists’ proposed “solutions” involve direct Government involvment, and not the free market. Urbanist, go sell your social agenda somewhere else.

    Condos are not the cause of class warefare, and apartments are not the solution.

  25. JT

    Also Urbanist’s credentials should really be looked in to. If he really is a CRE veteran than the exchange he had with an exec from Daniel corp on the “Midtown Patch” site is especially troubling because he showed an absolute lack of understanding on the notion of highest and best use. In a dialog about rental apartments at 12th and Midtown Urbanist was completely oblivious to why Daniel has designated their Crescent st. parcel for this use and not a prominent Peachtree st. address. This is especially worrisome if he is indeed from the financial sector of the industry as he should understand why the numbers wouldn’t work for apartments on a parcel of land fronting Peachtree purchased in or around 2005 or 2006.

  26. JT

    What do you expect James? I’ve also seen him advocate the “mixed income” developments like the apartments at Lindbergh Center. I was scared just going on a tour of the property. I’m sorry, its not classist or racist to not be ok with paying $1800/month for an apartment right next to a family with section 8 paying $600 for the same apartment. Show me some folks in your mecca of progressive thought, Manhattan, willing to do that.

  27. Urbanist

    @ Kevin – Do you take issue with social interaction, civil cohesion, and progress? And, can you please point to where I used the word “socialism” in this essay? Maybe you should get back to hanging your KSU diploma up.

    @ JT – You can go ahead and maintain the opinion that ivy league educations are inferior (or comparable) to those of KSU, or Auburn, or GSU. I’ll let the alumni from each these institutions speak for themselves. Just to point out, I didn’t go to an ivy league school. However, I have spent a lot of time around a lot of very well educated people to know that their educations were far superior to mine. Now, JT, aren’t you missing a baseball?

    @ Mike – do yourself a favor, and take a look through the demographic compositions of zip codes in Atlanta, and it’ll be very clear, very quickly, how segregated of a city Atlanta is. The lack of diversity/integration is still EXTREMELY strong in this city. Go to a bar in Buckhead, and tell me how diverse that crowd is. Go to a bar in South Atlanta, and do the same. You’re assumption that simply adding people to Atlanta (while acknowledging that an almost equivalent number of people are leaving) is somehow some huge positive, isn’t correct. The demographics don’t support it, and the economics of the city don’t support it.

    @ Donald – The world is driven by demand. Supply is then created to match that demand. When supply is created, and there isn’t enough demand to meet that supply, there becomes a price imbalance. This is what speculative development is – an abundance of supply, without the necessary demand. This is the characteristic that defines a lot of the condo development in Atlanta. Further, city leaders to have the power to dictate what gets built, as it’s up to them to issue the permits, to zone the space, etc. Regardless of why they zone what they zone or permit what they permit, they have the capability to control it.

    @ Johnny – You’re right. We are better off than Miami, etc. However, those condo sales that you mention us achieving without relying on foreign money, were instead achieved, primarily, through huge price reductions…not a positive thing either.

    I took a shot at Daniel, Cousins, etc. because they don’t develop for the city’s best economic interests. I don’t think it matters that Daniel opposes the new club in Midtown. I do think it matters that they want to add an office building at 12th & Peachtree, to a city whose supply is well over 20% vacant as it is. The Gulch, a colossal waste of resources, but a great PR move, adn I’m sure will make a great photo op for the AJC.

    @ JT (again) – You and Mike are the only two people who have used the term “idiot” in this dialogue. P.S. I still haven’t seen your baseball.

    @ James – development of any kind in Atlanta requires direct government involvement, as they control the zoning and permitting. Do you think you can just roll a crane onto an empty piece of land and start building without any government interaction? Tell you what…turn off Herman Cain, go get a book on economic theory and read it, then come back and let’s discuss whether my opinion that the city government should be involved in helping Atlanta develop in the right way, is socialist or not.

    @ JT (3rd) – you’re really getting exhausting. You realize that I was talking about the highest and best use for a particular plot of land, which the exec from Daniel said they wanted to develop into office space, right? Do you realize that I was discussing what the highest and best use for the city would be, right? Do you also realize that apartments exist all over the world on premier blocks (5th Ave, Champs Elysees, etc.), and there is no reason why they shouldn’t in Atlanta?

    And yes, JT, I do advocate “mixed income” properties. Just because you were afraid to tour a property, doesn’t mean that there isn’t an economic benefit to those types of developments. These types of developments exist all over the world. There’s a very common structure, called 80/20 – where 20% of the units are for people that don’t meet the AMI, and the remaining 80% are market rate. They tend to work out very well for the tenants, as well as the neighborhood. As a broker, perhaps you should be more concerned with the economics behind transactions, and less with whether or not you’re “scared”.

  28. Mike

    Urbanist, since you can’t refute what I’m saying, you switch the argument to how “segregated” Atlanta is… like NYC isn’t segregated. Give me a break. Just because all different kinds of people are walking on the street together doesn’t mean they all live next to each other in NY. Go to a regular old bar in Manhattan and tell me how diverse that crowd is (pretty much all white), or a bar in Harlem and tell me how diverse it is (pretty much all black). I’ve lived in NYC too so don’t try and fool other people on here into believing everyone gets along and hangs out with other races in NYC.

    Also, the shift in demographics IS a huge positive, because not only has the median income of the city risen (which means more people are paying more taxes which means more things can actually get done in this city) but the racial make-up of the city IS more diverse then before – it’s a simple fact if you compare the 2000 census with the 2010 census. I don’t know why you can’t comprehend this.

  29. Johnny Simmons

    Urbanist,

    Class A office space is doing ok in Atlanta, relatively speaking, and that’s what 1075 Peachtree is. It signed on several high profile tenants pretty quickly, including Fisher & Phillips and PWC. I do think that the 12th and Midtown development is one of the top 3 developments in the city of Atlanta over the past decade in terms of positive impact. It’s pretty hard to deny that and we have Daniel/Selig/Rule Joy Trammell & Rubio and others to thank. I have a view of 1010 Midtown, as well, and I have seen the number of lights on at night double in the past 3 months.

    Also, I agree with JT in that at 2005-2006 land price levels, it would not be realistically possible to put mixed-income apartments up on Peachtree. That’s a definite obvious. Peachtree will always be a high-end condo street because of the street that it is.

  30. MCB

    I say take the 20% of the low income people you want to live in mixed income house and send them to Kennesaw State for an education. I’m sure they can afford the rent in an apartment there. I sure as hell don’t want them in my building. There is a reason I pay what I do to have a nice home and nice amenities.

    I have never read an article where the author is such and a-hole when responding to criticism about his writing. This author has no credibility and lost my interest in the article when he bashed KSU. Where did you get your degree? University of PHX online or do you even have one? I did not go to KSU, but why are you bashing them?

    Facts about Kennesaw State (from wikipedia)
    A current enrollment of 23,452 students makes KSU the third largest university in Georgia, trailing only the University of Georgia and Georgia State University.[8][9] The university is well known for academic programs in business, education, and nursing.

    2004, KSU was recognized by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. At the time, this placed KSU among 67 other institutions recognized as CAE/IAEs with this recognition. KSU was re-recognized in 2007. For information on the CAE/IAE program visit the NSA web site (www.nsa.gov). “NSA CAE/IAE”. http://www.nsa.gov/ia/academic_outreach/nat_cae/index.shtml. Retrieved 2010-03-25.

    Also in 2004, the USG Board of Regents approved the Bachelor of Science in Information Security and Assurance, the first degree program of its kind at a public university in the Southeast, and only the second degree program of its kind in the U.S.

  31. Urbanist

    Mike, I’m directly refuting what you’re saying. I’m telling you that having a bunch of people move into the city (while a near equivalent number of them move out), doesn’t necessarily make for positive news. Also, you’re “median income is growing and that’s great” claim, isn’t entirely truthful. Here’s a statistic for you, from Claritas & the government:

    Median Income Increases btw 2000 – 2011, for the 1, 3, & 5 mile radius of the zip code 30309 were 3%, 2.4%, & 2.1%, respectively. Annual CPI over the past 11 years has averaged at 2.47%. So the reality is that there has been very little real income growth, and in some areas negative income growth. At the same time, the population of the city has been increasing at tremendously slow levels.

    This is not indicative of the “progress” you’re claiming. Have I been clear in my refute?

    The city is more diverse today, than it was 10 years ago. Ok, but that’s like saying I just found a penny, so I’m richer than I was a second ago. Sure, you are, but it’s by no means more meaningful – just as the increase in diversity over the past 10 years is far below where it needs to be, and I believe one of the benefits of more apartment development would be an increase in diversity.

    Furthermore, zip codes may be segregated in NYC, but that is a city that provides it’s citizens with excellent density and connectivity (something Atlanta doesn’t). So, while zip codes in Chinatown might be primarily Asian, that neighborhood is constantly frequented by all the other demographics from all over the city. It’s a bunch of different people, from different races, income levels, religions, etc. mingling/interacting with each other on a daily basis, and that is a very very positive thing.

  32. Inman Parker

    I agree that midtown and downtown would benefit from more apartments ( I had trouble finding one in midtown when I moved here in 2007). What is with the KSU jab? I have no connection to KSU, but it came across as very childish to me.

  33. JT

    I’d like to know how many Section 8 residents live in Urbanist’s building. Also its a pretty widely know statistic that our major cities are actually the most segregated. Go to the north side of Chicago and tell me how many black people you see, zero. In many ways due to us having an extremely educated and affluent African-American population compared to nearly ANY other city we are actually more integrated than most because we aren’t race and income aren’t nearly as tied in Atlanta as it is elsewhere.

  34. JT

    http://www.businessinsider.com/most-segregated-cities-in-america-2011-3#2-new-york-city-ny-has-a-769-white-black-dissimilarity-score-21

    Go through the list and note what major city isn’t there…I’ll give you a hint it starts with “A”. Please just this once admit being wrong about at least this one thing. I know this site puts the disclaimer that it is opinion based, but there is a difference between opinion and fabrication. Speaking in relative terms Atlanta is not segregated.

  35. mad

    Caleb-

    You need to remove this clown and post from your site before you lose your followers.

    This kind of garbage shouldn’t be tolerated on your website. You had begun to gain some credibility, especially with Midtown residents, as you’ve had some great news/discussions on Atlantic Station and surrounding neighborhoods.

    You have some great material on this site, but crap like this makes me want to never check in again.

  36. mypitboss

    This article was an entertaining read, but really too batsh*t to refute. You want higher density? You want local governments to heavily restrict what is built by land owners? You want to mix section 8 housing in with full-paying apartment dwellers?

    I don’t ever want to live in that horrible world of yours.

  37. frankly

    Is this is the same dude that keeps posting the same tripe over at CL’s blog? The city grew by WAY more than 3,529 people. The Census clearly drastically under-counted the city’s population PERIOD.

  38. Urbanist

    @ Pitboss – “My world” (higher density, mixed income housing, and gov’t control of permitting and zoning) is part of the template for pretty much every major city on the planet.

    @ Frankly – Glad you’re a more reliable source than the people who actually did the counting. Thanks for clearing that up.

    So, it seems that there are a lot of people who don’t quite understand the notion of “mixed income housing”. One of the types of housing I described was 80/20 housing, where 20% of a buildings tenants don’t meet the AMI. Well, if the AMI of midtown is $75k, that means that anyone making less than $37,500 per year qualifies as a “lower income tenant”. This means that the city can become an affordable place for kids just out of school, on their first job, people who work in industries (arts, music, advertising – at the junior level, etc.) that don’t pay very well. These aren’t the “section 8″ type of tenants everyone is imagining. As a matter of fact, I never said “Section 8″, just to be clear. So, is everyone here who is so strongly opposed to “mixed income” housing still adamantly against sharing some common space with a painter, a musician, or a young advertising junior employee? I’d certainly hope not.

  39. UghNotHim

    If you have any sense or desire to be credible you’ll never allow this “person” to post on your site again. I would even ban his nonsense from posting comments. Also, don’t think that because this post is generating lots of comments that that means it is a good thing. Your readership is speaking out and letting you know that this post isn’t what is wanted on this site.

  40. mypitboss

    By the way, for those of you who disagree with Urbanist (I definitely do), you might want to consider that this was pretty interesting. Who would think that a guy could write an article about ZONING that would piss so many of us off. ZONING!!!

    Caleb: you seem to be putting together a nice stable of columnists. Maybe you could make a separate section for commentary from this guy, Mark Toro, the Weinstock guy, etc. I think some people were ticked that this piece was presented as a normal update. If it were in a commentary section, then why not?

    1. caleb j. spivak

      hi mypitboss! thanks for your comment. you hit the nail right on the head. these “guest” posts are strictly opinion based to get conversations started about atlanta — we don’t expect everyone to agree — rather, we’d like to see opposing views.

      your suggestion about sectioning off these pieces will be taken into consideration, so thanks for sharing and participating.

      –cjs

  41. Urbanist

    @Pitboss – If you think this article is about zoning, then you missed the entire point. Of course, you’re the same guy who can’t stomach the idea of living in a building with someone who makes half as much money, so it’s to be expected. There are also, as many people here have agreed, some very salient points in what I wrote – primary being that dense apartment development would be a positive thing for the urban area of Atlanta.

    Now, you may not like me; a lot of people don’t. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m an as*hole some of (a lot of maybe) the time. But how can I not be, when I present an idea that has proven successful elsewhere, and I make a suggestion based on a successful professional career in commercial real estate, only to have minds of molasses try to discredit the idea because they thought the article was about zoning, and can’t conceptualize how creating residential buildings that bring together different income brackets, could be a positive thing to the city?

  42. Mypitboss

    @urbanist: yup. I can’t stomach people being subsidized while I pay full price. It leads to a degradation of the property value. Even as a renter, it makes for bad things. Subsidized housing punishes full payers.

    I still think you deserve a place on this blog. I think your ideas are insane, though.

  43. ErrrrBanist?

    I was drawn to the little tete-a-tete between Urbanist and Mike regarding demographic shifts and census data. Maybe people should just read the data themselves to see how the numbers have shifted.

    Here is a start:

    http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/map?hp

    And yeah, I have to say, if Urbanist is going to be a regular contributor, he needs to work on his diplomacy. The personal attacks against people who disagree with him are more than a little untoward – even for a blog.

  44. Johnny Simmons

    Urbanist,

    I will say that I live in perhaps the most mixed building in Midtown. 1280 West, all 40 floors of it, ranges from a rapper, country music star, wealthy young professionals and retirees, to downright hood. I just graduated college in December myself, but I can’t wait to move into a nice upper floor condo in a newer building with thicker walls, on average cleaner cut residents, less noise, less problems, and less building drama. I always think to myself that if I were paying over $2500/month for a unit in Midtown Atlanta, it sure as hell wouldn’t be in my building!

    My point is that mixed income is difficult. It’s profitable for developers once they clear the hurdles (and there are MANY), but it needs assistance and/or incentives to feasibly happen in the first place because it is difficult to sell or rent out the money-making units in a mixed income development or building. People with money will use their money to not be around certain elements and certain life “excitement” if you will.

    I know H. J. Russell, a firm with history right here in Atlanta, has had a lot of experience with affordable housing here in the city (most recently with Historic Westside Village) and throughout the state. I have heard of the the trials and tribulations (and rewards), and it’s not as easy as saying “Let’s do it.”

    You have to remember that Manhattan is the country’s largest welfare city. Come to terms with it. Embrace it. It’s the truth. Would love to live there on the opposite side of the assisted/affordable living, but I know it’s going to cost me my soul and then some so I am waiting. At least Atlanta is still cheap as hell.

    Oh, and did I mention that even though you’ll be underwater technically speaking the day you pull that loan out, an FHA loan can put anyone in a nice condo in Midtown for lower monthly payments than renting the same condo (3.5-5% down if you’re not already riddled with debt). Yes, it’s cheaper to buy than to rent.

  45. Johnny Simmons

    And one more thing,

    I haven’t the slightest clue where you get your data, but where I get mine I see that Midtown and some of the surrounding neighborhoods are the fastest growing areas in the perimeter, and are posting some of the fastest median household and average household income gains in the metro.

    My empirical evidence is that since I came to Atlanta in 2006, Midtown has seen an explosion of home renovations (quality), Spire, Viewpoint, Aqua, 1010, and a host of other mid-upper end developments sprout up. Even after Aqua lowered its prices and gave out Minis and even with a few foreclosures, the average unit in there is selling for $200-350K+. That’s pricier than the average house in East Cobb, mind you.

    10 years ago there wasn’t a Metropolis, Plaza Midtown, Mayfair Renaissance, Luxe, Post Parkside, Post Biltmore, the building where the Dogwood is, etc etc. Incomes and population in the immediate area have both surged and the numbers also indicate that. If they hadn’t, then Midtown would not have supported any of those condos, the CB2, the Drew Ellis, exhale, Ra, Ri Ra, ligne roset, or any other somewhat upscale store or restaurant.

  46. James

    Urbanist, I can only assume you are someone who received a lot of “Participant” ribbons as a child. I don’t know. Somewhere along the way, though, you decided that you were the smartest man in the room. Ironically, the “smartest man in the room” never actually is.

    What I do know is this: (a) you’re happy to talk down to people – as long as you don’t have to reveal your real name; (b) you’re happy to make fun of local colleges – as long as you don’t have to reveal where you attended school; (c) you’re happy to provide a cursory overview of your professional background – as long as you don’t have to get into specifics; and (d) you’re happy to post your opinions about what type of projects should (or should not) be built in Atlanta – as long as you don’t have to acknowledge any validity to opposing view points.

    Simply put, your a loser.

  47. Inman Parker

    Most people from this blog probably agree with some of the thoughts in the article, but all they can focus on is the fact that the writer come across as condescending. That should be a lesson for the author that if they really want people to take their ideas seriously showing respect is probably a good start. It is okay to disagree and be respectful at the same time.

    I agree that renters could help create the type of lively environment that Midtown and Downtown Atlanta need, but I would like to point out that New York city (you mentioned as a progressive city) ranks very poorly in livability ranking. In my experience, most people outside of the north east (including international visitors) don’t really find New York all that appealing. Personally, I would like to see Atlanta use cities like Toronto, Melbourne, and Munich as models for future growth. Density is great as long as it is properly planned.

  48. Urbanist

    @ Simmons – A little quick math: If a condo sells for $275k (splitting the difference between your figure of $200-$350k), and you’re required to, at minimum, put down 3.5%, your mortgage on the property is $265,375. Assuming a 30 year loan, and a 4.625% interest rate (pulled off Wells Fargo’s site for 30yr FHA loans), your monthly mortgage is $1,365. Add on another $400 for taxes and insurance (this is probably low). You’re now at $1,765 in monthly payments.

    Now, the average lease term is 12 months, and a lot of people who rent (myself included) do so, because they like to have the capability to be mobile. If I tire of my neighborhood, I can leave; If I decide to move to another city, I don’t have to wait to sell my home, etc. So, now I’m paying $1,765 per month for a home, while I could easily rent a place for that much or less in Midtown. But wait! I’ve also paid a bunch of fees/commissions to buy that home – let’s say 3% (which I think is about right, when you factor in broker, legal, appraisal, etc.). This is a cost I have to eat. So, let’s say I move in 12 months, that cost, amortized out over 12 months is an additional $687.5 per month. My new monthly bill comes to $2,452. If I stay in my place for 24 months, it’s ~$2110 per month. This of course doesn’t factor in opportunity cost on that deposit, and it assumes that the price of your home doesn’t fall – two hefty assumptions. Unless you’re looking for 4 bedrooms, and a place for a family, it looks like it’s a bit cheaper to rent…

    Also, regarding your question where I get my data – specifically related to the demographic argument, I got it from Claritas (for a 1, 3, & 5 mile radius from 30309) and the census results.

    @ James – Your only contribution to this entire dialogue was to accuse me of having a “social agenda”, because I made the suggestion that apartments can add a lot of value to the city of Atlanta. I know full well that I am not the “smartest man in the room”…I’m probably the most opinionated man in the room, but by no means am I the smartest.

    (i) I know I talk down to people, it’s something I’m working on. Sorry if I’m too brash for you. However, I don’t reveal my identity, because it’s entirely possible that it would have negative implications for my career here in Atlanta. So, if you think that I’m a chicken for not risking my career over an opinionated article, you’re free to think that. (ii) I already mentioned that I went to a southeastern school, but won’t say which one – see # i, (iii) I’ll give you as many specifics as you’d like, so long as it doesn’t include revealing any detail about an employer, or my personal self, (iv) I have an opinion, and when there are opposing viewpoints, I take them all into consideration. However, there hasn’t been much by way of meaningful argument to the contrary. Mike might be the only person in this entire dialogue that has at least offered up a factual statistic to prove his opposing position. Maybe I’m so brash because when the substance of argument is reduced to “you’re a socialist” I just feel like I’m talking to someone who’s watched a little too much Glenn Beck…oops sorry!

  49. kat

    “Now, the average lease term is 12 months, and a lot of people who rent (myself included) do so, because they like to have the capability to be mobile. If I tire of my neighborhood, I can leave; If I decide to move to another city, I don’t have to wait to sell my home, etc.”

    If you decide something isn’t perfect in your neighborhood, you leave. And THIS was my point above about why condos are actually better for a neighborhood/city. When you live in a condo, you’ll actually do something to improve your area instead of leaving after a year. You’ll fight for better transit, better security/police presence, better restaurants and other retail, better infrastructure improvements and repairs. And you’ll get to know your neighbors better, meaning you’ll work together to do these things. How many renters actually get involved in their neighborhood associations and committees? Not many. People who are actually dedicated to the place that they live are FAR better for quality of life in intown neighborhoods than renters.

  50. Urbanist

    @ Kat – I disagree with the notion that renters don’t get involved in their community. However, in order to do so, there has to be a community to get involved with. Because apartments are short-term (at least more-so than condos), they bring people into a neighborhood with far greater ease. However, for condos to be truly appealing, there already has to be a community there that people find desirable enough to decide to own. Once you have a critical mass of people, you have a sense of community that anyone (renter or owner) will attach themselves to. The point is that you need to build that community first, and that is done by bringing people into an area. If apartments make it easier for people to come into an area, then they are likely the more appropriate development for areas that need more people. Furthermore, having transient residents isn’t a bad thing either. A lot people who become attached to their neighborhood wind up developing a sense of NIMBY’ism, which is highly destructive to progress. Transient residents also act as a constant revitalization of new ideas, and new persona’s, into neighborhoods.

  51. esp

    You clearly dont know much about whats going on outside Midtown, so lets be clear this article is only about Midtown and not about “Atlanta” which includes neighborhoods like Castleberry Hills/Cabbagetown/Reynoldstown/Kirkwood/Candler Park/the thousand other areas in Atlanta where high rise condo’s are not an issue.

    Midtown needs more apartments. Okay. What do you want the city to do about it? The city cant selectively encourage apartments over condo’s. The land is already zoned for high-density residential. There are already affordable housing bonuses included in the zoning for several areas. The tax burden in Atlanta isnt anywhere near high enough that tax breaks alone will encourage apartment developments, and the ADA already has a number of programs which encourage development through lease-buybacks (which significantly lower tax burdens on developers).

    Your article can be summed up in one sentence: Midtown needs more apartments instead of empty condo’s, but I dont suggest anything real the city can actually do about it.

  52. esp

    And you complain about parking, and especially surface parking lots, but surface parking lots are clearly prohibited in zoning for new developments and if you had attended any DRC meeting in the past 10 years you would know that its something taken very seriously. Until the current surface parking lots are bought and developed, they will be there. This has nothing to do with the city.

  53. JT

    Kat I brought that point up nearly 24 hours ago, Urbanist likes to say there have been no factual arguments made to the contrary when in reality he just doesn’t acknowledge any arguments made that discredit his own. I also presented him with statistical facts from a third party source that shows that his “progressive utopia” NYC is in fact one of the most segregated and racist cities on this planet. I can back this up not only with statistics which I showed him, but with first hand knowledge since my family has lived in NYC since 1953, and many of them are still there. It frightens me that Urbanist is apparently in a career that will lead me to unknowingly have business interactions with someone who is inside his head one of the most misinformed, off base, condescending, rude, people on this planet. Let’s also not forget coward since I presented him with FACTS about segregation in this country and have many more if he would like to see them and he refuses to man up and admit his mistake.

  54. kat

    @JT – yeah, he ignored my 10:13 yesterday morning comment about my community (downtown) where we are mostly condo owners but are a pretty diverse group (even economically – imagine that – two buildings within a few blocks can satisfy that requirement!) and are all fairly involved in making the neighborhood a better place. In general, the renters are Georgia State students who aren’t particularly interested in getting involved because they don’t plan on staying.

  55. esp

    “Second, Atlanta needs to use the plethora of vacuous space in prime areas to foster this development into a preexisting urban infrastructure.”

    Atlanta has a ‘plethora of vacuous space in prime areas’ because land prices are low compared to NYC/Chicago/etc.. If you own an underdeveloped lot in midtown that can sell for $1.5million and is appraised by the city at $600,000 (realistic numbers for an empty lot), then the revenue from making it a parking lot will more than pay for the taxes. And land prices have risen fairly significantly in the last 25 years, and owning land is a pretty good defense against inflation which many people think is on the horizon. I would bet that land prices in the next 10 years will increase more than inflation, so there is no real incentive to sell the lot to developers (or develop it yourself) instead of holding on to it. If land prices were what they were in NYC/Chicago/etc. then obviously there’s more incentive to sell.

    “The city can zone and promote development that integrates these people into dense areas and provides the critical mass of population that creates the necessary demand for local business.”

    Honestly, are you new to Midtown? Were you not around for Blueprint Midtown? Have you ever read the zoning code in Midtown? You do realize it was designed with, pretty much, the singular goal of promoting development to integrate people into dense areas, right?

  56. Urbanist

    @ ESP – Most of the direction of my commentary is directed towards the “urban area” of Atlanta. By that I meant, primarily Midtown & Downtown, as they are somewhat linked together, and have an infrastructure (short blocks, grid system of streets, etc.) that are distinctively urban. I’m sorry if you took it to mean that every inch of Atlanta proper is plagued by condo development – as that’s not the intent.

    However, the city can selectively encourage apartment development over condos – tax credits/abatements certainly can be enough of a catalyst to encourage development of these projects as well. I developed one project in particular a few years ago, in which the tax credits were the only thing that made the project financially feasible, and I’ve been on the capital side many times where tax credits were the impetus behind a project. In addition to this, I also suggested that the city expand relationships to some smaller, more entrepreneurial developers who would take on projects that aren’t as massive and singular in vision as the likes of Daniel, Forrest City, etc. Also, when I say “Atlanta” I don’t confine that strictly to city government. So, for example, when I say the “city should develop the vacuous parking lots” that applies to private developers in this city as well.

    So, I suggested (i) providing incentives (tax credits/abatements), (ii) calling on developers to build on parking lots and, (iii) for the city to develop more numerous relationships with smaller developers who can add to the mix.

    @ JT – Let me break this down for you: you provided one article – a single piece of news – that didn’t list Atlanta in the top 22 segregated cities of America, and that was your justification for saying Atlanta wasn’t segregated. You then claimed that NYC was segregated and racist, and you could find this out by “walking into any old bar”. Nice support. You are the only person I have ever spoken to who has ever referred to NYC as “one of the most racist cities on this planet”. You’re also the only person I’ve ever spoken to who thinks an Ivy League education is nothing more than “a name on a sweatshirt”.

    I agreed with you that certain zip codes are segregated, in Atlanta as well as in NYC, but when discussing the comparative segregation between NYC and Atlanta, noting that the density and connectivity of NYC made all the difference. This is something Atlanta doesn’t have, and this is something that keeps the city of Atlanta segregated, not only in where people choose to live, but also in how they choose to interact. This is not the same in NYC – or Chicago, and other major, dense, well connected cities. People may live in racially segregated zip codes, but they all consistently interact together, which is the most important part.

    You don’t have to be frightened – although you’ve made it clear that being frightened comes easy to you – as I’m fairly certain we’d never work together. When I hire brokers to sell a property of mine, I look for ones who aren’t afraid to tour properties, and have intellectual skills that enable them to do more than make pretty pitchbooks.

    I know, condescending, but I really just can’t help it with this one…

  57. JT

    @esp, I’m not sure where he’s from but he doesn’t seem to have a very good handle on the reality in any city he talks about. I hope that this site takes it’s self more seriously than to take delight in the sheer number of comments and recognizes that the volume is out of disgust not approval. All of us read this blog anyway, you didn’t get anyone new from this you just alienated and offended the followers you do have. It’s fine to include your followers as guest columnists even misinformed ones but you should require they can have an intelligent dialogue without insulting people. What if there was a CRE exec or city official from KSU who saw this and made it their mission to prevent industry folks and city employees from sharing info with you, making what you do that much harder. is Urbanist worth compromising the quality of your content or the ability to get your information?

  58. JT

    http://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/u-s-2010-census-the-10-most-segregated-cities-in-america/

    http://www.thechicago77.com/2009/01/chicago-is-americas-most-segregated-city/

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/03/31/where-are-the-top-10-most-segregated-cities/

    Here you go, now I’ve presented 4 different sources. How can you claim segregation in Atlanta when I go on Boulevard one of the most dangerous streets in America to go to a Whole Foods, 82 nights a year 40,000 people go into one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the South and tailgate and attend baseball games. Vine City where the dome is located is one of the most impoverished areas in the country. O4W, L5p, Virginia Highlands, East Atlanta, Castleberry Hill all back up and run into majority African American and low income neighborhoods where residents regularly spill over and interact. Your assumption is not based on anything that can be fact. And before you even make the argument that we build things like stadiums in these areas because the land is cheap, that may be true, but take a look at where these other cities place their amenities, cost is not even worth it to them to interact with people of another race.

  59. esp

    (i) providing incentives (tax credits/abatements),
    –Already provided by the ADA.

    (ii) calling on developers to build on parking lots
    Oh my god!! What an idea!! Yes, why didnt we think of this before! Why dont we build on underdeveloped parking lots! Ohmygod, I must not have seen this through my KSU education (not really, but seriously, this is your idea?)…

    (iii) for the city to develop more numerous relationships with smaller developers who can add to the mix.
    Who is the city? Are you talking about city council? There are a number of developers throughout the city who have projects in Midtown other than the big ones you named. If you went to any DRC/NPU meetings in the last 10 years you would know that.

    Sorry, you suggested ideas. I should have said suggested NEW ideas, different than whats already implemented.

  60. esp

    Wait I figured it out, how to make Atlanta the best city in the world.

    1) The city needs to replace all the surface parking lots in Midtown with ultra dense apartments through tax credits and encouragement of small developers (just encourage them to develop those parking lots!).
    2) The city needs to develop all the abandoned and poorly maintained properties in the Bluffs through tax credits and encouragement of small developers (just encourage them to develop those condemned properties).
    3) The city needs to revitalize Downtown by providing tax credits and encouraging small developers (just encourage them to develop the rundown businesses).

    Dont you see it, you guys? Its so obvious now.

  61. Urbanist

    @ JT – Are you serious? Just because Atlanta isn’t in the top 10 most segregated cities, you think that’s a testament to our integration? And are you really going to try to tell me that, because people go to baseball games and football games, that we’re an integrated city!? P.S. there isn’t a Whole Foods on Boulevard.

    @ ESP:

    (i) I’m not saying that there has never been a tax credit deal provided by the city of Atlanta. I’m saying they could use more of them to spur development of apartments in urban areas. It’s an idea that a lot of other municipalities use frequently, and it’s proven successful many times over. I think Atlanta needs to use them more frequently.

    (ii) Perhaps you did see this. As a matter of fact I’m sure most people see this. That doesn’t change the fact that developers like Dewberry sit on vacant lots, and do absolutely nothing with them. Perhaps as a combination between 1 & 2, the city pays a market rate for a piece of land that is currently idle, then sells it back to a private developer at a discount, with the stipulation that they have to build apartments within a certain period of time.

    (iii) I’m well aware that Daniel, Forrest City, etc. aren’t the only people to have ever built a project in-town. However, whenever the city taps a developer to undertake a big development project, it’s typically one of these large developers. The Gulch is a perfect example. Instead of assembling together pieces of development that the city needs, they are simply tapping a large group and come in and re-plan the entire thing. 12th and Midtown development as well.

    By the way, in case you missed it, the focus of the article was the need for more apartments in the city. Guess what, that’s an idea too. It’s also an idea that clearly hasn’t been on anyone else’s mind for a long time. I look around Atlanta, and I see a city that could benefit immensely by bringing more people in and establishing a denser population, which will fuel demand for more local business, create a demand for condo housing, help diversify the urban core of the city, and create a stronger sense of community than what currently exists. I think the best way to achieve this is to start with the development of more urban apartments. I offered up 3 suggestions, that are currently not being taken advantage of – incentives, building on idle land, and engaging more smaller developers. You, on the other hand, haven’t offered up a single productive thought, yet.

  62. JT

    He still is not seeming to understand that the city can have all the the relationships they want and offer tax credits all day long but the numbers still wouldn’t work for a small developer to develop a small scale project on Peachtree or any other main road in Midtown. Even in this economy the only ones that can make a rental project work on Peachtree are the big boys like Daniel or AMLI.

  63. esp

    Building on idle land is an idea? That’s what developers already do. That’s the whole idea of “development.” You’re the one that’s acting like the smartest guy in the room, and your big suggestion that you think no one ever thought of before is “building on idle land,” which is the definition of development. Why do you think those lots are called “underdeveloped” in the first place?

    Wait, urbanist, I have an idea for ending world hunger. Why dont we just grow more food, and then we can ship it to the people that dont have food? Thats an idea too. That is the equivalent of your idea for city planning (“Turn parking lots into high-density apartments.”)

    And yes, there was discussion I can remember at least 5 years ago during the condo boom that there wasnt enough rental being developed in Midtown. No, it wasnt on what now atlanta, it was in Midtown Alliance and Planning meetings. I agree there should be more rental, I never said there shouldnt be. There have already been tons of studies by professionals and academics concerning what percentage of rental/owner is best in a neighborhood. My point is that you cant force developers to build apartments, and despite tax incentives that are already in place, very few developers have the capital to build apartments.

    “Perhaps as a combination between 1 & 2, the city pays a market rate for a piece of land that is currently idle, then sells it back to a private developer at a discount, with the stipulation that they have to build apartments within a certain period of time. ”

    Completely unconstitutional and unfeasible (if you are talking about forcing land owners to sell to the city). If you are talking about voluntarily having land owners sell to the city, then you are missing the entire point– land owners dont want to sell to developers (or develop themselves) because they think land prices will continue to go up. So its an investment for them.

  64. esp

    What would you do to increase affordable housing in Atlanta, particularly in District 6 (including Midtown)? What is your definition or concept of affordable housing?

    AZIZI: (Inclusionary zoning.) “My definition of affordable housing… is that a household does not pay more than 30% of its annual income for housing. Today many households are burdened with paying around 50% or more of their incomes for their homes.”

    “The development of an inclusionary zoning law is one possible solution to increasing affordable housing in Atlanta. This is a concept that has been implemented in several cities in the United States. The ordinance of inclusionary zoning varies between cities. For example, in Washington D.C., residential developments of 10 units or more set aside 8-10% of new housing affordable for middle to lower income family households. Inclusionary zoning would allow for constituents, such as police officers, fire fighters, teachers, and other moderate to lower income residents the ability to live within the various districts and the city of Atlanta.

    “The formation of an inclusionary zoning housing regulation allows several advantages, such as reducing traffic congestion by decreasing the number of commuters, increasing the presence and benefits of safety officers by offering them housing incentives within the community, and ultimately, reducing the number of empty housing developments in the city of Atlanta. Once the economy recovers, inclusionary zoning will provide an invaluable tool for increasing the diversity within our districts and the city of Atlanta as a whole.

    ———————————————

    EDITOR of what now atlanta: The above is the kind of knowledgeable, well-thought out essay that would be nice to have on this site. It is, essentially, the same argument as urbanist except actually well thought out, well written, and with new ideas (and from 2 years ago). Inclusionary zoning (requiring developers to set aside a certain percentage) or zoning bonuses (allowing them to built more densely if they include a threshold of affordable housing) is an interesting idea that may generate good discussion. Suggesting “development of parking lots” as a serious proposal, and thinking its some kind of new smart idea, really shouldnt belong on this site.

  65. Urbanist

    @ ESP – If you agree that the city needs more apartments, then what the F*ck are you arguing about? That was the entire concept of the piece! I’m well aware that you can’t “force” developers to build apartments, and I never suggested that.

    Where in the comment “the city pays a market rate” do I make any mention of forcing land owners to sell to the city? If the city pays a “market rate” (you are aware of what that means, right?), that means that whomever sold, did so at their own choosing. It’s also completely in the realm of possibility that a developer would sell, if they felt the price was right. It’s something called return on investment. So, if the city pays a market rate, from a developer who willingly sold, then re-sold that land at a discount to purchase price (christ, I feel like I should be writing this with crayons to make you understand) to another private developer, with the stipulation that they had to build (and there are plenty of smaller, more entrepreneurial developers out there who would love to build. This was part of idea #3, in case you missed that) apartments, you have now (a) created an incentive to develop apartments by selling a piece of land at a below market price to a developer who has contractually agreed to develop, (b) you’ve free’d up a vacant piece of land, for development, and (c) you’ve likely created a relationship with a smaller, more entrepreneurial developer.

    Did you see what I did there? I just gave you an example of how the city could encourage new development, by using all three of my tactics/ideas. Meanwhile, you and JT have been fighting back and forth over the same, mildly retarded brain, and haven’t offered up one piece of constructive criticism.

    And you’re inclusionary zoning piece – it’s made clear in that article that the idea isn’t a new idea, as it’s been implemented in a lot of other cities. So, again, I gave 3 suggestions for specific things the city can do, (including something very similar to the inclusionary zoning), to foster the development of more apartments. You have quoted someone else, who acknowledges that even their idea wasn’t something new, while berating me for not having a new idea at the same time.

    There are a lot of people here who aren’t as capable at copy and paste as you are, and actually enjoy hearing suggestions about what the city can do to , from someone who knows what they’re talking about.

  66. JT

    Where do you suggest a city who already can’t cover their financial obligations get the money to purchase land at market rates?

  67. mypitboss

    @JT: Well, they’re going to get less property tax income this year I bet. Also, they’re already trying to raise sales tax by 1% to pay for transportation improvements. Options are limited.

    If we have to subsidize any sort of real estate, maybe we should give big tax breaks for some of that empty office space. That would fill up some condos.

    Then we get the “community” feeling. Parking lots are full. More density. Everybody happy! Even Urbanist.

  68. Midtown Resident

    I have both rented and bought (and now live in) a Condo in Midtown.
    I graduated from a top (Ivy League Level) school in the country but have nothing against KSU.
    I grew up in NY and lived in NYC.

    I do not believe in the article’s views.

    People in the rental complex in Midtown did not care for the neighborhood or the property. In the 3 to 4 years I lived there, the place became run down and no one was involved in Midtown.

    I bought my condo at Spire before it was built for considerably more than it is worth today. That said, AFTER TAX, I pay less out of pocket monthly now then I did for my rental at that time (which had 100 MORE square feet than my condo now). I did not make a big down payment on my condo. My condo has kept up the maintenance and people care about the community with many involved in Midtown.

    When I bought my condo – condos were in DEMAND in Midtown. My condo sold out in less than 60 days. The vacancy rate in my condo has always been less than 10% and is currently less than 5%. Based on that performance – many more builders decided to build condos at that time. If the crash in real estate COUNTRY-WIDE had not happened due to shenanigans in the financial market had not happened, I believe the condos would be full today.

    New York City’s rental market CANNOT be compared to Atlanta. NYC has rent control – which has meant many apartments have had very low rents for generations. In addition, NYC (Manhattan in particular) was built up generations ago with buildings. The transportation systems encourage NO CARs and many folks in Manhattan do not have cars (spaces rent for MORE than a 2 bedroom apartment in Atlanta alone – without an apartment). At the time the apartments started in NYC – owning a home was NOT the American dream. Comparing Atlanta to NYC is comparing Apples to Peaches – complete opposites.

    I chose to live in Atlanta, not NYC – as did many others in my family. Using NYC as a comparison point does not make sense – until Guiliani “cleaned up” Manhattan by expelling all “homeless” folks – begging and crime in NYC was a real problem. Having apartments versus condos does not make a city more racially mixed. Changing how people think about each other does. Calling people names – just as racism – can cause people not to respect each other.

  69. Nika

    I’m a renter in East Altanta. I would love to live in Midtown and I am making plans to do so, with limited options. I agree that Midtown needs more apartments. I have read all the comments and I think people are uncomfortable with article because because of misinterpretations.

    As Urbanist stated: Mixed income or even lower income does not mean- I don’t work. Any income is a wage, people who have a wage go to work- are being productive-adding to community. Just because someone makes $10,000 less (or whatever amount) than another does not mean they are worthless or add to less to community. Many of you assert that only Blacks are low income and/or you assert that low wage earners (no matter what race) are horrible neighbors as a group. I think Urbanist is attempting to present you alternate thinking.

    I agree that while NYC “may” be segregated in some homes, but when people go to work, school, out in the city streets et cetera they interact with a more diverse group of people- “more connected” as Urbanist stated. And if other cities are “racists/classist” why does Atlanta have to be? Why can’t we be the first or have an improved economic and racial make-up. I think a lot of the comments want to fight this in different ways, its hard to understand each persons motivation.

    1)I hope Midtown gets more apartments. At this time, not many people want a tiny overpriced condo- Atlanta has so many single family homes that are cheaper and bigger. If there must be more condos please please make them larger in sq footage and near a train station, not a bus.
    2)I hope the Midtown Mile gets more retailers. Retailers need foot traffic and I’m saying few people want the condos that are on the market- they are small and not special. But lots of people will rent even more so if their apartment was in the center of it all and didn’t cost over $900 rough estimate- the idea is not more than half of a paycheck.

    Have a nice day every one!

  70. JT

    Ii’m not sure what city on Earth you would find a decent large apartment for less than $900/month, Birmingham maybe? Chattanooga? Anyway, its not a a race issue and its not a classist issue, its a common sense issue. The same common sense issue raised when it comes to socialist programs that people who support them can’t seem to understand, let me lay this out.

    Someone works very hard for their money, in a job they don’t love but it allows them to live a life they enjoy. They bust their a** to pay for a great shiny new apartment, health insurance, food, etc. Meanwhile next door to them, someone has the exact same apartment, health insurance, and is able to put food on the table with the same ease. Now, that being the case, and assuming person “A” doesn’t LOVE his job, which many of us don’t then what incentive is there for that person to work hard for all those things if he can have them anyway because they are given to him.

  71. Johnny Simmons

    Midtown Resident,

    Thank you! I agree with all of your points. It is cheaper to own a condo in Atlanta than to rent an equivalent one. That’s fact in today’s local economic climate. When you can find a beautiful luxury condo in the Four Seasons for $275K and the same condo can rent out for between $2500-3000 or more, then you know it’s time to buy.

    kat,

    I agree. Renters on average care a lot less about their neighborhood than owners, and frankly renters are often not the best neighbors and not the best for area appreciation.

    Nika,

    Eh, not a very productive post I don’t think. Also, an apartment “in the center of it all” for $900 or less? That would only arise thanks to tax abatements and strict regulation (i.e. section 8 development and “affordable housing” development). Nobody can feasibly put that product down in any top 25 market in the country.

  72. ESP

    Where in the comment “the city pays”Where in the comment “the city pays a market rate” do I make any mention of forcing land owners to sell to the city? If the city pays a “market rate” (you are aware of what that means, right?), that means that whomever sold, did so at their own choosing. ”

    Maybe you dont know what eminent domain means, but its when the city pays a “market value” and the property owner sells the land involuntarily. You didnt mention whether you meant voluntarily or involuntarily, so I addressed both situations.

    Property owners can already sell their land to developers at the market value if they want to. Thats why its called the “market rate” (maybe you dont know what market rate means)… They chose not to because they think land prices will go up. Which is exactly what I said. If a property owner doesnt sell to developers at the market rate, why would the sell to the city at the same price? Let me whip out the crayons for you– THEY GET THE SAME RETURN ON INVESTMENT REGARDLESS OF WHO THEY ARE SELLING TO IF THE PRICES ARE THE SAME. THEY DONT WANT TO SELL. DEWBERRY DOES NOT WANT TO SELL. IT DOESNT MATTER IF THE CITY OFFERS HIM THE SAME PRICE AS DANIELS. HE DOESNT WANT TO SELL.

    Okay, so now you’ve moved from offering tax breaks to actually offering up straight money to developers. You want to city to buy land for $300/square foot and sell it to private developer for $200/square foot. Thats the city taking a direct loss, which is quite a different thing than providing tax breaks. If you think thats even close to what inclusionary zoning means, you are wait out of your league (which you are)..

  73. Nika

    Wow, JT and Johnny you guys must pull in six figure salaries. I DO NOT!

    OH my post is “Eh, not a very productive post I don’t think”. Well the post is about apartments in the city and the discussion extended to location and mix use communities if you were following the discussion (John). I said “didn’t cost over $900 rough estimate- the idea is not more than half of a paycheck.” Again rough estimate. I don’t know very many people who pay over $1200 for a 1bed 1bath rental. I dont know if you guys are bragging or what. $2300+ means like more than a couple people in the unit. I’m speaking from a one income perspective of price.

    JT, I get your point and respect that you work hard and you should see the fruits of your labor. I’m not necessarily sold on the idea that mixed income complexes are a solution that should be enacted throughout the city, the idea was mentioned in earlier post. I mentioned it b/c I was expressing that “Mixed income or even lower income does not mean- I don’t work. Any income is a wage, people who have a wage go to work- are being productive-adding to community. Just because someone makes $10,000 less (or whatever amount) than another does not mean they are worthless or add to less to community” as you two seem to think.

    If a single renter who make less than $85,000 (me) cant stay in your complex (understandable), at least I want to be able to afford to stay somewhere in the neighborhood. And the market, not gov. is allowing for this. I’m in east Atlanta, and there are nice apartments for “around” $900. I’ll let you know when i find this in midtown, these units are out there!

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