Your vote counts: Help pick the downtown design award winners
In this era of lingering economic downturn, it’s easy to gripe about the obvious signs of fiscal affliction: shuttered storefronts, foreclosure signs, the protesting campers occupying Woodruff Park. And I do my share of griping. That’s why I found it particularly heartening to take part as a judge in this year’s Atlanta Downtown Design Excellence Awards (ADDEA) and to get a behind-the-scenes look at projects that are making a difference in the city and the lives of its residents.
It is a sign of the times that this year’s ADDEA contenders were primarily focused on renovation, remodeling, or restoration instead of the glittering new construction or (take for instance, the W Downtown or Russell Federal Building annex) that dominated over the first few years of the program.
The 2011 nominees range from a massive overhaul of the Georgia Pacific Center lobby and Hyatt hotel atrium to modest homegrown efforts, like the bar at Hill Street Tavern, crafted by the owner and his dad using reclaimed wood from a Georgia farm or Grant Henry’s eccentric mash-up of sacred and profane at the bar called Church (where you can don a vintage choir robe and take part in church-organ karaoke but you can’t get a wifi signal or watch TV).
If you’ve spent time on the DeKalb Avenue/Decatur Street corridor in the past decade, you’ve watched the demolition of the old Grady Homes housing project and the construction of two new complexes: Veranda at Auburn Pointe, which serves senior citizens, and Ashley at Auburn Pointe, a mixed-income housing development. To say the redevelopment was transformative for the neighborhood is an understatement.
Not visible to passersby, but just as transformative, is the interior renovation of the MLK Federal Building (the former U.S. Post Office). Not only does this continue efforts to preserve a historic structure (last year the exterior renovation was an ADDEA winner) but it also marks a change in government building projects, which in decades past focused on demolition and low-cost replacement buildings, with little regard to aesthetics or history.
No one’s asked my opinion, but if the Occupy protestors wanted a specific platform, how about taxing that wealthy 1% and using the proceeds to invest in community development projects and historic preservation? You’d create jobs in the process and improve civic life for 100% of us. That's an idea I'd be willing to take to the streets to support.
In the meantime, let your voice be heard and vote in the ADDEA awards by clicking here.