Fill In the Blanks, Round 2: Downtown
This former BP station at Ponce and Piedmont has been empty for about five years now. While the neighborhood apparently didn’t need two gas stations at the same intersection, perhaps it could use a coffee shop/sandwich shop/bakery on that corner. Ideally, it would be a place open for weeknight and weekend brunch and dinner. The building itself is pretty small, but once the gas pumps were yanked out, the areas underneath the two awnings could be used for outdoor seating in a setup like Brewhouse Cafe.
Parking? It doesn’t need it. A few thousand people live within a 15-minute walk of that building and two hotels are right around the corner. North Avenue Station is two blocks away, the route 110 bus passes one block away and the route 2 goes right by the door. The very limited parking that’s there could be reserved for employees and wheelchair-accessible spaces.
At the next intersection to the west is the empty lot where the white marble Wachovia building was demolished, also about five years ago. It was to be site of a Cousins condo project called Fox Plaza, but like other holdovers from the era of condo-mania, it’s still up in the air. So how about a couple of alternate uses?
- Apartments: Fewer people are able and willing to buy condos right now than when this building was demolished, but people still want to live in the city, close to transit, restaurants and entertainment. The prospective residents of our hypothetical apartments could have their hypothetical weekday dinners and weekend coffees and brunches at the hypothetical BP Cafe.
- Leave it more or less as it is and make it park, just adding some lighting, seating and shade, maybe a fountain. There’s a pretty pronounced lack of public space for the residents and workers in this neighborhood. To prevent people staying in the park overnight, a tall, decorative fence could be erected where the chainlink is now and the gates locked between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Finally there’s this still-vacant parcel of land in Allen Plaza. There’s still a surplus of office space in the city, so another office building the size of the ones already in place might not do well.
An often-heard complaint about this development is that it just dies after 5 p.m. Whatever goes on this corner would need to give people who work in Allen Plaza a reason to stick around afterward, as well as drawing downtown residents, nearby hotel guests and maybe even people living in the newly-fashionable Westside.
This part of downtown is also lacking retail of any kind. Rarely does a week go by that a tourist or conventioneer doesn’t stop me somewhere between Peachtree Center and Civic Center to ask “Is there a drug store or grocery store anywhere around here?” If they’re still in the station, I tell them to just get back on the train and ride up to the Publix near Midtown station. If they’re out on the street, it’s a toss-up between telling them to take a taxi to North Avenue and Piedmont and saying “No, not really.”
Finally, although there’s a transit station barely two blocks away from this lot, there’s no rental housing anywhere nearby. Condos aren’t a sure bet any more, but there are still a lot of people who’d like to live a five minute walk from a transit station and right across from access to the expressways.
So, maybe this hole could be filled with a low-rise apartment building with a market on one side of the ground floor and a small, Churchill Grounds-sized live music venue on the other.
Are there any parking lots, dead spaces or derelict buildings in or around downtown that just annoy you every time you pass them? What would you put there?