This New Condo sits on a piece of land that was a dump when I first saw it. The only structure standing there was a long abandoned bank drive thru. Not a whole bank, just the drive thu... not attached to a branch or anything. A little bulletproof hut. Like an old photomat or something. Surrounding that was a mostly unused asphalt parking lot, cracked and dusty.
I don't remember the day I first became aware of the space my future home would someday sit on. It was probably early in 2001 when my first Atlanta relationship was new. He lived in the area and had introduced me to the "square" and it's cool bars, little restaurants and seasonal street festivals. Not the least of which was and still is the Great Beer Festival.
I was living in an apartment closer in to downtown at that time and when I would come out this way to see my guy I’d have to drive past this vacant corner lot with the pitiful, broken down bank kiosk, rusty chain link fence and determined weeds. The sight of it always hit a little chord deep in my brain. I don’t know why... all I knew was that I liked that scrappy patch on the corner for some reason. It was probably around then that I started coming up with plans. What I would do with all that space if I hit the Powerball. Maybe a movie theater, a cool one with just a couple screens and a full bar... Maybe an upscale grocery, like Whole Foods without the attitude... An awesome urban park would be neat there too. It was so wasted as it was.
All the while I was dreaming about what could be, the area surrounding my vacant lot was going through a renaissance. The chamber of commerce and the city counsil and local residents had all teamed up to make "Downtown" more pedestrian oriented. Taking away road lanes in favor of bigger sidewalks, planting trees, turning parking decks into storefronts, and building new residential spaces. They were fixing mistakes made when the powers that were allowed several austere skyscrapers to be built with the intent of luring business away from the high rents and high crime of Downtown Atlanta. Their vision was one of commerce. They were not building a neighborhood, they were building an economy. Their good intentions never paid off though and now 25 years later those tall, boring towers sit mostly empty and blocking my view.
The transformation is nearly complete now... The banks whose neon names top those tall bland towers now reside mostly in smaller more pedestrian friendly branches. The buildings that are going up now are more mid-rise than high rise, and are grounded to the street by restaurants and shops. This is a metamorphosis I think a lot of smaller communities are going through. Baseball fans have been seeing transformations like this in their metropolitan stadiums for some time. Turner Field is a good example. The old Fulton County Stadium was a multipurpose stadium, the Falcons and the Braves both played there. Just a concrete oval with seats tacked to the inside wall as it sloped to the field. Your movement restricted to the certain area of the stadium printed on your ticket and no other. Beneath all that, concourses filled with scary looking hot dog and beer counters. Functional? Yes. Pretty? No. When that stadium was blown up, it was replaced with Turner Field. A modern throwback to the good old days. Less Baseball Stadium and more Ball Park. Lots of brick and warm colors. Kids areas, specialty food vendors, arcades, fine dining... I like to call it “6 Flags over Turner Field” because there is so much more than just the ballgame going on. That is the kind of revitalization going on in my ‘hood.
One day in early 2005 a sign went up on the corner of my vacant lot. On it there was a picture of a very masculine, mid-rise structure, lots of brick and balconies and windows and shops on the bottom floor. In the pencil and chalk image I could see that the building’s facade, cuuuuuurrrrrved around the corner, giving whoever would live in those corner units a 90 degree bank of windows. It was hot. I was in love. Probably more so because this sexy building was going to be built on MY vacant lot. Beneath the artists rendering were the words “New homes starting at...” “I should have known it would be condos,” I thought. Lately it always seems to be condos when a building starts to rise in the ATL. Then I saw the “starting” price and I knew I’d just been priced out of my vacant lot. Way out of my league. Still I went to the website to check it out... big mistake. Every floorplan was cool, and I could tell that I was right about those corner units, sexy! But there it was again, the “starting price.”
By this time, I had been living in this part of town for a few years. The guy who introduced me to this area and I had parted ways, but I did like where that relationship led me geographically, so I stayed. I was living in the same kind of crappy, yet livable apartment complex I have always lived in, slowly but surely building up a savings account for something, a trip or a new car or something. I was (still am too) also dating a guy who shares my love for floor plans. We love looking at floorplans... not sure why. I sent him a link to the floorplan for the corner unit, a big 3 bedroom affair, just to show him what they were planning for my vacant lot. He joked that I should go to the sales office and inquire, just for kicks, See what they were really offering... maybe there were some pre-construction deals.
Turns out there were AND more.
Next Flashback Friday: It never hurts to ask.