Mike Morris, the local attorney who represented Atlanta development firm Taylor & Mathis, describes the abandonment of the planned medical center project at 1140 Prince Ave. as a "lost opportunity" in his letter to Athens-Clarke County Planning Director Brad Griffin.
I could not agree more, for this is an area ripe for redevelopment. Is there is a lesson to be learned here?
Clearly, we learned it was not in the developers' interest to present residents with a finished project without a strong neighborhood consensus. In this case, failure to consult prejudiced much of the subsequent debate, since in the eyes of many, the developers had already shown no particular interest in the surrounding neighborhood. Nor did Taylor & Mathis' subsequent behavior do much to change that impression.
Contrast their difficulties with Williams and Associates' development of a mixed-use property off Timothy Road. The developers consulted with prospective neighbors early and often, and were able to address most of neighborhood concerns before the proposal became news. As a result, Athens-Clarke commissioners unanimously approved the project.
It seems logical to conclude that developers of in-town properties will be acting in their own best interests if they do not ignore neighborhood groups. By consulting residents early and often, developers will acquire credibility, together with a detailed sense of what the community needs and will support. Let's hope more and more enterprising developers make use of this effective formula, so that we can avoid further lost opportunities.