You may or may not have noticed that we never took an editorial position on the 5 Points South project — the six-story private development that would include two stories of city parking. There were plenty of words on the editorial page on the subject, both pro and con — just not from us. There were letters and op-eds, but no editorial.
This is because we had no consensus on the subject. The problem was me. I didn’t like the project. Why? It just seemed too tall to be right there. It didn’t move me to know that there were other buildings even taller just a block or two away. This would loom right over the heart of Five Points — right over the new fountain forming a gateway at Saluda and Blossom. Besides — and I realize this is purely a personal whim, so I wouldn’t have taken an editorial position on the strength of this; it just didn’t help — I don’t like parking garages. I’ll park half a mile a way and walk rather than get tangled up in a parking garage. Something about the tediousness of getting in and out of them. I like to know I can make a quick getaway, or something. I don’t know what it is.
Other members of the board thought the project was fine, but it wasn’t a burning issue to them. That is to say, they didn’t favor it strongly enough to push me on it. And they had their hands full, as did I. We were in the midst of endorsement season, and unfortunately, state primaries come along concurrently with the last few weeks of the legislative session — a doubly busy time for us. So basically, no one had the time to do the research to overcome my objections. So we neither came out for it or against it.
In the last couple of weeks before the city’s final decision (which came Wednesday — it was approved), advocates for the project asked to come in to talk to us. With the pace of interviews we were dealing with (and remember, with our present staffing levels, we all work a full day getting the pages out without any meetings), we weren’t sure whether it would be time well spent, given how far apart we were on it.
But all of that is hard to explain, so Warren and I agreed to meet with the group on Monday. The delegation included Anne Sinclair from city council, our own James D. McCallister (who I believe is associated with Loose Lucy’s — correct me if I’m wrong, Don), Duncan McRae from Yesterday’s, longtime Five Points leader Jack Van Loan, developer Ron Swinson and city and Five Points Association staff.
I asked them all my questions, and I was satisfied with the answers. The parking is needed, not everyone has my aversion to garages, and the setback should avoid looming over the entrance to Five Points excessively. It means a lot that the businesses most likely to be loomed over want it.
James brought up a good point about "Five Points" as a concept being something that some of us react to emotionally and sentimentally. I acknowledged that to me, that wasn’t even Kenny’s, but the Winn-Dixie. And does it really make sense not to have secure parking for patrons and employees because I don’t want a building taller than the Winn-Dixie?
So that leaves, what? Residential neighbors who don’t like it, right? That’s something that should be respected, but does it outweigh the legitimate reasons set out by the advocates?
With the decision coming up on Wednesday, I huddled with Warren and Cindi to see whether they thought we should take a position before the meeting. At the same time, I made the point that while I had been won over, I didn’t like the fact that there wasn’t time left to spend equal time with opponents. (If I had thought they would be that persuasive, we would have tried earlier to make provision for that.) We decided, in light of what we already had planned to say editorially on Tuesday and Wednesday, not to leap to a conclusion editorially at the last moment. Warren did write a column mentioning the project favorably for Wednesday’s paper, but mentioned MORE prominently the smoking ban, which we were already on record as strongly for.
Why a post on why we didn’t take a position, when we take very clear positions on bigger, more controversial issues than this all the time? Well, I just wanted to post the video of James et al., and this provided the excuse.
On this blog, everybody gets famous eventually. And not just for 15 minutes, either — even though this is the future previously referred to.