Five Points parking project: The position we didn’t take

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.

That makes three of our regulars who have now been featured in picture (and now video) on the blog — Doug Ross, bud, and James.

On this blog, everybody gets famous eventually. And not just for 15 minutes, either — even though this is the future previously referred to.

5 thoughts on “Five Points parking project: The position we didn’t take

  1. Randy E

    Brad, having a relatively tall building where Kenny’s was located would provide a “looming” presence. But, as Kenny’s seems foreign to you but not others, so will this skyscraper – it will become the norm.
    What concerns me is a resulting hodgepodge of buildings that doesn’t lend itself to a common ambiance. I love sitting outside at the Gourmet Shop looking at the old shops across the road and thinking about all the people who walked Five Points before me – a sense of history. Some obtrusive parking garage would seem out of place.

  2. Brad Warthen

    See, you’re where I was. But I decided those were vague objections in the face of the very practical considerations that James (a.k.a. Don) and Duncan and Jack and the rest had. Add to that the fact that it affected them more than it did me, and I knew they had spent more time thinking about it.
    Would our guy at Loose Lucy’s, or the management of Yesterday’s go for something that would spoil the intangibles that make Five Points appealing? Do we think they don’t understand the essence of Five Points? I’m sure they do better than I do. I’m sure they care exponentially more than I do.
    Since a lot of this is subjective, at some point I have to decide whether their subjective judgment, AND the reasons they give, more than my rough, vague impression of the situation, which frankly is little more than a prejudice against change.
    But, as I noted — and this lies at the core of this post — I didn’t feel like it was nailed down enough for us to rush a position into print, especially not without interviewing a group of opponents to see how much weight I wanted to give THEIR subjective judgments and reasons…

  3. James D McCallister

    Thanks again for having us, Brad. I did appreciate Warren’s column very much.
    What sealed it for me was Swinson & Harp’s willingness to redesign according to input from the FPA. Now this building will conform in an aesthetic sense to the Five Points Master Plan (aka “Future Five”) that is also awaiting approval by the city (though as I understand it, this is a multiple, multiple step process that may take a while).
    Many people I run into assume(d) throughout the process that I would sort of de facto be against any such building across the street from Loose Lucy’s. My reply has been, life is about compromise, and these guys who own the property could have built anything they wanted up to the current zoning height (75 ft)–so we’re lucky that we’re getting the parking we’ve always wanted, and that it comes not a terrible price, but rather at a negotiated and reasonable one that is fair to the developers and to the neighbors . . . in my opinion, of course.
    And yes, Don is fine. “James D” is of course my writer-name, and you all can see the proof of this by purchasing a copy of King’s Highway through amazon, at Happy Bookseller, or of course at Columbia’s favorite post-Joyful Alternative hippy shop, Loose Lucy’s! (Shameless plug alert–I’d ban me for that.)

  4. Brad Warthen

    Not at all; not at all. I encourage y’all to run right out and buy James D’s book… If you mention my name I’m sure he’ll give me a cut.
    That’s the way it works on this blog. Anybody makes a buck off of these interactions, I get to wet my beak, as a token of respect. Over in Brooklyn, you pay somebody else…

  5. Lee Muller

    The Kenny’s site is located in a filled in swamp, on top of a 100-year-old creek which was bricked into a subterranean storm drain. It exits into Maxey Gregg Park and flows to the river.
    Also under there are lead and terra cotta water and sewer pipes, but unmapped. The foundation for any multi-story building would have to sit on driven pilings, but no one knows where they can safely set the pilings.
    The entire block needs to be excavated and all new water, sewer and storm drains run, before even a parking lot is built back there.

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