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Crank Up The Music (but not too loudly)

Music Midtown 2012 arrives, but not all Piedmont Park area residents are singing a welcoming song.

Music Midtown 2012 is virtually here as tens of thousands of music-loving fans will be pouring into Piedmont Park on Friday and Saturday. It’s an exciting event featuring some very popular musical acts, but not everyone is whistling a happy tune.

There are concerned residents from neighborhoods that surround the park who wonder why Midtown must bear the burden in order for the rest of metro Atlanta and visitors to party during a string of spring, summer and fall festivals and events staged in and near the park.

Some contend it’s just part of the deal that comes with living in Midtown. Still, others want to insure that Midtown and Piedmont Park doesn’t get taken advantage of. Piedmont Park Conservancy (PPC) Director of Public Relations & Marketing Aimedra Kelley wrote in an email to Midtown Patch:

“Piedmont Park does not benefit from events like Music Midtown. Even though Piedmont Park hosts 85 percent of all permitted events in the City of Atlanta, there is no direct funding from those events supporting Piedmont Park Conservancy's effort to maintain the Park. All of the funds raised from Conservancy events like Season of Magic, The Green Concert and more directly support the care and continued maintenance of Piedmont Park.”

The City does receive financial compensation from Live Nation Entertainment, which produces Music Midtown. According to City of Atlanta Special Events Coordinator Adrienne Wright, the City receives $250,000, plus $1 for each ticket that is sold that is contributed to Mayor Kasim Reed’s Centers of Hope initiative, which helps fund recreation centers and after-school activities for young people in the city, including upgrades to computer labs, security and other IT needs.

As is the case with all gated, ticketed events at Piedmont Park, it is up to the promoter to repair any damage sustained by the park, including turf damage. This year, the base of the two Music Midtown stages will have been in place for a full week before they’re removed.

The Midtown Neighbors’ Association addressed several areas of concern with Music Midtown promoters, including the damage sustained by the park. Leigh Davis-Turner, a representative of the festival, recently appeared before the MNA’s board of directors to answer the groups concerns point by point. With regards to the park damage, Davis-Turner’s written response was:

“This year, Music Midtown is installing a new type of tuft protection (an articulated aluminum roadway) which has been pre-approved by PPC as a way to further minimize impact on the grass. Regarding the length of remediation, Piedmont Park Conservancy is responsible to determining when repairs (which are 100% paid for by the festival organizers) are made to the Park based upon factors including scheduled maintenance, grass dormancy and the schedule of other festivals in the Park. This is the case with all festivals, not just Music Midtown. PPC decides what remediation happens immediately after Festivals and what remediation happens when the festival season is over."

The MNA also raised concerns about noise pollution, which representatives said was an issue at Music Midtown 2011 when the music was “very disruptive to 9th St., Vedado, Charles Allen Dr. and other Midtown residents and especially to those with special medical needs, and those with small children (naps, bedtimes become completely disrupted).” Music Midtown 2011 covered just one day and night, while this year it will cover two evenings.

To no avail, the MNA suggested locating the stage to point in a northwesterly direction, instead of to the west in order to reduce the sound level and mitigate some of the noise pollution. Two other recommendations were made by the MNA including employing City noise officers or another entity with experience at using the appropriate equipment to take decibel readings inside residences and in the neighborhood. A report on decibel levels would then be provided to neighborhoods and Neighborhood Planning Units.

Also suggested was to employ acoustic engineers to design acoustics so that the noise pollution is "less intrusive to the taxpaying neighbors."

Responded Davis-Turner:  

“This is a complicated matter than does not have an easy or quick solution and is not exclusive to Music Midtown. Music Midtown operates completely within the rights that all permitted festivals receive per the Outdoor Event Ordinance, including sound levels. We have looked into your suggestions; it is not feasible to move two stages, the entire layout of the festival is based upon the location of the stages. The bands play at a level so that patrons can hear, it is not their goal to play at the loudest levels possible. When asked, Parks Department representatives were unaware of the City having any Noise Officers. The Parks Department has one employee that uses an in-house system at Chastain but advised us that other legislation is enforced by APD. We will continue to look into the matter with APD this year and will explore ideas that could be implemented for the 2013 Festival.”

And then there is the case of the extensive road closures that come with the event and this year's street closings began six days before Music Midtown's opening day. Road closures for Piedmont Park events and festivals are not unique to Music Midtown, but clearly the continual shutting down of all or portions of 10th Street is wearing thin on some folks’ nerves. One frustrated Midtown Neighborhood resident wrote in a distributed email this week:

"The center east bound lane of 10th street between the Children’s School and Charles Allen is closed. This is not mentioned in MM 2012 Street Closure Plan. This causes 10th street traffic to back up during rush hour and school pick up. Leaving two lanes open up to Charles Allen will relieve congestion. That way cars and buses turning on Charles Allen don't have to be in the same lane as the cars continuing easbound/ straight on 10th. Also, there are bus stops on Charles Allen, make sure that they are not blocked when the parking lanes on Charles Allen are closed. I tried to get on the #99 bus this morning near 10th and Charles Allen and the bus stop is blocked/fenced off.”

But the reality is that these events, such as the Peachtree Road Race and next month’s Atlanta Pride Festival, won’t be relocating away from Midtown any time soon. Said Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall this past April when the Music Midtown musical act lineup was announced:

“I’m really excited about what this means for the City. Last year, Mayor Reed kicked this off and it really is a new era in live music in the city and it set the tone for something great going forward. We want to have a very vibrant city and this is one of those things that makes it happen. Our Midtown economy, our entertainment industry is really carrying the day in terms of jobs and opportunity.”

So grin and bear it Midtown area residents. But in doing so, help the City and surrounding neighborhoods document any impact these festivals might have on where you live. Please send notes, pictures and comment on activities during events and festivals to traffic@midtownatlanta.org.

Documented feedback and data from members of the Midtown, Ansley, Morningside, and Virginia Highland communities is needed in the following areas:

  1. Traffic flow: minimum impact, ok, bad, a big problem  (photo/written documentation with time & location)
  2. Parking: minimum impact, ok, bad, a big problem  (photo/written documentation with time & location)
  3. Security Patrol: minimum impact, ok, bad, a big problem  (photo/written documentation with time & location)
  4. Litter & trash: minimum impact, ok, bad, a big problem  (photo/written documentation with time & location)
  5. Noise: minimum impact, ok, bad, a big problem  (photo/written documentation with time & location)

Again, send notes, pictures and comment on activities during park events and festivals to traffic@midtownatlanta.org. And try to enjoy the music while doing so.

Mike_Midtown September 23, 2012 at 02:07 AM
I'm at 6th and piedmont and I can hear the music clearly. I think that's a bit much to hear the music 8 blocks away.
clancey September 23, 2012 at 10:33 AM
At 7th and Peachtree; 9:45pm lastnight I could hear Pearl Jam blasting away....clearly hearing the words. To Loud!
Clicker September 23, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Turn off your hearing aid Gramps.
Hunt Archbold September 26, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Hello, a quick correction/clarification here. The original article stated that the MNA made recommendations to the event organizers regarding repositioning the stage, reducing the sound level, and taking decibel readings. While some members of the MNA board, as well as certain neighbors of the Midtown Neighborhood, made those suggestions to Music Midtown representatives, the MNA did not officially request such of event organizers and indeed did approve their application. It has been corrected in the piece and Patch regrets that unintentional error.

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