Letters to the EditorNews

Say ‘No’ to the Development at St. Joe

Forty years ago I bought my condemned house on Barrow Street. Soon, landlords of the adjoining properties came to me asking asking if I would buy theirs, too. Because I wanted good neighbors, I decided to do it. The work began: raising ceilings, putting on roofs, new floors, kitchens, et al, renovating five houses (two duplexes, one now single family). Happily for me, people liked them and wanted to move in. I kept lists of potential tenants. Two houses have been sold and have homeowners now (two nurses and two UGA faculty) who have continued to contribute to the neighborhood once referred to as “downtrodden.”

Athens has continued to change over these passing years, especially recently with the high-rise apartments finished and under construction. It’s alarming to me that the buildings and grounds haven’t been more complementary to the areas they occupy.  

That is also true of the plans Pulaski Heights neighbors have seen regarding the development of the property where St. Joseph Catholic Church once was a good neighbor. We’ve talked about it at your meetings, among ourselves and to Russ Davis, the developer. I’m now told that if we have issues, those should be sent to Davis (15 copies) on paper. I’m sure others have written too, so I’ll try to not repeat too much.

It seems that, considering Pulaski’s location in a very thriving community that my investment banker Cissy Hutchinson tells me is the most popular neighborhood in Athens, we can expect more than what we’re seeing. Pulaski Heights is a very car-congested neighborhood; Barrow is hilly and steep with cars parked at the street. The south end of Pulaski Street will be horribly affected by what you heard called the sun-blocked “shadow effect” caused by tall buildings onto the houses, in which live some of our 28 young children, recent additions to the neighborhood. I also feel the new RM-3 zoning and its allowed density is incompatible, thus undesirable here.

The rental of the proposed units Davis promises will not go to students. Comforting at first, but he’ll only wait seven years to sell this development. By then, time will have taken its toll and promises will evaporate. I would like the new buildings to be brick on all sides, and for the housing which will be so close to historic Childs Street (already threatened by Taqueria del Sol parking) to be compatible with the historic architecture in the neighborhood. The planned buildings for there are obnoxiously large. Plus, under current zoning, we should also expect two acres of green space or landscaping along with further setbacks of the buildings.

Davis promises a full-service grocery store in this new development, i.e the Daily co-op. None of us, or the tiny Daily Grocery, believe that they will be the one. Perhaps someone like Trader Joe’s would work and could afford to build there, but for some reason, they’ve never seemed interested in coming to Clarke County.  

I believe that because Pulaski Heights and Prince Avenue are historic and beautiful, we should be able to expect a developer to create something that will be both unique, compatible, crime-free and desirable, and certainly not age badly; where adults will want to live for a long time and possibly even retire as they downsize. A place where we, the Pulaski Heights neighborhood, would consider living also.