Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

There’s a bunch of new signs popping up around town. Or maybe not new, but new to me and to DM. And that counts. Here are some notables.

Retail Conversion?
When One Decatur Town Center was built in 1984, replacing the former Candler Hotel, downtown was pretty darn dead. Unless you count the hookers, that is. Or so I’ve been told. Either way, while the city’s vision called for development that would contribute to a new “Main Street” lined with shops and restaurants, the market economics of the day said, “no.” So, the building was built in such a way that the ground floor could be leased for office space until such time that the retail market improved, upon which the space could be retrofitted to assume its intended use. 25+ years later, we might finally be there.

At least that’s what’s suggested by this first picture. Any of our regular insiders know more? My personal assessment is that such a conversion would add even more interest to this stretch of Ponce, which has already assumed the role of one of our most charming downtown blocks. And there’s certainly historic precedent, such as the retail space that originally occupied the ground floor of the Pythagoras Mason Temple Building.

New, Short-Lived Name for Holiday Inn
As DM mentioned previously here, downtown’s Holiday Inn will now be officially known as the Decatur Hotel until such time that their Courtyard by Marriott conversion is complete.

According to May’s Decatur Focus, the new owners planned to “drop the Holiday Inn brand immediately,” and I suppose this is evidence of that effort. However, those in the branding biz, as well as every other human being on earth, may still note some, errrr, lingering similarities to the Holiday Inn brand.

Oh, you changed the “H” to a “D”? Well, then. Nevermind!

Intelligent Parking Solutions
This is not a new story but I don’t recall seeing these signs at Farm Burger until recently. This may be because they’re new but more than likely I just missed them in the past because my eyes were clouded by visions of grass-fed ground beef.

Regardless, I like it because it’s a nice reminder — especially as Decatur’s Task Force moves forward with zoning reform — that our goal should always be accommodation rather than rote adherence to sprawl-generating ordinances. You need not force X number of parking spaces onto a site. You simply need to accommodate parking for X number of cars. Shared parking accomplishes this, providing us the establishments we love without the need to needlessly consume more land for temporary car storage.

25 thoughts on “Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign”

  1. I like the Town Center building, especially when viewed in light of when it was built. One of the few buildings built at that time that still looks good from the street. Not so fond of the parking lot behind it.

    I think parking is the #1 issue for Decatur businesses. When you go to a restaurant for the first time, part of the drill is to find out about parking options. PITA. I don’t think this is such an issue for regular visitors, but for those that come less frequently, it is a tough learning curve. And drawing those who are now infrequent customers to Decatur is exactly what we want to do. Tough problem.

    Sorry for wandering off topic! 🙂

    1. The parking solution is so simple and I don’t know why it’s not publicized better. There is plenty of free parking for EVERY business on or within a few blocks of the Square EVERYDAY after 5:00 and all day on the weekends in the courthouse deck.

      Yet I don’t know of any business that advertises this fact. I hear a lot of non-Decatur locals say that they’d love to go Leon’s or Cakes and Ale or any of the other great dining and drinking establishments downtown but they are put off by the perception that there’s a dearth of easy and/or free parking.

      Does the city not advertise this fact because of deals with the pay lot folks? Regardless of that, if I owned a business on or near the Square that relied on evening and weekend patronage, I’d make sure that everyone visiting my website knew about that option!

      1. Good point. I had heard about the courthouse option, but have never tried it. It is now on my “To Do & Try” list. Thanks!

        If we agree that perception is 90% of reality, than I think Decatur businesses are losing a ton of business because of the belief that parking is a pain. The courthouse solution is a good one for the evening & weekends, but the weekday daytime parking problem is still tough.

        1. I’ll give you that on weekdays parking can still be a hinderance. If I’m looking to grab a quick lunch, I pass up anything on the square because there’s no dedicated parking and I just refuse to pay $6 to park for a $10 lunch. Several times recently I thought it would great if I could run into Pita Pit and grab a lunch to-go but ended up heading up the road to Publix.

          Of course, the huge captive audience at the courthouse (I remember serving on jury duty in the early 90’s when Hardees was the only walkable lunch option!) and downtown offices seems to keep the restaurants hopping. It’s the evening and weekend that the restaurants, bars and other retail establishment would really benefit from the common knowledge that there is ample convenient, free parking right there.

          This topic comes up every so often and it never ceases to amaze me how many Decaturites even have no idea that they can park at the courthouse. Of course, I’m sure that my advertising that fact will now lead to the county (I assume it’s county owned?) realizing they can make money off it..

      2. I always park in the courthouse deck if I drive to the square, but it may be a little off-putting to some people. It seems a little scary to be alone inside at night, and the walk past the bus patrons may bother some skittish folks. Perhaps the city (or county) could make parking there a little “friendlier.”

        1. This has been mentioned many times, in forums, here on this blog, in focus groups. Unfortunately, the county, not city, owns the parking lot so it’s hard to have any influence. There was once talk of at least advertising the lot more and having some signage directing folks to it. Not sure if that ever happened.

          1. There is signage, not particularly prominent, on W Trinity at the entrance to the deck. Many, many people are obviously unaware of is existence, evidenced by the fact that all day they are driving in endless loops around McDonough St in front of the Courthouse.

            1. Yes, but I think the idea was to have some quaint signage directing folks as they come in the city (or circle endlessly around the Square) so they’ll know to go to W. Trinity and find the County parking. I lived in Decatur for years before I figured out the best ways around the not-square-anymore Square. But maybe advertising County parking, especially that it’s free after midnight, wasn’t ok with the County. And that stretch of sidewalk from the County parking up to the Square is a little bleak. Not sure what would help–trees? Quaint streetlights? There’s a stairwell that goes to the bus depot side of the Square but that’s quite dark at night. Some bright paint and better lighting inside the deck would help a lot.

                1. Sorry, I meant after 6 PM. As I age, my bedtime gets earlier and earlier. 6 PM is the new midnight.

                2. 6 pm is the nominal time and the latest time after which the deck is free. In actuality, it’s usually before then. There are no tickets and you pay when you leave, not when you enter, so it’s free for anyone who exits after the attendant leaves. You can park there at 7:00 am and it’s still free if you leave after the attendant is gone. Sometimes she’s there until 6, sometimes she leaves at 5:45, sometimes earlier. In the winter, when it gets dark earlier, it’s not uncommon for the exit gate to be unattended and open at 4:30.

  2. Retail conversion: if it is the case that the building was built with future conversion in mind, it was extremely far sighted of the builders. If only more developers took that route with the long term future of the urban experience in mind. Too bad this often hasn’t been the case around Atlanta, especially with parking structures.

    Intelligent parking: this is great. Creative solutions are called for in urban areas, not a one size fits all, parking for everyone and their mom out front model. Let’s see more of this!

  3. I don’t have information about the possible conversion of office – retail space for the ground floor of that building. However. There is a major office tenant on the ground floor that is expanding its business and moving to larger space (still in Decatur). Hence, the opportunity. A good sign.

  4. Where’s Lyrics Only Guy when we need him? This thread’s title is begging for song lyrics!!

    1. Actually, my first thought was “I bet Scott is also Lyrics Only guy” when I read the title…

    2. The only things I know
      Are road signs and rock songs
      And lonely hotel rooms
      But still I need you here, what’s new?

  5. I believe that the space under the banner was originally the C & S Bank Decatur Branch. Then it was Nations Bank. When Nations Bank merged with Bank South, they moved to the Bank South location at Commerce and Clairemont. (now Bank of America).

    Does a bank branch count as retail?

  6. Shared parking should be the #1 goal of the Zoning re-write. And we should all speak out and support them 100% when they make the suggestion because there will be NIMBY’s that will oppose it!

  7. I have only parked in the courthouse deck once at night time. Despite a crowded square, the deck was deserted and downright scary. I felt very vulnerable as I loaded my young child into the car- I buckled from the inside with the doors already locked.

    There are also 2 great decks that most area businesses seem to have free tickets/ tokens for- the one above Subway on Ponce and another directly across the street. I can easily go to the nail shop for some beautification and take my son for a haircut. These are my favorite daytime decks. Does McKinney’s Apothecary have parking tokens available? I switched my meds to them and they were great!!

    At night, I usually park (paid or free) at Raging Burrito because it feels safe and often I eat there anyway.

  8. Regarding the County deck being “safe,” I know perception is often more important than reality, but does anyone know if there has ever been an incident there? Ever?

  9. I use the County deck more often than not, when parking downtown after 6pm or on weekends. It is usually empty. Walking by the MARTA bus turnaround to the Square can be a bit unpleasant because it’s not very clean. But I’ve never felt the least bit threatened, even though I’m a woman traversing these areas alone, usually. If more people would use the County deck in off-hours, then both the deck and the pedestrian approaches would be less deserted and off-putting. (On the other hand, more people using it might create a more target-rich environment for criminals, so maybe it’s actually safer the way it is now!)

  10. Wow. As one of those “bus patrons” sitting in my Buckhead office, I realize that public transit isn’t going to ever get anywhere, even in “enlightened” Decatur. (And I always park in the County courthouse lot).

    1. Me too. For concerts and festivals it is the best bet. With two children, I have never felt threatened or in any way unsafe; although I used to live on Juniper, so I guess perception is everything.

  11. That Farm Burger / Your Best Cleaners / Watershed parking sign would be better placed if it were visible before drivers entered the lot. As it stands, the sign would be largely blocked from view as soon as someone parks in the spaces between it and the drive.

    And I’d be a little more impressed with the “sharing” if the property owner also included a sign that said, “Free parking in this lot from ____ to ____.” Several businesses along that section of West Ponce don’t have enough spaces to meet their peak parking demand.

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