Cheshire Bridge Road: alluring, risque, diverse, authentic, vibrant, alive, and now... endangered because of people like Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, the openly gay official whose District 6 includes both Cheshire Bridge Road and Midtown.
Recently, we learned of a zoning effort to change the character of Cheshire Bridge by getting rid of restaurants, bars, clubs, and stores that were grandfathered in as part of a 2005 rezoning. Now Mr. Wan wants to go back and get rid of grandpa.
The legal aspects of this do not bode well for Wan nor for the neighborhoods he purportedly represents, as they have proposed an illegal “taking.”
Counterpoint: Save Cheshire Bridge from Alex Wan and the gentrifiers
This “taking” is about the ongoing project of gentrification, homogenization, sterilization and capitalization of a historic neighborhood.
I have been fortunate enough to live off of Cheshire Bridge since 2011, in a jewel of a multi-racial community on Woodland Avenue, that is one of the last bastions of affordable, multifamily rental housing in all of Buckhead and Midtown.
This is what Wan and his second-wave gentrifiers wish to destroy the most, so they can make way for more repulsive condos and luxury apartments made of ticky tacky that no working family can afford.
Cheshire Bridge, in my view, became the new Midtown several years ago after the second wave of gentrification in Midtown entered full swing, displacing the working class homosexuals who fixed up the place.
So, do we, the gay community, allow the Jungle and the Heretic to go the same way as Backstreet? Do we allow another community to be yuppified, buppified, and sterilized — forcing us, the gays who wish to party, to some industrial area in the outskirts like Mr. Wan envisions, perhaps Fulton Industrial, where we can dance the night away in one of the worst pollution hotspots in all of the metro Atlanta area?
These neighborhood associations who want so desperately to see porn stores shuttered, working families banished, and their property values skyrocket, should not get their way.
The fact is, they knew exactly what neighborhood they were moving into when they chose to move here. Their complaints are not valid now.
In Wan’s vision of Atlanta, people come home from their corporate jobs to their 2.5 dogs cheerily barking at their white picket fence, then they have dinner and watch television.
In the real Atlanta, people have sexual needs and desires that they sometimes wish to act upon, sometimes involving bars, strippers, and dance clubs. Cheshire Bridge, our red light district, is a natural outgrowth and expression of our very humanity, which we should take pride in.
Finally, gay voters need to be more critical and introspective about the politicians we support. Gay does not mean progressive, and Mr. Wan is Exhibit A. Sometimes, having an openly gay elected official can result in the pursuit of policies that actually harm the gay community.
The Zoning Review Board will soon consider this proposal, and we should organize to defend, protect and preserve our historic neighborhood.
Matthew Cardinale is news editor of Atlanta Progressive News. A resident of the Cheshire Bridge Road area, he identifies as homosexual.