My favorite, best-dressed businessman, Mark Toro, is getting the headlines. Most recently, the AJC featured him in an opinion piece entitled, “Atlanta’s Light is at the End of a MARTA Tunnel”. It is a good and thought provoking piece. Mr. Toro remembers the I-85 bridge collapse and the consequences. He states, “At all of our places, we see connectivity as the most important amenity.” As well he should, for Mr. Toro and North American Properties have developed some very high end developments that require traffic, money, purchasers and connectivity. Among these developments is Avalon in Alpharetta, as you know. Mr. Toro is now re-developing Colony Square in Midtown. A successful Colony Square depends upon people, traffic, purchasers and connectivity.
It’s interesting that Mr. Toro makes the I-85 bridge collapse the galvanizing moment that makes MARTA the Oh, So, Logical Choice for all of the Metro. You see, we must slightly discount Mr. Toro’s evangelism for MARTA since he does stand to benefit so strongly from MARTA at the properties that he (North American Properties) manages. But, his opinion and your opinion about MARTA aside, for perhaps he is right, perhaps he is wrong, the I-85 bridge collapse also suggested another thing: that perhaps the problem of Atlanta’s homeless community is actually the bright, blinding, tragic light at the end of that I-85 bridge collapse tunnel. It is the blinding light that is being ignored, much to our detriment.
The I-85 bridge collapse was (allegedly) caused by an individual with a drug problem who was either fraternizing with or counted among the homeless. In any case, he was under I-85 in an area I used to drive by regularly. As someone who worked in midtown for 5 years and who drove the route by the bridge collapse, I can testify that this area is full of the homeless, the beggars, the unsightly, the unseemly, the people the Pope suggested we give to regardless of their circumstances. (I am not Catholic. I simply thought it was interesting.). On any given morning I would see them. On any given morning I would have them approach my car begging for money. One morning, while at work at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, I was approached by a presumably homeless person who was actually quite threatening. Was it a surprise to see him within those fences outside of the given hours? Yes. How far was he from the area under the Piedmont Road bridge where the homeless sleep? Maybe 1/10th of a mile.
Atlanta’s homeless community is comprised of the following: drug addicts, the mentally ill and those that are down on their luck. And don’t relativize those that are down on their luck. If you live long enough, and even if you don’t, you too will be down on your luck one day. Perhaps you too will be homeless. In any case, Atlanta has its share of the homeless; i.e. those who have no place to call home; who have no steady job, who are out…of….luck. These out of luck human beings. Oh yea! These are people too.
What will we do with the homeless? The area near the collapsed I-85 bridge is populated, is home to the homeless. This is the message I took from the I-85 bridge collapse. The cost! The astronomical cost of that bridge collapse!
Mr. Toro presumes that the bridge incident means MARTA is a must. MARTA will solve our problems, says he. But what we will do with the homeless who live (?) adjacent to MARTA? I want to suggest that THIS is the take-home from the I-85 bridge collapse and NOT that a savvy businessman thinks MARTA is a given for the metro, which will, incidentally benefit his developments.