Does mayor really want to take business away from Square?
by Pete Borden
June 04, 2014 12:32 AM | 2177 views | 6 6 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most of us remember two years ago when Theatre in the Square closed. We recall the “weeping and wailing” that we heard from the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and various business interests about the loss of revenue and the huge cultural loss to be occasioned by the closing. In truth, it was a sad day, since it now appears it was an ill-fated attempt by the board of directors to take over the operation and oust the founder, Palmer Wells.

Similarly, when the Atlanta Lyric Theater severed its ties with the Earl Smith Strand, the city fathers went berserk at the thought of the revenue lost to the downtown businesses. They even went so far as to experiment (with our money) with shuttling patrons by bus from downtown to the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre, then back to the Square. It went over like a screen door on a submarine.

At present, the building known as Theatre in the Square is housing two theater groups that are producing eight to 10 shows per year and drawing about 200 people a week into downtown Marietta to shop at the stores and eat at the restaurants there.

But it seems the city fathers are determined to disrupt this facility because of a perceived problem with the structure, which is said to extend 18 inches onto city property in two places due to an addition to the building.

The city is demanding owner Philip Goldstein sign an agreement stating that, in the event of injury due to the structure, the city will not be liable. I don’t think a structural engineer designs a structure that is likely to cause injury. I can appreciate the desire to protect the city, but this issue should have been resolved, permanently, before the construction. Theatre in the Square has been closed for over two years. Why is this problem just now a “hot button” issue?

I spent most of my life in construction, so I know that (1) said addition to the building was not built without a building permit. (2) A building permit for alterations to a commercial building requires the submission of a complete set of building documents, which include architectural drawings, structural drawings (sealed by a registered structural engineer) and complete specifications. (3) These documents are supposed to go through a comprehensive and complete review by the building department before the permit is issued. (4) During construction, the project is subject to numerous inspections by the building department.

Evidently the building department did not do its due diligence before issuing the permit or it issued it knowing about the encroachment. If it was issued contingent upon an agreement of liability, then it should never have been issued. Commercial properties change hands frequently and it would be a given that at some point a new owner would balk at signing it.

Such is the case now, when demands are being made on Goldstein, long after the fact. To my mind, the city is the owner of this fiasco.

Mayor Steve Tumlin says he wants to work it out amicably, but he is, simultaneously, brandishing a big stick, stating the city can demolish the addition, by a court order. Given the apparent lack of diligence by the city originally, that might be easier said than done.

Members of the city council, namely Grif Chalfant, are using this issue to bring into play their personal gripes about the theater. Based on what I can ascertain from Chalfant’s published comments he is voicing an opinion which has no basis in fact, as probably are the rest of the gripes. Mayor Tumlin should tell them to shut up.

Earlier, a blogger brought up the issue of liability for injury caused by the tables and chairs belonging to the Marietta Pizza Company, which sit on city sidewalks, 24/7. They pose a greater risk of injuring someone than a structure. Does the city have such an agreement with the Marietta Pizza Company?

If anyone is looking for a simple permanent solution to this issue, then cede or sell the two 18-inch “tracts” to Goldstein. The city is forever freed of liability, Goldstein’s building can remain intact and the two theater companies can continue to perform and attract visitors to the Square.

On the other hand, if this is what it appears to be, an excuse to punish Goldstein for past “sins,” then Tumlin and the council are not interested in simple solutions.

Time will tell.

Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor in east Cobb.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Brandt Blocker
June 04, 2014
Pete, for clarification, The Strand severed ties with The Lyric. Not the other way around as you suggest in your article. May I refer you to your own paper's headline of that occurrence: "Strand Board Votes to Part Ways with Lyric Theatre."
Pete Borden
June 05, 2014
Brandt, my sincere apologies, but no negative connotation was meant by the way I worded the split.

It was the split that was germane to my message, not whose idea it was.

However, I do have to say that, having had a chance to compare the artistic quality of the productions at Anderson, to those at the Strand, I am convinced that the Lyric was the clear winner, regardless of who severed ties with whom.
Brandt Blocker
June 06, 2014
No need to apologize, Pete. I just wanted to clarify. Many folks still don't understand the reasons for the separation--thinking The Lyric just wanted to leave the Square. However, I can absolutely agree with you that our move to the Anderson Theatre has been a huge success for us, artistically and financially. We are doing record subscription sales, so I am thrilled that our patrons are so pleased. We do miss the Square, though. Stay tuned for an exciting remedy to that issue very shortly!

Hope to see you soon, Pete!
@ Pete
June 04, 2014
Your neighbor builds something that "encroaches" on Mr. Borden's property and the encroachment was overlooked by building/county officials.

Now, try to sell your property without curing the encroachment.

Good luck with that!

You've demonstrated interesting logic here.

Did the building owner have a property survey, as they should prior to construction showing true property lines? If so, why did they build beyond their property line?

It appears you are defending a building owner building on land they do not own. We suppose your suggestion is that the city should just say okay, because the theater is in the public's "best interest."

No where do you cite that the building owner has any culpability. Why?

Like to see the theater stay, yet your argument is specious at best.
Ben Twomey
June 04, 2014
I think I can speak to your concerns, for Pete, who is not supposed to blog his own columns, as I understand the newspaper's policy. (although,based on a Mr. Foely's conduct, it may not be sucn a rigid policy after all.)

If you knew the curcumstances of this construction, it might answer your questions. First of all, the building owner, Mr.Phillip Goldstein, rents his property "as is". Any and all improvements, renovations and modifications are the sole responisbility of the tenant. This particular addtion was the brainchild of the disfunctional board of directors of Theatre in the Square. Mr. Goldstein had nothing to do with it, other than give his approval.

As to the encroachment, it was evident on the building documents, to which Pete referred. The city, for whatever reason, approved the project, in spite of the encroachment. (Ring in: Good ole boy backyard negotiations, probably.)

Now that Theatre in the Square is, I guess, officially kaput, the city if trying to find a scapegoat to cover its blunder.

Mr. Goldstein is not trying to sell the property, so your alluding to the encroachment spoiling the deal is irrelevant.

I think I have answered your concerns, now maybe you will answer something for me. Why did you not address Pete's very resonable suggestion as to how to simply and fairly resolve the problem? Also, why did you not address the matter of the chairs and tables sitting on city sidewalks, 24 hours a day, and the very real possibility of someone tripping and falling over them?
Rhett Writer
June 04, 2014
Sir, your questions make me wonder if you even read the article. Either you did not, or you have a hard time with the written word.

I think, if you will go back and really read the piece you will find that the answers to all your questions are there.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides