Trends in Downtown Athens

Beat Post 3

Downtown Athens is undoubtedly experiencing a variety of changes. A trend that I am interested in looking into is historic conservation. A lot of the residents and students that live in Athens don’t fully understand the way that property ownership works with buildings downtown. There are many absent owners, meaning that they don’t live in Athens or use the buildings themselves, but rent it to store owners. With many of the buildings dating back to the birth of the university, their condition is naturally worsening, but owners aren’t present or don’t have the interest in their upkeep. I would want to talk to a variety of retail owners that occupy historic buildings downtown and ask about their personal struggle with building maintenance. What goes into it and why many so property owners won’t spend the money to save their building.

Another trend is that small business retail shops are being replaced with large chain corporations. After speaking with Tim Stamey and Anne Shepherd, two local business owners, there is reasonable concern that Athens will become unrecognizable if the small retail shops are overpowered. This trend has been reported on constantly, so I’d want to approach it from another view. How are these iconic local businesses fighting against the tide of large chains? Are they going to the government? Avid Bookshop owner Janet Geddis says that Athens should have a limit on the number of outside retailers that are allowed into the city’s downtown commerce. Finally, what did Athens used to look like that now the people who have been here for decades are so thrown off. What was so special about the vintage Athens that people are fighting to bring it back?

A final trend to report on is the change in student housing. It is affecting so many aspects of downtown. First, with huge student housing developments moving downtown rent prices are soaring unlike ever before. I have another post about this issue specifically, but the rents for these units are raising prices for students, but also the property rates for store owners are increasing. This relocates small business owners to other properties allowing bigger chain stores with the capital to move into Athens. Also, students are having to look outside of downtown for rents relocating people out of their family neighborhoods. Everyone is mostly concerned that having more students downtown is problematic for the attitude and classic charisma of Athens, however there are more sides to the story.