An Economic Dance

The latest chapter in the Classic City's struggle between national and local business

By Thomas Mills and Anshool Deshmukh

L ocal Athens residents are concerned that the Classic City’s culture and vibe are being slowly ousted in favor of large, big-box retailers, hotel chains and residential apartments.

Melissa Tufts, the director of the Owens Library and the Circle Gallery at the University of Georgia College of Environment and Design, feels that the closures of several local establishments in downtown Athens will leave a lasting, negative impact.

“The changes will definitely de-personalize the street life,” Tufts said. “I just think people feel less comfortable when they're surrounded by these cavernous buildings that shut out the light and air, it just changes the dynamic of how you experience the street.”

Over the past two years, several local establishments, such as Jackson Street Books, NONA and East West Bistro have closed. On the other hand, national stores and student focused apartment complexes, such as Georgia Heights, J. Crew and CVS, have opened up downtown.

Some locals feel that the recent commercialization in downtown have brought forth cultural, architectural and aesthetic changes.

"It changes the character of downtown, it changes the traffic patterns," said Meera Naqvi, a graduate student at the University of Georgia. "Downtown used to be very kind of locally owned places where you got to know people over the years and their families. You felt that you were part of a community."

However, the question remains: Is the issue as big as residents are making it out to be, or are the changing dynamics making some positive impacts on the Classic City?