Monthly Archives: September 2017

Urbanization and the Dynamics of Street Art

street art 2September 25, 2017

A quick drive around Atlanta’s emerging neighborhoods like the Old Fourth Ward, Castleberry Hill, Cabbagetown and many more will surface some similar observations. There are young couples pushing strollers past historic homes being passed by kids skateboarding down the sidewalk. The streets are lined with millennial ventures like coffee bars (not shops right?), ecommerce startups, and fitness studios. Once forlorn, smaller lots have been converted into multi-purpose, community  greenspaces. However, what is often most eye-catching in these up-and-coming areas are the street art and murals that can seemingly pop out from nowhere.

I live in a two-story mixed-use building in such a neighborhood that is covered by murals on all sides. Back in 2012 when this neighborhood was a very different place, the owner partnered with Living Walls and local artist olive47 to beautify the facades with an elephant, butterflies, and an MLK Jr. silhouette and quote. Aptly picked given the building’s proximity to the MLK historic district, the quote reads “without love, there is no reason to know anyone, for love will in the end connect us to our neighbors, our children and our hearts.” I often think why this quote and these designs for this particular location? What was olive47’s motivation if she even had one at all? Was she trying to set a tone for the current and future community? If so and most importantly, did it work or even matter?

People are beginning to realize that street art can have numerous positive effects on a community at very little cost. While the monochromatic, grungy, five-second, graffiti tags only related to street art from a basic materials standpoint only have adverse effects, often ornate and thought-provoking street art designs can benefit communities in a variety of ways. Most importantly however, street art can help galvanize gentrification in urban communities. For example, there is a high correlation between the presence of street art and relatively lower crime rates amongst urban communities, potentially alluding to the calming effect art can have on a person and/or community over time. Millennials craving city life are more likely to live in affordable urban communities with street art than those without since these neighborhoods can feel warmer, safer, and just more livable in comparison. As these budding consumers move in, advertisers hungry for millennial eyes soon follow, starting a chain reaction of commercial influx to areas that were historically overlooked. These millennials then grow in tandem with the community, developing a connection and therefore increasing the likelihood of them staying nearby to buy their first house and start a family. Street art’s beneficial impacts are numerous but the economic value it can help generate over time is easily it’s greatest positive externality.

I’ve only lived in my mural-adorned apartment since March 2015 but in just two and half years I’ve seen the neighborhood improve dramatically. For example, the street retail below me was previously inhabited by a shabby convenience store that was an eyesore and complete underutilization of the space. Now there are three thriving businesses including a popular food truck prepping kitchen, a hair salon, and the newest venture, a cat adoption café, businesses which might have never taken the risk on this location without the presence of MLK Jr., butterflies, and an elephant.

Adam Stimpert


Who Owns all this Land?

grand-tetons-matador-seo-940x448 (1)

September 18, 2017

As I ride in my car looking at the landscape, I wonder who owns that home or that piece of property. What amazes me is that outside of national parks, basically 99% of American property east of the Mississippi is owned by someone. Ride for mile after mile and virtually every acre you see is owned by someone. I have clients in the agricultural business whose families grow cotton, soybeans, and timber who have held their property for generations. I have also witnessed families that have been forced to liquidate and divide their property. One thing has been constant – if you own it, then you can sell it. You might not like the price, but generally speaking there is a clearing price for property. This is true because there is no subsidy on the price of land, or so I thought!

Recently I have made some travels out West. I was dazzled by the vistas, rivers, mountains, and prairies. I am sure many of you have seen this for yourselves. Part of my trip involved some fly fishing on the Big Hole River. One evening after dinner I was speaking with the owner of the fishing outfit about property values. He stated they were good, primarily because of outside investors wanting to own a “piece of the dream”. I told him I get that, but then I asked him about his property. He had about 300 feet on the river with a view of three large mountains that bordered the other side of the river. This combo offered him a million dollar view. He said the three mountains were “federal land” and controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, a division of the Interior Department. I learned the Bureau is responsible for managing the massive tracts of federally owned land mostly in the west. As the West was homesteaded in the late 1800s much of the land was undesirable so the government kept it. The land no one wanted is now leased to ranchers to graze their cows, to energy and mining companies, or sold to logging companies that clear cut land. Debate rages as to the value the Bureau is providing.

My observation to the businessman who owns the property on the river with the free view was simple. What happens if someone buys one of those mountains? He responded, “who would want it?” I said, “whoever has the money to buy it.” And here is the problem I have: you see someone already owns it. People forget that the Federal Government is a substitute for you and me and every taxpayer in America. I’m not sure our Western land owners appreciate the subsidy we Americans are providing them.

Carl Gambrell