When Piedmont Town Center opened several years ago in the SouthPark area, residents and business owners hoped the development would become a popular place to live and shop.
They didn't expect it to become a popular driver shortcut with high-speed traffic.
Now residents and businesses in the center find themselves conflicted about what to do. They want to slow down – even deter – traffic so pedestrians feel safe walking to and from the shops. On the other hand, the businesses need traffic to drum up interest.
“We bought these units knowing we weren't on a cul-de-sac,” said Thomas Golen, president of the Piedmont Row Residential Condo Association. “The volume of traffic is just so high, though, that we feel things could have been planned better.”
Piedmont Town Center is on Fairview Road near the intersection of Barclay Downs Drive. Throughout the day, Barclay Downs Drive bustles with drivers trying to get onto Fairview Road from SouthPark mall and nearby offices and neighborhoods.
Getting through the choked intersection can be slow. So during rush hour, dozens of drivers funnel onto the tiny arteries running through Piedmont Town Center: Piedmont Row Drive, Carnegie Boulevard and Bulfinch Road.
Some residents have unaffectionately dubbed the route the “Barclay Downs Bypass.”
Restaurant managers in the area say they don't mind the increased traffic because it can be used to boost business.
“Our problem isn't that we can't get people here,” said Brian Boyce, general manager of Dolcetto wine bar. “The problem is they can't get out when they do want to leave.”
Boyce said he and other business owners have thought about how they might capitalize on the situation, perhaps providing to-go services. Food, bottled wine and other products could be delivered to customers' cars while they're sitting in gridlock.
A similar idea has occurred to Paula Cocking, co-owner of The Dinner A'Fare, a meal-preparation business at Piedmont Town Center. Cocking said she just worries about the speeding drivers who have become commonplace after rush-hour traffic has died down.
The streets in Piedmont Town Center are privately-owned roads, which means the development, not police, is responsible for controlling traffic there.
Residents and business owners have considered installing speed slowing measures such as speed humps or the gentler speed “tables.”
Cocking and others said something will have to be done before someone gets hurt.
“I've seen several near misses,” Cocking said. “It's scary.”
Nichole Monroe Bell covers the SouthPark and Cotswold neighborhoods. Reach her at 704-358-5103.