By Justin Boron
The owner of Beauty Tree in Riverdale said she feels suffocated by the four or five other beauty supply stores within less than a mile of hers.
Kay Kim, 55, has done business at the intersection of Ga. Highways 85 and 138 for seven years. In that time, she has watched new beauty establishments suffuse the area.
"There is too much," the native Korean said. "We're hurting each other."
Riverdale officials say among other things, diversifying the business community is one of the city's main goals as it carries out a massive planning operation that will guide development in the city for the next 20 years.
Brantley Day, the city's director of community development, said as the city finalizes its comprehensive plan, it is already taking steps to ensure new businesses will have a sufficient market share for success.
In July 2003, the city implemented a conditional use program that allows the council to decide whether particular types of businesses can come into the city.
A list of the businesses includes emission testing facilities, gasoline service stations, laundering establishments, massage establishments, and psychic service establishments.
The initiative is intended to solidify the city's economy and raise its aura, Day said.
By keeping retail space full, the city's image would in turn be enhanced, he said.
With economic stability and a revamped image, officials for the city of about 13,000 are planning to steer growth in the coming decade toward a more high-end urban environment, closer to what is experienced in the smaller intown neighborhoods of Atlanta.
Visions of five story residential buildings and mixed use communities flashed across the screen at a recent Riverdale City Council meeting during a visual preferencing session used to create the city's comprehensive plan.
Dense, high quality development would be a deviation from the several big box, strip shopping centers and on which the city has traditionally depended for business growth, Day said.
Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham said she has "big dreams" for the city as well.
She said she is after a town square environment with upscale restaurants, coffee shops, and shopping in walking distance for families.
"In 20 years, we ought to be in a position to see some of our dreams come true," she said.
Many of the images in citzen-based preferencing sessions were taken from successful town square revitalizations in the metro area.
College Park's recent main street revitalization illustrated the ability of small cities to reel in high-end restaurants and shopping.
The town of about 25,000 was able to draw critically-acclaimed restaurants like the 5th Runway Cafe and the Feed Store Restaurant in revamping of its streetscapes.
Along with College Park and several Southside areas, Riverdale has been witness to a demographic shift and often wavered in its capacity to handle the population influx, said former Mayor Mary Lee, 74, who served from 1990 to 2004 when she was defeated by Graham.
The city has changed dramatically since she first took office and she said she can't help but be disappointed with the direction of growth on Highway 85, the city's main thoroughfare.
Most noticeably, Lee said the quality of business has declined.
"It's a much different strip of road," she said. "We didn't have that many businesses and when we did have them they were small."
Their size, Lee said, allowed city officials to know and trust the type of activities going on.
Now, crime has increased tremendously and Highway 85 is packed with cash advance type facilities, she said.
Police Chief Thetus Knox said she is attempting to unite the business community to work against crime.
One of her initiatives is an apartment coalition which meets once a month to discuss problems with tenants and exchange information about the crime on property, with the hopes that the criminal element will not be able to move from apartment complex to apartment complex.
On March 1, the Collaborative Firm will present its citizen-based recommendations in a meeting at City Hall.
It lists a balance of housing between all income levels, a neighborhood center containing retail and professional offices, and sidewalks as the primary recommendations.
The draft plan also calls for the rehabilitation of historic properties and dense residential developments close to urban centers.
A heavy focus for the future is the redevelopment of the strip malls and areas along Highway 85 blighted with massage parlors and pawnbroker establishments.
For transportation concerns, the draft says people would like a more pedestrian-oriented environment.
Most people live eight or more miles from work, and rarely use the public transit service, the draft says.
Because the car is the major form of transportation, the draft also calls for air quality to be a major concern.