Five Questions With… Paul Donsky

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“Have you ever cooked for the cook? Taught the teacher? Interviewed the interviewer? I can’t say that I’ve done the first two, but this week I had the opportunity to put the AJC’s Paul Donsky on the “”Five Questions With…”” hot seat. Paul covers the banking and finance industry for Atlanta’s favorite daily newspaper, and previously wrote about the real estate industry, so it’s safe to say that he’s an expert on many of the issues that our economy is currently facing. That, and the man knows his intown Atlanta ‘hoods. Read, re-read, and forward to all of your friends…

Q. Hidden Atlanta gem that everyone needs to experience/see/do at least once?

A: The Inman Park Parade. A funky, artsy, soulful event that proves Atlanta is much, much more than a collection of drab suburbs. Marching lesbians, parading progressives, aging hippies, marching bands from inner-city high schools, politicos shilling for votes, this event’s got it all. It’s intown Atlanta’s Mardis Gras. Runner-up: Decatur offers free concerts on the square each Saturday night in May and September. Now that we have kids, it’s the perfect way to spend a warm weekned night — bring in a blanket, food and wine, meet some friends, and watch the kids dance.

Q: Favorite neighborhood?

A: Downtown Decatur. For car-loving Atlanta, it qualifies as an urban destination, with block after block of walkable streets lined with shops and condos, with a lovely park (above a MARTA stop) at the center. Runner-up: We love Inman Park for its gorgeous tree-lines streets, parks, handsome homes and growing roster of shops and restaurants.

Q: Last meal in Atlanta. Where are you going and what are you eating?

A: So many choices. I’ll make a buffet out of it. I’ll swing by Nam in Midtown for lemongrass tofu, Sotto Sotto in Inman Park for risotto and mushroom pasta, Taqueria del Sol for turnip greens and fish tacos and Pura Vida for the best tapas — and one of the best meals period — in town.

Q. Everyone seems to have a crystal ball these days. What do Atlanta’s banking and finance industries look like in your crystal ball, one year from now?

A. It’s probably not going to be pretty. Bankers and analysts are preparing for a prolonged downturn. Many Georgia banks have already seen profits evaporate as bets on residential real estate turned bad as the housing bubble burst. But now the economy is mired in a recession that may last through mid-2010 — and as they say, a bank is only as healthy as the economy it’s serving.

Q. Let’s assume you’re a betting man. Go all-in, based on a ten year outlook, on one of the following: Atlantic Station, Streets of Buckhead or Underground Atlanta.

A. Streets of Buckhead. As much as I admire Atlantic Station for its mix of uses and the attempt to get people out of their cars and walking around, the ceiling is somewhat limited — it’s basically an outdoor mall with some office, hotel and condo buildings thrown in. The novelty is already wearing off for some Atlantans who prefer more organic live-work-play neighborhoods. Ben Carter’s Streets of Buckhead is an enormous gamble to bring a slice of Rodeo Drive to Dixie. Presuming the economy turns around and people open their wallets again, the project could be a regional destination. Not that I’ll be shopping for $800 Italian shoes anytime soon, but as anyone who watches “”The Real Housewives”” knows — OK, my wife sometimes tunes in and I sometimes happen to be in the room — some people’s appetite for big-budget shopping knows few bounds.

Photo Credits: Tacos (Violet Tiger Blog), Inman Park Parade (unnamed Flickr stream), Decatur Square

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