"Joseph Fike, a 28-year-old logistics expert, once thought the idea of the BeltLine was far-fetched. Now he calls himself an enthusiast, walking part of the trail a couple of times each week. “I don’t think we’ll be seen as the poster child of sprawl,” he said. “We’ll be seen as a really good example of how to turn a sprawling city into a walkable city.”"

Atlanta’s Popular BeltLine Trail Still Has Miles to Go | WSJ, 8/1/2014

Is that me? Talking about sprawl? Well I’ll be…


The nice people at WABE asked me to appear in a short segment for their City Cafe radio series recently. It aired this week and you can stream it online here:

Clearing Up Where Atlanta Stands on Sprawl. No, Really.

The talk is based on a post I wrote about the confusing reports we’ve seen regarding Atlanta’s sprawl this year. In a nutshell: though metro Atlanta is the king of existing low-density sprawl among large US metros due to past expansion, it is no longer sprawling like it did. It is, in fact, doing quite a good job at urban infill these days, thanks very much.

The post on WABE’s site contains an interesting graphic that they found. It shows how metro Atlanta’s land mass, which contains 5.5 million people, could easily house eight world cities with a combined population of well over 100 million.


This is not to say that metro Atlanta needs to shoot for that level of density, but it’s interesting to note what an inefficient use we’re making of this sprawled-out area — and to think about how this low density figures into our public transportation struggles. More on that in an upcoming post.

"There’s a reason every Downtown resident I’ve spoken to is more excited about the proposed Walgreens than any museum opening. The Walgreens improves their everyday lives without adding to our “world-class” Downtown attraction zone."

I give a big “Amen” to the opinion piece by Matt Garbett in Creative Loafing from which the above quote is lifted; read it here:

Atlanta’s not a world-class city : City leaders need to focus on building vibrant neighborhoods, not megaprojects

Similarly, my own vision for Atlanta is for it to become a city filled with strong neighborhoods, each with a diversity of residents and successful local businesses. Large-scale legacy projects have their place, but they should always take second place to urban livability.

City leaders too often focus on big, headline-grabbing developments. They may contribute to added bragging rights for the powerful, but they seldom make Atlanta a more livable place for average residents — not the way that more incremental, sustainable urban improvements can.

Healey Building, Atlanta

Healey Building, Atlanta

"We need to stop building bad places. We don’t need to build Rome or Paris. We just need to stop building Houston."

Eight Steps To Improve Urbanism | Streets MN, 7/26/2014

Public Art from Atlanta’s Past: “Urban Walls”

Atlanta has enjoyed a great deal of activity with mural projects in recent years. The annual Living Walls conference has added an incredible amount of street here and I’m a fan of the Elevate South Broad murals in South Downtown.

Fellow downtowner Kyle Kessler has shared some postcards that were found recently at the Central Atlanta Progress offices from a 1970s-80s mural project called “Urban Walls,” giving us a nice look at street art from the past.

Here are the postcard descriptions of the murals along with comments from Kyle:

[Top] Georgia Artist: Larry Connatser, wall painting facing Central City Park on Selig Enterprises’ 41 Exchange Place Building. (This building is no longer standing - replaced by GSU’s Science Annex.)

[Second] Georgia Artist: Anthony Greco, wall painting at Central Parking System of Georgia, Inc., 90 Central Avenue, S.W., at Underground Atlanta. (This wall was later home to one of Wyland’s “Whaling Walls” from 1993-2010.)

[Third] Georgia Artist: David Barry Lewis, wall painting on Muse’s Clothing Company, Peachtree, Walton & Broad streets, Atlanta. (I believe whatever remained of this mural was painted over during the conversion of the building’s upper floors for residential apartments.)

[Fourth] Georgia Artist: Vincencia Blount, wall painting at Rich’s Inc., Broad and Alabama Streets, Atlanta. (This lot has now been infilled as part of the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center.)

[Bottom] Georgia Artist: Dale Pierson Hill, wall painting at 10 Pryor Street Building, Decatur and Pryor Street, Atlanta. (This mural is still there although it’s difficult to see it because of effects of time and the adjacent GSU Natural Science Center.)

(c)Urban Walls Atlanta, a joint project of Arts Festival of Atlanta, Inc., and Central Atlanta Progress, Inc., with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hat tip to Jennifer Ball at CAP. These are a great find. As Kyle notes, you can still see the ghostly remains of that bottom mural from Decatur Street.

A block of Peachtree Street south of the Five Points MARTA station has some once-grand store fronts that are aging badly. Calling all billionaires: restoration needed.

Compare these images of decay to this one I took last week of the same street, about four blocks north — it’s startling to see such a big difference in investment and activity between the two spots.