Nothing perks up a gray day like a bunch of bright yellow dafodils. Woodruff Park, Atlanta

Nothing perks up a gray day like a bunch of bright yellow dafodils. Woodruff Park, Atlanta

Possible Office-to-Apartments conversion Downtown
Here’s a promising report (behind a paywall) from the Atlanta Business Chronicle about a project that could result in something I’ve been wanting to see for a while, new housing in Downtown Atlanta.
According to the news item, the developer of the much-anticipated Krog Street Market has filed plans with the city to turn an empty office tower (above), at 250 Piedmont Avenue, into 324 apartments.
It’s a good location, resting four blocks north of the upcoming Streetcar and four blocks east of a MARTA rail station. Also, it’s right beside the PATH multi-use trail that connects to the Beltline — and the PATH trail is set for an expansion to Centennial Olympic Park (construction could start on that extension as early as autumn 2014).
Here’s a map of where the building is located

Possible Office-to-Apartments conversion Downtown

Here’s a promising report (behind a paywall) from the Atlanta Business Chronicle about a project that could result in something I’ve been wanting to see for a while, new housing in Downtown Atlanta.

According to the news item, the developer of the much-anticipated Krog Street Market has filed plans with the city to turn an empty office tower (above), at 250 Piedmont Avenue, into 324 apartments.

It’s a good location, resting four blocks north of the upcoming Streetcar and four blocks east of a MARTA rail station. Also, it’s right beside the PATH multi-use trail that connects to the Beltline — and the PATH trail is set for an expansion to Centennial Olympic Park (construction could start on that extension as early as autumn 2014).

Here’s a map of where the building is located

Among the oldest structures in Downtown Atlanta, this Henry W. Grady monument has been on Marietta Street since 1891. Originally positioned in front of the old City Hall location here, the monument is now flanked by two tall buildings filled with computer servers.

Grady himself is a complex character in the classic southern tradition. As editor of the Atlanta Constitution in the 1880s, and as a national speaker who spread the word about the “New South” and its post-agrarian economy, he was one of the original Atlanta boosters. His oratory skills helped promote Atlanta as the economic hub of the south, but his views on the “superiority” of the white race and the “need” for segregation may have fostered long-lasting race divisions in the city.

Whatever you think of the man, seeing images of this monument through time is a cool experience, and I like watching the city change around it. In my bottom photo, in the rear left, you can see a bright green strip going up the side of a building. That building was once the offices of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It is now city offices; an art gallery is opening in the ground floor this year.

Broad Street this morning. Downtown Atlanta.

Broad Street this morning. Downtown Atlanta.

Better connecting people to places in the face of car dependency

layers

While reading an article about the way cheap parking encourages driving, “Low parking costs may encourage automobile use,” I saw this quote; I think it nails the relationship between sprawl development and limited transportation options:

During the past 25 years, the number of miles Americans drive has grown three times faster than the U.S. population. The predominant form of development, low-density sprawl, has encouraged automobile use and has worsened the challenges of providing convenient and low-cost public transportation.

Put this together with Rebecca Burns’ article this year that explores the way Metro Atlanta’s car-sprawl caused so many people to be stranded in a snow storm, and you’ve got a clear answer to the question of why the metro doesn’t have better transit options.

As long as we continue to build and maintain car-scaled developments and cheap parking — and surround that with car-focused infrastructure that hinders walkability and safe, convenient cycling — the metro as a whole will be stuck in a rut of car dependency. And it affects us all, even the ones who live in little bubbles of walkable, urban spaces, because it prevents those bubbles from being connected well. (Example: Downtown Woodstock, in the northern part of Metro Atlanta, is a decently-walkable pocket of human-scaled density. But try getting there without a car; and try operating a business there without cheap parking.)

This shouldn’t be a politicized issue of big-city urbanites versus suburbanites. This should be an issue of smart moves that allow people the freedom to connect to their needs in multiple ways without being forced into car ownership. And it should be about the freedom to build businesses that don’t require heavy expenditures for car storage via parking minimums — something that limits commercial construction to moneyed, big developers and big projects (think: sprawlburbs littered with big-box stores) instead of allowing for small-scale, incremental growth.

Can leaders region-wide accept the challenge of connecting roads now disconnected by cul-de-sacs, rezoning for mixed uses and increased density, and sacrificing some car lanes to make way for pedestrian & cycling infrastructure? I hope so. Because that’s part of what it will take to allow for a reversal of car dependency on a large scale — and not only in bubbles here and there.

Photo by Flickr user BoringPostcards

Incredible contrasts in Atlanta aerial images from 1949-present

image

We have so many cool writers, urbanists and historians in Atlanta — I love finding out new things about this city so frequently. Case in point: Joe, from the interesting GSU Library blog, sent me a link to his recent entry titled 1949 Atlanta Aerial Mosaic Project Reveals Built Environment Change.

The post is full of images that contrast 1949 aerial shots of the city with the modern-day built environment. The stunning one above is of the Summerhill and Mechanicsville neighborhoods, ripped apart by interstate-highway infrastructure and Turner Field’s ridiculous amount of surface parking.

Read the post for great commentary on the way that, as the author states: “beginning in the 1950s the automobile-centered development and redevelopment mentality began to reconfigure the City of Atlanta.” Indeed it did.

GSU’s Aerial Mosaic Project is an interactive overlay made with Google Maps that “reveals the built environment of Atlanta in 1949 from an aerial perspective, just as the city was transitioning from a streetcar city to an automobile-centered city.” It’s a transition that obviously came with great costs to the built environment, with neighborhoods divided — and a car-centric way of development and living that creates challenges for alternative transportation.

Photos from a stroll through the southern part of Downtown Atlanta this weekend. Most of these streets are fairly rough looking, with empty or unkempt storefronts, litter on the sidewalks, crumbling surface parking lots, and many tell-tale signs of the homelessness that is concentrated here via local shelters.

But this is where I first became interested in Downtown. I see the ghosts of its railroad-based past everywhere — and the evidence of abandonment during the suburban-flight era. This is the underdog of the central part of the city, full of scars but also hopes of revival.

I’ve been walking through here, touching the aged bricks of 19th century buildings and saying little prayers of hope regularly since 1993. I can’t stop dreaming of a better future.