Can Atlanta’s Eastside success be duplicated near MARTA stations?

Atlanta Beltline

Creative Loafing’s Thomas Wheatley writes a great piece on the new developments happening on Atlanta’s Eastside: Atlanta’s Eastside comes alive!

There’s an impressive amount of activity with the creation of new density happening in that part of the city, all in walkable distance from the new NE Atlanta Beltline path. My one complaint: the comparative lack of similar new developments in easy-walking distance to MARTA rail stations.

When will we see a Ponce City Market or a Glenwood Park next to a MARTA station?

Lindbergh City Center, built around the Lindbergh MARTA station, was an effort by MARTA to build a transit-oriented place, but it’s too burdened with car-centric stuff (huge parking decks, traffic-choked Piedmont Rd and Sidney Marcus Blvd) to be as welcoming to pedestrians and cyclists as a transit-oriented development should be.

What’s happening around the King Memorial Station is a better example of livable density. The nearby Pencil Factory Lofts building is a nice mixed-used structure with retail on the street level. It has wide sidewalks and easy access to the train station. The parking is hidden away beneath and behind the buildings and the height puts everything at an approachable human scale.

What I’d like to see more of: truly livable developments near rail in Atlanta with mid-rise residences instead of glass towers, streets that feel safe to walk across and places that feel inviting to pedestrians.

We should move fully away from the past tendency to have MARTA stations connect one car-centric location to another.

Take a look at this Google Streetview shot of the area outside the North Avenue MARTA station and compare it to the image, beneath, of the main street through Glenwood Park. Notice how the top one, despite being at the entrance to a transit station, isn’t nearly as inviting to walk around at the bottom one. We need more transit stations that embrace walkers and cyclists instead of repulsing all but the bravest.

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The good news is that, according to an Atlanta Business Chronicle report from earlier this year, both MARTA and developers are interested in putting new developments near train stations.

I hope that MARTA’s new boss will be committed to this effort and will help ensure that the projects take cues from the Eastside Atlanta neighborhoods. Their many successes could serve as a great template.

Beltline photo with Ponce City Market from Flickr user Atlanta Beltline