Atlanta’s history of walkable urbanism
Reading various news articles and blog posts about Atlanta and its urban developments, I sometimes come across a peculiar sentiment. Some residents of Atlanta’s intown, detached-home suburbs, who are understandably proud of the distinct beauty of their neighborhoods, can be a little over-protective of them when discussing developments in the more dense urban areas.
Our neighborhoods of craftsman bungalows and other homes have incredible charm, but I disagree with the sentiment that I’ve read here and there that they define Atlanta’s personality as a city. Some people seem to have the opinion that efforts to create more dense neighborhoods (and expansions of transit to serve them) are somehow at odds with the city’s true character.
I’ve posted this photo above, taken from the “Views of Atlanta and the Cotton States and International Exposition" (printed for the 1885 Atlanta Exposition), to serve as a reminder that walkable urban density in Atlanta existed before the 20th-century bungalow neighborhoods were constructed. Atlanta has a legacy of walkable density that predates car culture by decades.
It is, in fact, the rapid and unchecked expansion of detached-home neighborhoods that fueled car dependency in the city — a dependency that created a need for the parking structures that have damaged the walkable, urban character of many downtown streets.
Atlanta has a great combination of detached-home neighborhoods and more dense ones centered around multi-family buildings — all mixed in with commercial spaces — with the beautiful native hardwood trees sprouting up all inside the mix. It’s this mixture that defines the city. As we move forward, I hope to see improvements in pedestrian/bike-friendly connections between neighborhoods that have come to be separated by car infrastructure over the decades.