Healey Building, Atlanta

Healey Building, Atlanta

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.

1920s Downtown ATL building set to become startup hub

This is exciting for Downtown Atlanta — a 1920s building is set to become the future home of Switchyards, a “hub for consumer- and design-focused startups” from Atlanta-based entrepreneur Michael Tavani.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle has the story. Here’s a quote:

The co-founder of Scoutmob — arguably Atlanta’s buzziest consumer tech startup — will locate his consumer-focused incubator, Switchyards, in a 1920s building across the street from the Tabernacle, on the Streetcar line and two blocks from Centennial Olympic Park. 

Seeing old buildings in my neighborhood get new life is always a treat, but it’s particularly nice to see this activity happening a block from the streetcar and a few blocks from a MARTA station. It’s also walking distance from parks, restaurants and stores — as well as residences (the building adjacent to it is condos). 

Here’s my favorite quote from Tavani in the news article:

“All entrepreneurs like to be able to spot the next big thing.” Tavani said. “I think downtown is the next great neighborhood for creative talent in the city.”

That’s something you would not have heard a few years ago. 

A spotlight on Downtown Atlanta, maybe a bit too soon?

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A Creative Loafing article this week does a good job of detailing the successes and challenges of Downtown Atlanta from the residents’ point of view.

A series of items have appeared recently in local media about the changes taking place here, with big openings happening this year (College Football Hall of Fame, Atlanta Streetcar, Center for Civil & Human Rights) and more on the way (the potential sale of city-owned Underground Atlanta for development, the new Falcons Stadium).

Having all this focus on my neighborhood right now is a mixed blessing. It’s good to have people thinking about the area in a new light, but I’m also very aware that Downtown, as a neighborhood, may not be quite ready for a big “look at us now!” kind of spotlight on this level. 

This whole “year of downtown" thing is a little to PR-ish for me. Yes, we’ve got these large-scale, flashy projects happening here for visitors, but as a resident I’m more excited about the small scale stuff that affects livability, and I’m really happy to read these proposals for new residential developments. Getting more people living here long-term will give the area a big boost.

This is the most important quote, to me, from the CL article (which is really thorough and covers much more than just the big projects happening):

23,000 residents have filled more than 95 percent of Downtown’s existing units. Faced with overwhelming housing demand, and only a handful of various projects such as the 250 Piedmont Avenue's and the Atlanta Daily World building's residential conversions on deck, new residential projects might follow in the next few years. 

A spotlight might be more appropriate in a couple of years, after these proposed residential projects are open and the streetcar has had a chance to work its mojo.

Two things of note the article doens’t mention: 1.) The zoned elementary school, Centennial Place. It’s doing a great job in a challenging spot and it’s converting to a charter school this year. That’s a big plus for Downtown. 2.) Bike lanes! We’re getting a cycle track on Peachtree Center Avenue that connects with the Edgewood Avenue bike lane; a separated bike lane on Portman Blvd; and the Freedom Path multiuse trail (which intersects with the Beltline) is going to be extended to Centennial Park.

Developments like these two can go under the radar compared to big-money projects, but they represent the kind of change that will make Downtown a better place to live in for a broad range of people.

Beautiful Weather for Downtown’s APA Conference this Weekend

After a few days in the lovely north Georgia mountains, I’m happy to be back home in Downtown Atlanta in this windy-but-pretty weather.

Welcome to all the visitors for this weekend’s American Planning Association conference downtown! I’ve been kindly invited to join in via a media pass, and I’m taking part in a workshop tomorrow on the efforts to regenerate historic South Broad Street. Exciting!

I’m already spotting groups of attendees touring the city as part of the conference. Enjoy it everyone, and if you need any restaurant recommendations, I’m available. My coffee recs are here.

A preview of the pop-up shops coming to Downtown Atlanta

We went to the Curb Market this Saturday to check out their preview of the pop-up shops that will be on the streetcar route this summer. It’s a nice group of local vendors, with lots of fun products, similar to what’s sold at neighborhood festivals.

Above, Stroganoff sandwich and meatball splits from the 1969 Better Homes & Gardens “Ground Meat Cookbook” — I didn’t catch the name of the shop — and 10-plagues finger puppets (!!) from Modern Tribe, a seller of fun Judaica & Jewish gifts.

The shops will be open from June 1st to August 31 in currently-empty storefronts. Read about the pop-up shops program here.