"Just east of downtown Atlanta was once was a bustling, wealthy African-American business hub known as Sweet Auburn. When the interstate was built, it cut the area in two. People here have long waited for the economic turnaround they were promised."
While my son and I were having a push-scooter ride along Auburn Avenue last weekend, I was warned by a guy who passed us that this wasn’t a safe place for a kid to be. I didn’t bother telling him that, statistically, the inside of a car is the most dangerous place for a kid and that, in comparison, a city sidewalk is pretty safe.
But there were three dangers I noticed:
1. Bad sidewalks. The sidewalks were overly narrow in many spots and crumbling, making it easy to trip and stumble.
2. Pollution. There were a few broken bottles on the sidewalks we had to navigate around and a couple of ‘pee zones’ (my phrase for areas where people have urinated on the sidewalk) we had to pass through, breath held.
3. Sadness. We were mostly in danger of just being sad. Saddened by the empty store fronts, lack of people and general grime and neglect — all occurring just a few blocks away from the final resting place of Atlanta’s most famous citizen worldwide, Dr. King.
Please don’t mess up this effort to revitalize the Auburn/Edgewood corridor with the upcoming streetcar. We’ve been mourning the sad decline of Sweet Auburn for decades, with only limited improvements to show for our efforts to reverse it. This 1987 piece in the Chicago Tribune about the need for a revival in the area could have been written today.
If the only things we get from the streetcar project are better sidewalks, new bike lanes and less gack on a historic street, I’ll be happy. But I’m hoping it does much more.
Photo by Flickr user Thornhillw