"Not only do we limit the options for family-friendly urban living, we overwhelmingly discourage it while also subsidizing its alternatives."

Housing is the Key to Family-Friendly Cities | Planetizen, 4/7/2014

— As a downtown dad, this is an issue near and dear to me, and it is explored well here by Bradley Calvert, an Atlanta architect. He nails the importance of building housing in the urban core that appeals to middle-income families, along with the need for better schools to serve them. And he looks at the market and social forces that form hurdles for achieving this goal.

Choices we make for ourselves, our families & our cities

Blogger Mathildepiard writes this today about an NPR report:

What I found really interesting is that this story, which was supposed to be about how parents struggle to make sure their kids get enough exercise, ended up being about biking, traffic, and urban planning.

One mother talked about how she spends her afternoons in Los Angeles traffic, ferrying her two boys from one sporting activity to another. She explained that her eldest can’t really just bike around in her neighborhood because it’s not bike-friendly enough.

The story also profiled two other moms, both in Portland, and I especially loved how both talked about the choices we make for ourselves, for our families, for our cities (emphasis is mine)

Read her full post here.

My family had an interesting choice to make a couple of years ago. We were moving from a Midtown townhouse and had to choose a place that was both in our modest price range and in a walkable area.

Though downtown fit those criteria, a move there would force us to rely on sidewalks and MARTA much more than we had before, with our shared car parked four blocks away from our building in a garage. We would also be without some of the amenities nearby we had in Midtown.

In the end, we went with downtown because it was well-connected to transit and walkable — more so than most any other spot in the city, in my opinion. The small indignities of getting groceries inside without a driveway and walking in inclement weather are, for us, well worth suffering through for the benefit of being able to walk out the door to go some place we like, without needing to hop in the car first.

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"What can the general public do? It’s what the public is doing, in many cities in America. It’s to clamor for bike lanes, slower-speed streets, and for streets that serve all their users, not just motor vehicles."

How American Cities Can Thrive Again | US News & World Report, 12/13/2012

The missing middle in new Atlanta urban housing
Great photo from nontooth of a cloudy downtown-Atlanta skyline! I love seeing this mix of buildings with the low-rise residential structures in the foreground and the high-rise buildings behind.
Despite the variety in buildings here, photos like this remind me of a building type that I’d like to see more of in Atlanta’s urban core — something writer Dan Parolek refers to as “missing middle housing.” This type includes smaller structures like “duplexes, fourplexes, bungalow courts” and more. It’s a kind of housing that’s appropriate for a walkable, urban space while also filling a demand for urban living among people who aren’t interested in mid or high-rise buildings.
There are some old structures that fit this bill in Midtown. But newer multifamily construction seems to focus entirely on mid and high-rise stuff, leaving out a big potential market for urban living.
Just something to think about if you’ve got a few million lying around and want to build some stuff in Atlanta.

The missing middle in new Atlanta urban housing

Great photo from nontooth of a cloudy downtown-Atlanta skyline! I love seeing this mix of buildings with the low-rise residential structures in the foreground and the high-rise buildings behind.

Despite the variety in buildings here, photos like this remind me of a building type that I’d like to see more of in Atlanta’s urban core — something writer Dan Parolek refers to as “missing middle housing.” This type includes smaller structures like “duplexes, fourplexes, bungalow courts” and more. It’s a kind of housing that’s appropriate for a walkable, urban space while also filling a demand for urban living among people who aren’t interested in mid or high-rise buildings.

There are some old structures that fit this bill in Midtown. But newer multifamily construction seems to focus entirely on mid and high-rise stuff, leaving out a big potential market for urban living.

Just something to think about if you’ve got a few million lying around and want to build some stuff in Atlanta.

The Goodness of Trees on City Streets

As a follow up to my recent post on the current greenery of Broad Street (versus it’s concrete-jungle grayness from decades past), I thought I’d take some photos of the trees on this street before the leaves start to fall.

Looking at these photos, I’m reminded of a post this year from one of my favorite writers, Kain Benfield at the Natural Rsources Defense Council. Writing about the benefit of city trees, he points to a study giving evidence that trees on city streets, among all their other good qualities, reduce crime. 

A quote:

“According to the study, a 10 percent increase in trees roughly equaled a 12 percent decrease in crime. ‘It’s really pretty striking how strong this relationship is.’”

Another recent study points out that street trees can “create slower and more appropriate urban traffic speeds” and also “increase customer traffic to businesses” nearby. As a downtown resident who lives among a lot of street trees on Broad and elsewhere, I’ve seen evidence of all these positives.

We’re lucky to have this greenery downtown — greenery that didn’t exist a few decades ago when sidewalks were tree-less and Woodfruff Park wasn’t yet built. 

"The greater Buffalo area has sprawled over three times the land mass it covered in 1960 while population dropped, including a steady exodus of young adults…”How many kids graduate from college and say, ‘I want to go where there’s great sprawl’?”"

NY economic development plans getting urban focus | Wall Street Journal

Is Gen Y fueling an urban revival in ATL?

Peachtree Street

From the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “10 Atlanta intown development sites to watch" post today:

…developers are paying close attention to Gen Y, those 20-somethings who apparently want to live and work inside the city, near its shopping, entertainment and restaurants, away from the drudgery of the traffic-choked commute.

“There’s been a real trend toward urbanization along the Peachtree spine between downtown and Buckhead and it’s being fueled by Gen Y,” said Jeff DuFresne, executive director of the Urban Land Institute.

Sounds like a positive development to me! I know that there are many who will call this a temporary trend and claim that most or all of these 20-somethings who now prefer city life will move to sprawling subdivisions when they want to start families. But only time will tell.

My prediction: if Atlanta can do a good job of building overall livability into the ever-developing urban fabric of this Peachtree corridor, there will be a significant number of families who will want to stay intown and continue enjoying a walkable, transit-connected life like my wife and I have done with our kid.

More pocket parks, better schools, increased safety…it could happen.

Photo of Peachtree Street from Instagram user bculturemedia