We believe that Atlanta is moving in the right direction, but we need to be applying pressure on our elected officials and community leaders to push even further. Too often we seem to allow “good enough” to be the solution when we should be asking for and demanding the progressive ideas and policies that make the connected, thriving, diverse city we all love.
Civic organizations work.
Over the years, our government and business leadership have certainly shaped the direction of the city, but so have our heavily engaged civic organizations. Whether it’s preventing a highway from demolishing neighborhoods or providing significant input in how a new large development impacts livability, the people who live here are and need to be a critical part of the decision-making process.
Build “world-class” neighborhoods.
Atlanta has spent quite a bit of time focusing on “world-class” attractions for visitors (or world-class offices), while not understanding the value of vibrant neighborhoods. Atlanta’s neighborhoods are where the gold is. It’s where we connect to one another and feel a sense of belonging.
We need to stop thinking about the importance of having an immediately convenient parking spot and instead recognize how too much parking or the wrong parking incentives create a lot of the traffic we complain about. Just like building more highways increases more traffic, building more parking spots encourages more people to drive.
Build transit that fits the need.
Too often when people think of transportation alternatives, they think immediately of heavy rail. But heavy rail is costly and is successful in specific conditions. What if we stop thinking of the solution first and focus instead on where people are going and the multiple methods to get them there?
Use Invest Atlanta the right way.
Developers say they won’t take on some of Atlanta’s projects because they simply can’t make money doing so (i.e Atlanta Underground). Affordability discussions are still focused on those who are making around $50,000 – not those who make $20,000 or even below.
Improve equity through housing opportunities.
We have a lack of choices when it comes to housing types for individuals and families throughout our city, as well as affordability. Many of our historic neighborhoods are filled primarily with single family housing stock. And the majority of our new developments in the city are made up of “luxury” condos that are priced well out of reach of middle income residents.
Give us right-size retail.
Complete communities are ones that have the right retail that their residents need. Not all neighborhoods need a boutique dress store or a barber shop. We need to spend time figuring out what individual communities need and then building to suit those needs. Putting essentials in easy reach not only encourage investment within local communities, it also builds a greater sense of pride and place.
Bridge the city’s past and future.
Atlanta is known for its continued demolition of history in its search for progress. Too often we quickly knock down significantly historic homes and buildings (and even neighborhoods) or allow them to become derelict because they’re too costly to maintain. Atlanta needs to focus on building a true sense of place by valuing and celebrating what makes us who we are. This isn’t just a fight for pretty old buildings. It’s about understanding how we got where we are today, embracing that history and recognizing that it creates a love of place.
Create good connections
That means between neighborhoods and between developments inside a neighborhood. And those connections should be shared by a diversity of travel modes. Raising pedestrians off the street on a ped-bridge is not “sharing” — that’s accepting that the main street below is not really public domain: it’s car domain.
Abolish land hoarding and property abandonment.
Atlanta doesn’t have a housing crisis – we have a usage crisis. In neighborhoods like Virginia Highland, Old Fourth Ward, Cabbagetown and Inman Park, there is limited housing available. But just across the city in other historic neighborhoods like Capitol View, Sylvan Hills and Westview, we have plenty of actual buildings, but too many of them are boarded up or in derelict condition. Add to those houses some of Atlanta’s historic buildings that have sat vacant for decades, and we’re dealing with a significant loss of revenue.
Photo courtesy of Steve Eberhardt