Thanks to everyone who answered our call for the biggest stories in Atlanta urbanism from the last year, both good and bad! Below are some of the responses:
The growth of opposition to transit on the Atlanta Beltline
If you’ve lived in Atlanta for the last 20 years and attended some of the many public meetings about the plans for rail on the Beltline, the vocal opposition that’s emerged over the past year likely seems to come out of nowhere. Is it just some loud noise made by a small faction? Possibly. It’ll be interesting to see if it dies away or gains steam in 2023.
For now, take a look at Ryan Gravel’s good writeup on the reasons why transit is essential for the Beltline.
Westside Beltline: progress and delay
The Urbanize Atlanta site says it well: the construction of the Westside trail is very exciting (will it end up being a development magnet like the Eastside trail has been?), but the timeline for the full build-out has been frustrating for people in those neighborhoods who are looking forward to a fully connected path:
“First, the good news for Atlanta BeltLine patrons and proponents: Another section of the 22-mile loop is making concrete strides toward becoming a reality. Less encouraging news: The Westside Trail’s Segment 4, spanning a crucial 1.3 miles, isn’t expected to open for public use until deep into 2025.”
The ongoing fallout from Cop City / South River Forest
There was a controversial land swap that resulted in loss of trees, a fight for the forest that garnered national attention from activists, and generally a lot of ill feelings on the local stage about this public safety facility that’s poised to be built in a forest that was previously slated as public green space.
ThreadATL wrote about it a couple of years ago. The fallout from the city’s awful decision to ignore the Atlanta City Design concept for the park has been terrible to watch.
Atlanta Medical Center closing
AMC in Old Fourth Ward became the latest in a string of hospital closures in Georgia, most of them (like AMC) are expected to have an outsized negative effect on lower-income patients in Black communities. As the AJC article about it notes: “Patients and doctors interviewed over the past two months repeated the expectation that the lower-income and Black communities would be the most harmed by the closures. They worry many will drop regular visits or never find a new doctor.”
Another major concern is access: AMC was served by three different MARTA bus routes, which made it accessible to staff and patients who need that transit option. Will the new offices they have to go to be as accessible?
The failure of the Edgewood neighborhood to support gentle density
The proposed rezoning of 90 and 98 Whitefoord Avenue in the Edgewood neighborhood would have produced 48 new housing units, including 25% of them priced for lower-income households at 60% of Area Median Income (AMI). The property is 4 blocks from a MARTA station and 3 blocks from Edgewood Retail (a regional jobs center) — great for walkable access.
Sadly, it got shut down down before it ever left the zoning committee of the neighborhood. The proposal is still up at edgewoodforeveryone.com
Progress with parking reform
Planning pros tell us that several low-parking housing developments have been announced for the first time in ages for Atlanta. This is a huge change from a few years ago, when anything less than a ratio of one parking space per bedroom was unheard of.
Also, thanks to the leadership of Councilmember Jason Dozier, Atlanta is putting a lower cap on the number of parking spaces that can be built for new real estate projects. At the end of 2022, City Council made an amendment to the zoning ordinance that lowers the maximums parking spaces allowed to be built for new developments in Midtown and Downtown, the most walkable and transit-accessible parts of the city.
Two Peachtree tower in Downtown set to become affordable homes
Invest Atlanta approved $39 million to purchase the massive Two Peachtree office tower in Downtown with the intention of converting it into affordable housing! This 44-story building dates to 1968. Invest Atlanta will hold onto the building until a redevelopment partner is selected. Funding for the purchase is coming from the Eastside Tax Allocation District.
Converting office buildings to housing seems to be a trend in Downtown. Another 1960s tower at 100 Edgewood Avenue (across from Hurt Park) is being converted to 268 new housing units, likely for students. And not far away, work has begun on the conversion of another office building to residential at 41 Marietta Street, where it intersects with Forsyth.
Trolley line Trail finally happening
Eastside Trolley Trail between Kirkwood and the BeltLine is happening. The PATH Foundation has started work to link existing stretches of trail. Urbanize Atlanta reports that the trail will “start on-street in Reynoldstown near the Eastside Trail, run eastward through Edgewood, and connect with existing PATH sections that were installed prior to the 1996 Olympics as the project’s first phase. The finished project will provide a nearly two-mile route for non-drivers from the doorstep of Kirkwood’s downtown back to the BeltLine.”
Krog Street Market district
The construction of new office space next to Krog Street Market — one from Asana and one from Portman — is helping to fulfill the promise of the Beltline as not just a nice place to live, but a nice place to work. The variety of destinations on the Beltline help to emphasize that Atlantans are ready to live and work in places that aren’t served by highways for driving, but that are served by routes for alternative transportation.
The sudden removal of Peachtree Shared Space
This one really hurt. The Peachtree Shared Space, one of the most exciting projects from the Tim Keane era of Atlanta’s planning department, was dismantled at the order of Mayor Dickens. The roadway was returned to its sad former status as, essentially, a four lane car sewer.
According to the website for the project, it was supposed to shift directly into a Phase Two at the end of this Phase One, and add more features such as seating.
It’s a safe assumption that the pushback on the shared street from powerful voices in Downtown — ones who didn’t like the idea of car lanes being turned into shared spaces with slower traffic — has succeeded. On Twitter, Councilmember Amir Farokhi wrote that he tried to change this decision about dismantling the shared space, but hasn’t been able to. Which is particularly disappointing since he’s the Council’s Transportation Committee Chair.
A developer was found for the Civic Center site
After a couple of disappointing false starts with other developers, Atlanta Housing has selected the team of Tishman Speyer and H.J. Russell & Co. as master developers for the 14-acre site, which has sat vacant for eight years. Atlanta Civic Circle has the story. Fingers crossed: so far, the developers haven’t pulled out. Though there’s some major concern over the amount of affordable housing that might be provided here (it should be a high amount, including deep affordability for lower-income households).