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Friday, September 12th, 2008

Walkable Neighborhoods / Atlanta’s Beltline

Becky

Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
Leave a comment! | Published in Design Press, Design on the Web, Green Design, Landscape Design, Modern Transit, Public Space, Urban Planning, landscape preservation

So last night I attended a meeting about The Beltline and found out about a fun website called walkscore.com. You simply type in a zipcode and the site shows you the most walkable neighborhoods. I put in my own address and it showed me all the walkable amenities close to me:

While the site isn’t perfect, it’s fun to see, and is very useful if you are researching a move.

By the way, the meeting I attended was about The Beltline:

OK, if you aren’t from Atlanta, you might not care about this. However, The Beltline is a huge urban planning project (thought up by a grad student for his thesis) that involves new development, land use, transportation,re-configuring roads and traffic patterns, historic preservation, new park space and greenspace, hopefully cleansing runoff, daylighting creeks, public art, et alia, and involves planning development at a very large scale for the next 30-50 years. Last night I attended a meeting about The Beltline and its effect on my neighborhood, which borders Olmsted’s Piedmont Park. Like most cities that did most of their growing after the invention of the car, Atlanta is a very car-dependent, pedestrian and bicycle-unfriendly city, and the Beltline is a loop that will connect MARTA to a new transit loop connecting many of the intown neighborhoods. Along with the development will be new connecting streets to alleviate traffic and potentially some traffic circles. I shudder at the thought of Atlanta drivers trying to navigate a rotary, as this city is truly full of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen this side of the D.C. Beltway.

The following image is from a pre-first draft conceptual plan they (EDAW) are calling “Concept A”:

One thing I’d forgotten about from my grad school days and planning board job is that urban planners talk in a bunch of acronyms. I’d also forgotten about the fugly magic-marker images they come up with, and in spite of the simplicity of their designs, no one could tell the difference between the shades of purple on this thing, which was the difference between 9 story buildings and mile-high buildings, which caused quite a ruckus. One really scary thing about The Beltline, which is supposed to be surrounded by parkland and bike paths, is that one legal option at the moment is to sell off the land for single-family homes (the red line and yellow line along The Beltline represent a new road and single family homes along Piedmont Park). Considering some of the vultures that have been trying to profit from this project already, a lot of the possiblities are scary and I can see what a tough job the color-challenged planners have in front of them.

In a city with such severe water problems, one can only hope all of this development, which has a goal of creating at least 15 dwelling units per acre (supposedly, this is the ideal transit-friendly figure), will provide some solutions instead of making the problem worse. I haven’t heard this issue addressed much in regards to the potential of The Beltline land. Kathy Poole was a huge influence on me, and I would feel much better if she had a voice in this project.

About Becky

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the "Editorial Director" here on Hatch, you can find me spewing lots of design opinions and tips over at Houzz. Make me happy -- leave a comment!

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