Downtown/Midtown Atanta is looking the best it ever has.
[Well, I didn’t see it at the height of it’s early skyscraper urbanism, around 1900-1930, before the automobile sent Atlanta swirling off in every suburban direction.]
And, economic prospects for Downtown Atlanta and the region may have not been better in many years, if ever.
Yes, today, beautiful Centennial Olympic Park is surrounded by world class attractions, a new streetcar will connect it on the east to the MLK Historic District with the trendy O4W (Old Fourth Ward), and glittering skyscrapers extend way beyond Piedmont Park to the north.
The magnificent new Atlanta Falcon’s Pantheon is being constructed west of Five Points and promises to restore English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods. Northwest, Georgia Tech and West Midtown are exploding with construction, skyscrapers, lofts and boutiques. It is difficult in one article– and still make a concise point– to mention all of the once-in-a-lifetime projects going on in the city right now.
But the one convergence point which would tie the northside to the southside and east to west is what I will call The Trinity-Broad District and embattled Underground Atlanta, all just south of Five Points, in the center of Atlanta.
A resurgence of the Trinity-Broad District would be an eastward extension of the successful, hip, and artsy Castleberry Hill neighborhood, and connect to Historic West End, new development at Summerhill and the Turner Field near-future ruins, Historic Grant Park /Zoo Atlanta, and MARTA’s planned TOD at King Center Station near Historic Oakland Cemetery.
For a map of these areas click:
The center of all of these important and interesting places is Underground Atlanta, which bears a resemblance to the proverbial cat with nine lives. It’s current status is a less-than-mediocre tourist/urban mall which is losing money and rather embarrasing for our great city.
The great news is that Atlanta has no less than eight rapidly-expanding technology centers. For a city of nearly 6 million, this reflects the high importance as well as great potential profits of the tech industries. Techie.com, an online site focused on emerging technology “and disruptive trends,” lists Atlanta as one of the “Most Promising Tech Hubs to Watch in 2014.”
FastCo said Atlanta has the leadership, research universities, a happy well-educated workforce, low cost of living, fiber optic infrastructure, startup culture, and tech research incubators/accelerators to make a top notch tech hub. Today, the state is the eighth-largest IT employment cluster in the nation, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, with 263,000 workers. Techies in this sprawling metropolis average $82,372 for a yearly salary. All of these statistics should be ended with “and growing”.
The Underground would make the most perfect tech village.
First, it has the all important coolness factor by being underground historic industrial. Second, it is on the subway line, so you could live in Buckhead, Midtown, Decatur, or Downtown. Third, it is near Ga Tech, Emory, major Fortune 500 companies, and could be the center for all other tech villages in Atlanta– the Silicon Underground— how cool does that sound?
Aesthetically, it would just need to be cleaned up and streamlined with frameless glass walls floating behind the original historic cast iron storefronts (not unlike SoHo). Part of the Tech Underground could still be open to the public with foodie restaurants, cafe’s, and art galleries. Would techies and artists mix? I believe so, creating an amazing mashup of mental and visual art.
However, in all of the Underground’s previous incarnations, including the present, one of the biggest problems has been the underutilized area south of Five Points.
It is a rather small area which needs attention. and has two subway stations. To the east is the beautiful limestone neoclassical Capitol of the State of Georgia and the art deco tower of City Hall. These gems are surrounded by federal, state, and county government buildings, so the adjacent government area needs little polish.
Broad Street, north of Five Points is a great shaded pedestrian street with cafe’s, diners and clubs in the Historic Fairlie-Poplar neighborhood. The vibe of this street needs to extend through Five Points south, then west– all the way to Historic West End.
In order to do this some redesign of Five Points MARTA station will be needed. Hopefully this will be combined with construction of the planned major multi-modal transportation terminal. There must be a continuity which will continue the flow of Broad St north and south of Five Points. In the 1900’s-1950’s, Broad St & Peachtree St south of Five Points was the main shopping district. Today it still has fine a fine Kress Building, the original 1870’s Rich’s store and many fine facades worthy of restoration.
This area has already seen some individual loft residential development, and downtown Atlanta needs to be more residential in character.
If a mixed group of small and large developers, builders, and flippers were to come into the neighborhood restoring facades, finishing out loft apartments, and building infill mixed-use or residential structures, the Trinity-Broad neighborhood would be brilliant!
I envision a combination of modern townhomes, historically-influenced townhomes (perhaps old Atlanta or Savannah-influenced?) and mixed use buildings with residential over retail and artist work/live properties.
This would be a great neighborhood choice for the techies of Silcon Underground or Tech Underground– whatever they decide upon for it’s name.
There are about eight medium sized blocks which could be reconstructed. Most are parking lots strewn with historic structures which could be built around– in some cases the newer small buildings could be demolished.
But there is one special treasure which needs excellent restoration work. This is the Historic Hotel Row, one block of small hotels from around 1905 when the elaborate mediteranean revival Terminal Station was completed. SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) may be the best candidate for restoration of these rare historic gems. SCAD did an exquisite job on Ivy Hall (Peters Mansion) in Midtown Atlanta. SCAD is another great resource for a technology village in the underground, with their expert graduates of film/video/graphic technologies.
To round out this neighborhood, Georgia and Atlanta has become one of the top locations for film production with studios being built all over the state. South Downtown, or the Trinity-Broad District, as I call it, is an excellent location for filming with its relatively unchanged 1955 retail streets, and a great place to live for employees in film production, with access to all of Atlanta, and Georgia.
Finally, at the end of Whitehall St (which is the southern extension of Peachtree St) is the once elegant Historic West End Neighborhood with attractions like the Wren House and Hammond House Museums, and architecturally interesting Westview Cemetery. It would be great to reconstruct the old White Hall Inn & Tavern which was built about 1830, before the railroad created Atlanta. On the corner of Lee Street and R D Abernathy Blvd, the Inn was so named because it was painted white when most buildings of the time were unpainted. White Hall Inn was also the stagecoach shop, voting location, and post office. It’s reconstruction would be a great way to commemorate Atlanta’s humble beginnings.