The only* pedestrian connection between Midtown Promenade (Trader Joe’s) and Midtown Place (Whole Foods), aka urban planning in Atlanta sucks. (Taken with Instagram at Home Depot)
*Which shall soon be remedied by the Beltline…

The only* pedestrian connection between Midtown Promenade (Trader Joe’s) and Midtown Place (Whole Foods), aka urban planning in Atlanta sucks. (Taken with Instagram at Home Depot)

*Which shall soon be remedied by the Beltline…

Things I pass on the way to and from the gym…

The block of 8th Street between West Peachtree and Cypress Street holds some low key structures that are sure to bite the dust come the next big building boom, like this pair of single story mid-century office buildings.

I’m especially fond of this one for its flat overhang and tightly composed entrance bay.

This 1920s apartment charmer sits in between the above building and Ecco.  Without knowing what’s around it you’d think it was sitting somewhere in Virginia Highland or over by the park. 

And then you have the awful Midtown Marta Station parking lot.  No doubt at some point this will be developed (I mean come on, it’s right next to transit AND a Publix), and it’ll be interesting to see how the new buildings address the challenging topography.   

Urbanism Offenders in Midtown

Midtown always gets the Manhattan comparison.  It’s touted as the best place in Atlanta to live the “big city” lifestyle, whatever that really means.  And for the most part, it is  conducive to decent urbanism. That’s not to say the picture’s perfect.  Midtown’s got its fair share of planning mistakes and architecture that does nothing to add to the street experience, something I’ve really noticed over the past couple of weeks.  These are a few that really grind my gears.

First up is the block bounded by Peachtree, 14th, 15th, and W.Peachtree, home to 1180 Peachtree, One Atlantic Center, and the Proscenium building; it was also at one time floated around for the location of a new symphony structure.  I hate how large this block is.  Although all the buildings went up in different years, it seems like the overriding theme over time was to create this kind of office park in the city.  Granted there is a pedestrian connection that makes its way mid-block through the landscaping, but because of the way it’s elevated it doesn’t come across as common knowledge.  

In my own little world, Peachtree Walk would have been extended between 14th and 15th, with buildings coming right up to it.  Too bad I don’t make those decisions.  1180 Peachtree is a great building, and One Atlantic Center at least comes up to the street, but I there’s a special place in architectural hell for the  building that houses Norfolk Southern at 1200 Peachtree.  It’s just bad.  Why did Colony Square have to set a precedent with buildings angled off the street?  Even the choo-choo train set up behind the glass comes off as an insipid gesture that does little to make up for the lack of pedestrian interest.  

Next up on my Debbie Downer rant is 715 Peachtree, at 3rd Street.  What a hunk of crap.  Featuring the best of 1972 federal prison styling, the rental listing for this doozie describes it as “a true walkable, urban setting for business.”  I can assure you this thing is doing nothing to support that kind of environment.  Was Midtown that much of a war zone in 1972 that the designer of 715 felt the need to go to such great lengths to disengage this building off from the street?  A sidewalk occupant is greeted with a low stone wall that cuts one off from a plaza that’s basically purposeless.  The first level facade is composed of blank wall space topped with slits of windows, as if the occupants are standing on chairs peeking outside to see if it’s safe to wander out.  Entry to the building is gained somewhere down 3rd Street, as opposed to celebrating its Peachtree location.  Makes sense, right?  

Two very different concepts are illustrated for the northeast corner of N.Highland Ave and Wessyngton Road.  The plot of land now holds what looks like a chopped up house with a vintage apartment building in the back, but given the value of Morningside real estate it’s only a matter of time before they’re replaced by ±$1M homes.  In one corner, we’ve got the super contemporary, sustainability-focused firm Concourse E, which has done some really cool infill in Reynoldstown.  In the opposite corner is Jones Pierce Architects, whose residential portfolio tends to be more contextual.  Which option is “right?”  Who knows?  It’s like a billboard for postmodernism.

City Pushing New Zoning: Everything in walking distance (2002)

Recent college grad Katie Sobush often peddles her bike to lunch in Piedmont Park because she doesn’t have or want a car. And Sobush, a transportation planner, is thrilled Atlanta’s urban masterminds have adopted a strategy to reshape the city to accommodate residents just like her.

The city of Atlanta is on the brink of adopting a revolutionary citywide zoning system that would create a new urbanism utopia. Everything people need —- from homes to restaurants to shopping to offices —- would be within walking distance, instead of a car trip away.

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"Two urban planners have designs on Midtown’s future" (1997)

Sizing up potential : A blueprint for development will help the area decide where it wants to go.

Looking down on Midtown from 1,000 feet above, urban planner Anton Nelessen is amazed.

"It’s really unbelievable," Nelessen said. "I really can’t remember ever seeing this much parking in relation to buildings anywhere. It’s amazing the amount of smog that’s in this town."

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"Mixed-use project an apartment developer’s turning point" (1998)

Apartment developer John A. Williams has one great regret in his career —- demolishing the block known as Pershing Point on the northern edge of Midtown.

Up until the mid-1980s, Pershing Point was one of the most vibrant communities in Atlanta with 300 apartments in a half-dozen historic buildings with street-level grocery stores, a pharmacy, retail shops, restaurants and bars. They all sat on a compact, triangular block bounded by Peachtree and West Peachtree where the headquarters of National Service Industries is now located.

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Blueprint Midtown: Is area ready to be ‘SoHo’? Ambitious plan would revamp zoning laws (2001)

Blueprint Midtown, a plan to turn the area into a 24-hour community, is about to become more than a suggestion.

With the backing of the Midtown Alliance, the city is working on a package of land use changes that would encourage developers to turn Midtown into another SoHo-type community. The goal: Make it a place where people want to walk, work, live, shop and dine out, as in the arts district on Manhattan’s lower west side.

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