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An Analysis of Atlanta, Georgia: The Good

I have been traveling a lot lately – to Atlanta, San Diego, San Francisco – and unfortunately it has been eating into my blogging time. Fortunately, however, I have been taking thousands of photos of these places. I also have a lot to write about each of the places and the people I have met along the way.

First on my list to review is Atlanta, Georgia. A few weeks ago, I was in the Atlanta area for a friend's wedding. I had never really had the chance to roam around Atlanta before, so I wanted to see what was happening in this fast-growing region in terms of walkability. Some other bike/ped experts told me that there was not much to see, with the exception of maybe Midtown. I happen to agree with them almost completely, but I did stumble across some very promising things. Yes, there is some “good” on the walkable neighborhoods front to report on about Atlanta. Since I am an optimist for the most part, I will focus on the good about Atlanta from my observations. I will follow up with a future article about the “bad and ugly” I observed while there (there was a lot – I will not deny it).

Perhaps my favorite thing in Atlanta was their passenger rail service called MARTA. It reminded me a lot of the BART system in the San Francisco Bay Area, but better (although less expansive). The service also connects to the Atlanta Airport, which public transit connections to airports absolutely thrill me when I travel to other cities (take a hint, Sacramento. The Yolobus is nice, but does not cut it). Along my ride I noticed that most of the transit stops in the southwest part of the city were in lower-density industrial areas, and I was disappointed about that. However, as I traveled north, I became amazed at the number of Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) that were popping up near the rail stations. The trains were very clean, and the stations were pleasant and had several pieces of public art at many of the stops.

The TODs were very impressive in Atlanta — beautiful high-rise condo towers near transit stops and restaurants (although they cannot compete with San Diego). One area that I saw called Buckhead had several high-rise condo towers near a MARTA stop, a regional mall, a supermarket, a Target, and several other shopping centers with some major retailers. One city block was comprised of a multi-story Target, Publix (supermarket), Filene's Basement, and Dick's among other shops and restaurants. The buildings were all right up to the sidewalk, and all parking was in an internal parking garage. It was a very cool development even from an urban design standpoint. The best thing was that it was right across a narrow street from three huge residential complexes. These complexes were absolutely gorgeous and the entrance to the Publix was right out of their front doors. As good as this all sounds, there were still some major downfalls with this area that I will discuss in the next article.

Aside from Buckhead, Midtown was similarly coming along, although there are some older established neighborhoods in this area. The nice thing is that it was well-served by MARTA and very close to downtown and other office buildings. Plus, there is a beautiful park (Piedmont) in the area.

In the downtown, some good development is occurring near the Olympic Park area. Again, more beautiful high-rise condo towers nearby. That area also has the Georgia Aquarium, the old Omni Center (where the Hawks play), and CNN headquarters. The Olympic Park has a cool fountain, but that is about it (although the park’s website makes it look really cool, perhaps I was there on an off day).

This is just a brief synopsis of what “good” is going on in Atlanta. Of course, there is much, much more that I did not mention or get to see. To get a better understanding of what I saw there, please check out my photo gallery from the trip. I was really impressed by some of the things I saw, even became jealous of a few things that I wish we had in Sacramento (the towers, although supposedly coming soon here). The office building architecture I thought was superb as well. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good in this case, and I doubt I will be relocating to Atlanta anytime soon. I will document some of the “bad” in my next article. To Atlanta's credit though, they are really trying and doing the residential high-rise living way better than most cities. UPDATE: You can read the article on the bad and ugly of Atlanta here.

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