April 6, 2006

Atlanta Mulls Ways to Make ‘Peachtree Corridor’ World Class; Any Local Lessons?

"Some of Atlanta's top business executives and community leaders have been tapped to help retool the city's signature Peachtree corridor," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "The group's mission is to help turn the Peachtree corridor into a world-class thoroughfare, with a unified pedestrian-friendly design that may include streetcars rolling down the spine."

The group is headed by two developers, who believe that parts of the district "lack density and urban sophistication, making the stretch pale in comparison to major thoroughfares in other cities."

This is an important point. Even though the neighborhood already boasts "some of the city's poshest homes, fanciest restaurants and hottest boutiques," the article notes, creating an overall experience is critical. The presence of nice homes, eateries and stores isn't enough; you've got to tie it all together in a way that makes an appealing, coherent and unbroken streetscape.

In other words, even if you add new residences and businesses as part of downtown revitalization, it's not enough as long as you also, say, still have a suburban-sprawl-designed wholesale business across from your transit station, or a stand-alone appliance store set way back from the roadway. Now there's absolutely nothing wrong with a wholesale plumbing business or an appliance store! I've gone to both myself, and they are fine enterprises with a lot of good merchandise. But the way they're designed creates big holes in the streetscape in the critical zone around the T station, if your goal is to entice people using the trains to stay and experience the business district. Those same stores sited up at the sidewalk with attractive window displays for retail passers-by would make a major difference.

The Atlanta group will "look at everything from landscaping and lighting to sidewalks and street-level retail," according to the newspaper report.

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