July 23, 2007

Mixed-use project aimed at nearby office workers, college in Atlanta suburb

"About 30,000 people work along the Clifton Road corridor in central DeKalb County, but you wouldn't know it from looking at property across from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's sprawling headquarters, just north of Emory University," the Atlanta Jounral-Constitution reports.

"An empty gravel lot sits next to a few aging, low-slung apartment buildings. A motel is surrounded by a sea of asphalt. No shops or restaurants are anywhere in sight. Street life is virtually nonexistent.

"But look for things to change as Emory teams up with Atlanta-based Cousins Properties to build a mixed-use complex on Clifton Road with shops, restaurants and 872 condominiums and apartments, all targeted at those who work or study in the area."

The project realizes that employees are a great market if you offer them a vibrant streetscape and appealing destinations they can walk to.

"We pretty much drive in in the morning and stay here until we leave," Angela O'Connor, a public health analyst at the CDC, told the Journal-Constitution. "I think if we had somewhere to walk to, a lot of us would."

Does this sound familiar? Why is it that poor streetscape design means there's almost nowhere for office workers on Speen Street or Route 9 in Framingham to walk to? Why is it that it's so unappealing for the thousands of students and employees at Framingham State to walk to restaurants and shopping?

It's a problem in many communities, but one that planners around the nation are finally, tentatively, trying to address.
If retail along it had been designed and sited differently, Route 30 in Framingham could have been an incredible pedestrian boulevard, complete with sidewalk cafes, appealing shop windows and an attractive divider that encouraged crossing on foot. Instead, people drive from one strip mall less than half a mile to another, because the walking environment is so uninviting. And few office workers on nearby Speen Street can walk to most of the stores within half a mile, because crossing the streets (and now huge driveways spewing out cars from Target and Lowe's) make it feel unsafe.

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