It’s fun to watch what happens when a group of folks stop looking at the horizon and start noticing what’s going on all around them.
In terms of building and development, for decades, it was all about bigger and further. Builders looked to the suburbs for less expensive, large swaths of land to build expansive swim and tennis communities. We finally started to build up against the limit to which people were willing to commute for work, so folks started to go back to the epicenter that is in-town Atlanta, and re-examine what is already there. What has sprung out of that includes such interesting things as Ponce City Market, the Beltline and the Old Fourth Ward. Suburban downtown centers have been recreated from old buildings in Buford and on Canton Street in Roswell. I always enjoy watching a really good architect take a really old building and turn it into something useful and impactful again.
What I have equally enjoyed watching is how designers and planners have taken some of our more industrial infrastructure that was built during our sprawl and turned it into something that adds to the community, instead of detracts.
In Roswell where I live, there was an area where the Chattahoochee River ran underneath Ga. 400. Growing up, it was just an unattractive part of the river where massive square columns rose out of the water to hold up the loud bridge. But about 20 years or so ago, someone had the smart idea to turn it into a city park called Don White Memorial Park. Today there is a parking lot there where folks can park, enjoy the view and access the Roswell Riverwalk trail system. The columns are still there. And I’ve heard talk from folks who want to hire artists to paint them or install rock-climbing holds. I’m not sure how the Georgia DOT feels about either of those ideas, but it’s exciting to hear people try to reimagine those large, industrial columns.
About the time Keith Parker was named CEO of MARTA, that organization went from one of utility, to community. They started to take a second look at their stations and infrastructure and expanded their thought pattern from a narrow focus of just moving people to trying to work themselves more into the fabric of the communities they were in. MARTA partnered with municipal leaders and developers to build TOD’s — Transit-Oriented-Developments. And several mixed-use projects are underway that are incorporating existing MARTA stations into their designs.
This type of thinking also led them to create partnerships with several soccer organizations around town, including Atlanta United, to build soccer fields in and around their stations. Two fields are finished and in use at the Five Points and West End stations, and a third is under construction at the East Point station. A league has been created around the fields called StationSoccer, run by an organization called Soccer in the Streets. These fields are open to the public and can be reserved online. Soccer in the Streets uses soccer as an outlet to reach out to youths and groom them to be future leaders. This particular project, like many in Atlanta, has received national attention as a first of its kind.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. And that has been on display as smart people in and around Atlanta have repurposed old buildings and lifeless infrastructures. As more and more people move to Atlanta every year, we will have to get more creative about where to put them. And as land continues to get more and more scarce, thus more and more expensive, affordable housing will become more of an important issue. The Atlanta Metro area is filled with smart solutions right now and it will be fun to see what we can come up with next.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group