Atlanta’s getting a makeover through this new master plan

Atlanta will be getting a makeover within the next few years if this Master Plan goes through. Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

Atlanta is due for a renovation and Central Atlanta Progress Incorporated has already drafted a plan on what it needs. The Downtown Master Plan (DMP) encompasses four square miles of Downtown, ranging from North Ave. down to I-20 and Northside over to Boulevard and in the middle of that lies Georgia State.

The last plan took place in 2003 and the majority of those projects have since been completed. This sparked the need for a new plan to create a cohesive picture of Downtown according to DMP Project Manager Audrey Leous.

“A major reason for doing this work is recognizing how can we make sure that the infrastructure investments that are going to be made are done so in a way that support the type of development we want to see in Downtown,” Leous said. “To make sure things that are happening in Downtown are knitted together in a cohesive identity for Downtown.”  

Expected for Georgia State

The DMP, which is based off of the concerns of residents that live in surrounding areas, hopes to propose reasonable solutions to tackle those issues. Around Georgia State, a prominent issues seems to be housing.

“Some of the things we’ve been hearing specifically in that part of Downtown is that there’s a need for a variety of housing options and we’ve been hearing that throughout Downtown, but [there’s] a lot of sensitivity around housing in Atlanta getting really pricey,” Leous said.

Some of the other issues brought to Leous’ attention are safer connections to the rest of Downtown, including a more green atmosphere and traffic calming. Georgia State will also be experiencing many changes in infrastructure along several streets that run through the campus. Streetscaping will be done on Edgewood Ave. and bicycle infrastructure improvement will we incorporated on Courtland St. and Piedmont Ave.

The DMP is also making efforts to give the students more access to job opportunities in businesses around Downtown with the goal of retaining a workforce in Atlanta while also putting what was learned to use.

“Another ideas is expanding active engagement programs with universities, including a range of internships and Co-Ops to increase access to entry level jobs and support the retention in Downtown,” Leous said. “Then fostering that so then students can transfer to full time jobs here, rather than they’re here for a couple of years go to school then have to find a job somewhere else.”

The plan has not been fully flushed out yet, but Leous said that this may be achieved by making a targeted effort to create a relationship with Georgia State affiliates and local businesses that surround the university.

“A concerted effort to build relationships between folk at Georgia State–professors, people who work in the advisement role– [to] really try and make the connection between those people and the local businesses here that may have job opportunities,” Leous said.

The Parking dilemma

One of the major complaints made from the city as a whole is the lack of parking, but according to Leous there are a lot of parking spaces available but they may be difficult to find.

“In Downtown, we have tons and tons of parking. We also hear from people that it’s not enough, but when you actually look at the number of spaces there is a lot of capacity but it could difficult to find or people want free parking,” Leous said.

However, the DMP team is still thinking of a way to solve this, although free parking is not one them. Instead, Leous is proposing a policy that will create a parking authority which would manage the parking supply in Downtown.

“One idea that we have is [to] create a fund to obtain for some of these service parking lots and then over time have a program where they manage all of these different parking assets to provide parking for Downtown businesses, residents, as well as set some of those service parking lots up for future development,” Leous said.

The fate of this policy, however, is not in the hands of the DMP management team. They must appeal to the Atlanta City Council and their stakeholders to get a program like this approved.

“With any type of policy there’s never a guarantee that we can absolutely get it done, because if it’s a city policy it’s out of our hands in a way,” Leous said. “We can only try to work with different stakeholders, whether its subject matter experts or elected officials on our board, and provide them with the right type of information to help them understand the need for it and the type of benefits it could have.”

Along with that is the fact that newly elected officials will soon be taking their seat in the City Council and the DMP team will have to work from the ground up once again.

“We have the election coming up so we’ll have a new mayor and we’ll have almost a whole new City Council, so it also comes Down to working with the elected officials to get to a point where we can actually make this work,” Leous said. “Those are things that are always sort of unknown but we’ll try our best and work as hard as we can to make it happen.   

The plan is scheduled for its first revision this fall and the DMP is expected to be approved by the City Council in December. Implementing the plan varies because of the amount of renovations it hopes to achieve. However, the trajectory for all the plans to be implemented are within the next 15 years.   

Key Themes and Goals of the DMP

  • Grow Downtown neighborhood to meet the needs of residents.
  • Reinforce Downtown’s role as the entrepreneurial and economic center of the region.
  • Restore the forest in the center of the city to improve air and water quality, create shade and add beauty to Downtown.
  • Offer real choices in transportation to reduce traffic congestion and reliance on automobiles and create space for increase activity.
  • Uncover, celebrate and preserve Downtown’s heritage to ensure that new growth does not overwrite history.
  • Go big with the small stuff to humanize Downtown.