A lively roundtable called "Turning Point: Atlanta on the Verge" held last night was a powerful indication that Atlantans really give a damn about this city in the most crucial sort of way. Hosted by the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) and the Architecture and Design Center (ADC), the night featured Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane, father of the Beltline Ryan Gravel, Senior VP of Jamestown Jim Irwin, President & CEO of Habitat for Humanity Lisa Gordon and Atlanta Regional Commission member Greg Burbidge. The panel discussed issues concerning the future of the city in front of a sold-out house of more than 400 people. For ATL urbanophiles — or just generally invested citizens — it was like Christmas had come early.
On the role of design and planning:
· Tim Keane - Design should be "practical, simple, straightforward and about people."
On how Atlanta is generally doing:
· Ryan Gravel - "If your expectation is that Atlanta is going to look like New York or Paris ... we've got a long way to go." But Atlanta is Atlanta — it's like a gangly, awkward teenager — and "we have ambition and opportunity."
· Lisa Gordon - "What Atlanta has that's unique are the neighborhoods," teeming with culture, vibrancy and history.
· Jim Irwin - "We are in the best possible time in the history of our city."
On why Atlanta is the way it is:
· Jim Irwin - "It's been too easy to build in Atlanta for too long."
On affordable housing:
· Lisa Gordon - "We have to do quality design for affordable housing." Affordable shouldn't mean "poor or poor design."
· Tim Keane - "Inclusionary zoning will be a major discussion in the next few months."
On developing downtown:
· Jim Irwin - "I think (downtown) is the center" and will play a major role in Atlanta in the future.
· Tim Keane - Downtown "should be packed with people and jobs. We don't need any more open space — there's lots of areas of nothing. I think it'd be good if downtown got a really tall building... and cool."
· Tim Keane - "It's not about cost; it's about value. You'll be disappointed by anything you build new verses what was there before."
On a way forward:
· Tim Keane - "We need a planning department... We kind of just regulate right now — and it's kind of annoying."
· Ryan Gravel - (To paraphrase) It's not enough to leave planning to the government and developers. Rather, citizens must be the ones to advocate in the future and "expect more of our leadership."
· Jim Irwin - "The friction of proximity (in densifying intown neighborhoods) is going to breed creativity."
In conclusion: General consensus after the event was that the speakers offered reassurance that there are indeed leaders in the city working to get Atlanta on the right track. But the most powerful statement may have unspoken ... it's how many people were there.
· Planning Czar Tim Keane Talks Steps to Make Atlanta Awesome [Curbed Atlanta]
· A Chat With The Guy Whose Thesis Birthed the Beltline [Curbed Atlanta]