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Architect: Will the Real Cascade Heights Please Stand Up?

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Editor's note: Today, Atlanta architect Garfield Peart (MBA, AIA, NOMA, LEED Green Assoc.) begins a three-part series of Curbed posts about the Cascade area of southwest Atlanta, tracing its current status as a hub for dignitaries, its history and plans for future enhancements. Peart is the president of Syntony Design Collaborative and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and a confounding member of nonprofit The Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry, Inc. He writes:

As you stand in the heart of Cascade Heights, the commercial district, you see empty lots, vacant buildings, a sea of street-front parking lots and incompatible building uses. It's the result of a neighborhood ravaged by years of neglect and declining property values. You look around with mixed emotions and think to yourself, "Wow, is this it?" These images starkly contrast the facade of affluence represented by the neighborhood's rich history and residents, which include former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, baseball legend Hank Aaron and former UN Ambassador Andrew Young. But, as you pull back the proverbial veil, you start to get your answer: There is much more here than meets the eye.

First, Cascade Heights can boast three key assets of any successful neighborhood: location, location, location. The neighborhood, located just southwest of downtown Atlanta along one of the busiest east-west thoroughfares in the city, Cascade Road, allows you to be within minutes of both downtown and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport via Interstate 20 and I-285. Furthermore, you are only 15 minutes from some the city's key intown attractions like the World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, CNN Center, new Falcons' stadium, Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Atlanta Streetcar.

Second, there is easy access to some of Atlanta's most picturesque parks, recreation and green spaces. Cascade Heights is flanked on the south, east and west by three amazing public parks, all within a mile. The 150-acre Historic Adams Park has rolling hills, a small lake, recreation facilities and an 18-hole golf course. According to GolfNow.com, John A. White Park is a "9-hole jewel in Southwest Atlanta" with a challenging Par-35 sprawled over 40 acres. Last, the 135-acre Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, is a personal favorite of Cascade Heights Community Development Corporation (CHCDC) member and architect Danita Brown, who describes it as "an oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle." The nature preserve features walking trails, cascading waterfalls and natural springs that up until the 1950s were bottled and sold as Cascade Spring Water.

Third, the Cascade Heights Commercial District (CHCD), located at the intersection of Benjamin E. Mays Drive and Cascade Road, is the long time commercial anchor to the community. According to a recent Georgia Tech comprehensive case study, the CHCD is enriched by the five historic and culturally unique neighborhoods that it serves — Adams Park, Cascade Heights, Beecher Hills, Audobon Forest and Cascade Road — all within a five-minute walk.

Corliss Claire, local CHCDC member and longtime activist, says the economic mixture of the area provides for an interesting balance that is "akin to a delicious gumbo, all excellent and diverse ingredients that mix well together."

Current commercial district amenities include banking, a mixed range of retail, CVS Pharmacy, boutiques shops, J. R. Crickets Lounge and The Beautiful soul food restaurant. Founded in 1979, The Beautiful is a regional destination for celebrities and locals alike where you are greeted by a "Pants Down No Service" sign, and on any given Sunday, it has a line out the door. Business and civic anchors include the Young Dental Clinic by Dr. Walter Young (brother of former Ambassador Andrew Young) and Providence Missionary Baptist Church.

The recently formed Cascade Heights Community Development Corporation, which include residents and community leaders like prominent architect Oscar Harris, wants to build on the existing amenities of the neighborhood to realize a more vibrant commercial district. In turn, they view the vacant buildings and empty lots as a beacon of potential development opportunities — one which signals that Cascade Heights is ready to be the next regional commercial destination. It is hard for one to disagree when Cascade Heights boast many of the same amenities and affluent residents that mirror other vaunted white northwest Atlanta areas like Buckhead.

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And now, a potpourri of Cascade scenes ...


· Reader Makes Compelling Case for Historic Adams Park [Curbed]
· Neighborhood spotlight: Cascade [Atlanta magazine]