Atlanta is a developer's playground where, with a little capital, a builder can unleash their will on a site of their choosing (more or less). Indeed, the fact that Atlanta's design standards can be on the lax side is hardly new news, but Matt Bronfman, the chief of Jamestown Properties, has proven an unlikely proponent of greater accountability in design. At a recent meeting Bronfman, who was involved in Jamestown's adaptive reuse of Ponce City Market, took to task developers who do Atlanta a disservice with lackluster designs, according to a piece that followed in the AJC. Without besmirching any developer by name, he condemned the "schlock" that all too often gets built. Bronfman joins a chorus of people in the industry who've called for more accountability when it comes to new pieces of the city's built environment. We combed through our Field Note Fridays coverage over the last few months to see what some of the city's most influential architects and developers have had to say on this very same subject.
"We have built our own barriers with a wide, river-like interstate highway system that pierces our city with an architecture that presents a lack of caring about how our infrastructure looks... Atlanta is too great a city to allow this kind of visual pollution to exist and continue."
"Dropping down 300 apartments in a 60-foot-tall block on a site that previously had a collection of single-story structures is jarring to the eye and to the neighborhood, no matter how well it might be designed. We need a balanced approach."
"To a large degree, the 'context' of the City is defined by its architecture. It therefore falls to every architect to engage any project with a sense of civic responsibility that extends beyond the immediate time and place and aspires to serve the public good long after that architect is gone."
"So many components matter in an urban environment/ecosystem, and land use and transportation policy have an outsized effect on the system, which makes it hard for a single project to have a large effect. It's also critical to understand how transportation options (or lack thereof) directly tie to parking, which encourages automobile usage. Providing abundant parking significantly increases the cost of development and results in less walkability. Congregating uses together — like locating offices and shops directly adjacent or close to housing — is a critical component to walkability, reducing the need to get in a car every time you need some eggs or a gallon of milk."
"Somehow we have to figure out the connectivity between all of the development and adaptive reuse and how it ties into the intown neighborhoods... I really think the adaptive reuse is critical to helping Atlanta rediscover itself and as a result become a more vibrant city."
"We have vast improvements to make in order for the City of Atlanta to have some control over the future of this place... at times I think the architecture is a little Mr. Potato Head-like. Two of the critical aspects of a successful future will be 1) protecting and preserving existing historic neighborhoods and 2) enabling great, urban, dense mixed-use wherever we can and providing better transit, bike and walking infrastructure."
"It's a fact that exceptional design comes at a cost premium. I think most developers would love to create more impactful architecture, yet invariably the cost of such designs has a profound effect on the financial viability and returns needed to secure financing. Fortunately we are just entering a time where great design creates great returns."
· Ponce Market developer: Region needs higher standards [AJC; subscriber]
· Field Note Fridays coverage [Curbed]