Atlanta, long characterized by sprawling development petering off in every direction, is a changing city. But for many — Atlantans and outsiders alike — it's hard to imagine Sprawlanta shaking its reputation for auto-centric obesity. And while Atlantans don't always want, or need, approval from others, it's a fine day when a reputable academic institution offers a thawing of opinion on the matter. A recent issue of the Harvard Political Review notes the changing characteristics of our city. With the seemingly endless wave of development and newfound interest in transit slowly changing the game in Atlanta, the "poster child for urban sprawl" — according to the article — has finally begun to grow into itself.
In parts of Atlanta, the prevalence of empty land and parking lots sometimes makes it difficult to realize that progress is being made. It's easy to get bogged down in the enormity of the task at hand. And there is a long way to go. But for those who follow developments announced daily in the city, the feeling that Atlanta is finally growing up — both literally and figuratively — is discernible. As the esteemed institution now realizes.
Christopher Leinberger, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at the George Washington University School of Business, discussed with the Harvard Political Review the changes he's observed in the last few decades in Atlanta. Leinberger, who bestowed the aforementioned, unflattering moniker on Atlanta in the 1990s, notes that despite the appearance that things aren't changing rapidly, the reality is that a new pattern of development is emerging. New construction, Leinberger has observed, is much more pedestrian-friendly than it used to be.
The article explores, in depth, how Atlanta got to where it is today. It will take a lot to overcome the destruction wrought by the interstates in downtown and the inherent racism in the decision to exclude MARTA from certain areas of the metro, but a new positivity about development abounds in Atlanta. And despite the senate setback last week, the article ends on a positive note, with optimism that the blocking of the vote is only a temporary issue, and that, in the long run, Atlantans will see a change they can embrace.
- Urban Sprawl's Poster Child Grows Up [Harvard Political Review]