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Exclusive: South Downtown’s ‘Street Concept Plan’ would boost walkability

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Developer Newport, City of Atlanta have prioritized pedestrians in vision for new street arrangements

A tree-lined pedestrian zone with brightly painted buildings.
Broad Street, reimagined as a pedestrian plaza.

The reinvigoration of South Downtown got a little more real last week when the Atlanta City Council adopted a new “Street Concept Plan” to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars.

Newport, the Germany development group behind a planned eight-block transformation of South Downtown, worked in collaboration with multiple city offices to craft the plan as part of their larger initiative to bring vibrancy back to the district south of Five Points.

Early plans for the project were revealed this past summer, and already design is underway for the restoration and reuse of historic buildings throughout the area.

Underscoring the group’s desire to create a walkable neighborhood, the Street Concept Plan focuses on the streetscapes of four major thoroughfares in the district: Peachtree Street, Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Mitchell Street, and Broad Street. All are targeted for road modifications that would reduce vehicular travel lanes in favor of wider sidewalk, outdoor cafes, pedestrian plazas, street trees, bike lanes, and ride-hailing and mobility pick-up zones.

Both Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Mitchell Street—between Spring and Pryor streets—could be converted to two-way streets with dedicated turn lanes. Each would undergo a reduction in travel lanes, making way for a dedicated cycle track on MLK, Jr. and sidewalk-dining zones along Mitchell.

MLK, Jr. Boulevard at Broad Street—before and after.
Google Maps and NEWPORT US RE
Mitchell Street—before and after.

Peachtree Street would also be reduced to a single travel lane in each direction with space for ride-hailing and transit stops in a dedicated curb lane. Street trees and wider sidewalks would allow for a much friendlier environment for people.

Peachtree Street—before and after.

Finally, Broad Street could potentially become a shared pedestrian zone, with people taking priority over cars. As part of the plan, the curbs could be removed, creating a seamless plaza. Only emergency and delivery vehicles would be allowed to drive down Broad.

Broad Street—before and after.

The new Street Concept Plan was developed in collaboration with the City of Atlanta and coordinates with Central Atlanta Progress’s nearly completed master plan update, which promotes significant growth downtown without adding additional vehicle trips.

Ultimately, the goal is to revitalize the city’s original commercial district and create an authentic, historic district people want to call home, officials tell Curbed Atlanta.

Katharine Kelley, Newport’s executive vice president, underscored the firm’s commitment to making the district a neighborhood for all people, stressing that developments would feature an array of pricepoints when complete.

Design is underway by a number of firms, and preliminary work on some of the buildings has begun. Expect to see major construction—and potentially street reconfiguration—get underway next year.