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Downtown Atlanta master plan envisions ‘humanized’ neighborhood, 12K new residents

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After a year of work, downtown’s master plan is almost done, forecasting a future with major developments, preserved history.

A view of the Coca-Cola sign atop the Olympia Building, with skyscrapers rising behind.
Downtown is striving to be more than high-rise offices and tourist magnets.
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta

For nearly a year, Central Atlanta Progress has been chiseling a new master plan to set a vision for downtown’s growth over the next 15 years.

After town hall meetings, open houses, and various other community engagement exercises, the city has approved the document. This paves the way for the master plan to guide development in the neighborhood.

The nearly 300-page document is exhaustive, covering topics from the encouragement of residential growth to transportation and much more. After all, the district covers just a small swath of the city but boasts 28 percent of Atlanta’s job base while attracting more than 15.5 million visitors per year. (For context, downtown alone exceeds Nashville’s estimated tourism numbers for 2016 by nearly 2 million visitors).

German developer Newport owns many of the older structures seen here, with plans to reinvent the South Downtown area.
Curbed Atlanta

While certainly worth a read, the document can’t be digested in just a few minutes. For those with things to do, here’s a brief overview of the master plan’s six idealistic goals:

  1. Go big with the small stuff to humanize downtown: The plan’s recommendations seek to maintain focus on the day-to-day experience of downtown and create a welcoming experience for everyone.
  2. Uncover, celebrate, and preserve downtown’s heritage to ensure that new growth does not overwrite Atlanta’s history: The plan’s recommendations offer ideas for integrating local history and creativity as part of the everyday experience in downtown.
  3. Grow downtown neighborhoods tailored to meet the needs of residents: The plan envisions that downtown will evolve and grow as a collection of unique neighborhoods.
  4. Reinforce downtown’s role as the entrepreneurial and economic center of the region: The plan’s recommendations seek to further establish downtown as home to small businesses, start-ups, the arts, and innovative research.
  5. Restore the forest in the center of the city to improve air and water quality, create shade, and add beauty downtown: The plan’s recommendations seek to integrate ecology and play into the center of Atlanta and embrace a healthier future for downtown’s people and places.
  6. Offer real choice in transportation to reduce traffic congestion and reliance on automobiles and create space for increased activity: The plan’s recommendations seek to redesign the street network, uncover a connected, walkable downtown, and encourage travel by multiple modes.

And, some other key takeaways:

Currently, just over 25,000 people call downtown home, including a large percentage of students at Georgia State University. With residential developments proposed across the district, it’s anticipated the population will soon dramatically increase.

Even conservative estimates indicate that downtown’s residential population could grow by 12,000 residents in the next 15 years, meaning by 2031, the district will see a 45 percent increase in those who call it home.

Aggressive estimates—which are likely to come true if large-scale developments such as The Gulch redo come to fruition—put the growth at more than 20,000.

Similarly, many more jobs are anticipated in the neighborhood, with 43,000 more workers anticipated by 2031.

A map showing the distribution of residents in downtown.
Downtown Atlanta Master Plan

Wide roads and surface parking lots make up much of downtown. The master plan goes a long way to address the prevalence of asphalt and works to dethrone cars as king in the neighborhood.

Also on the topic of transportation, the plan makes recommendations that include some one-way to two-way conversions, as well as road diets and shared vehicular and pedestrian zones. One could transform two miles of Peachtree Street into a walkable, transit-serviced corridor linking South Downtown to Midtown.

A conceptual view of Peachtree and Forsyth streets, in front of Georgia Pacific Center.
Downtown Atlanta Master Plan
One proposal for Peachtree Street.
Downtown Atlanta Master Plan
Broad Street as a shared pedestrian and vehicular zone.
Downtown Atlanta Master Plan
Northside Drive, made more inviting with planted medians and a buffer between traffic and pedestrians.
Downtown Atlanta Master Plan

The plan also addresses green space and public gathering spaces, providing for a more sustainable and inviting area for visitors and locals alike.

A vision for the plaza in front of the Central Library.
Downtown Atlanta Master Plan
An urban apple orchard in front of Grady Hospital.
Downtown Atlanta Master Plan

While the city has approved the master plan, the public still has a chance to make comments on the document.

Georgia State University

33 Gilmer Street SW, Atlanta, GA 30303 404 413 2000 Visit Website