Negativity abounds in the so-called “City too busy to hate,” but that doesn’t have to be the case.
Our traffic woes are unparalleled by almost every other metro in the nation; many of our professional sports teams are chronically predisposed to screwing the pooch; and the cracks in our streets and sidewalks can be borderline impassable, which is strange, considering they rarely freeze.
But positive aspects of Atlanta, as always, are abundant. Here are just 10 reasons to keep a chipper outlook about this city as 2019 begins to wind down, and we head toward 2020.
- Citizens are paying attention to how public money is (supposed to be) spent: Locals were up in arms to learn that some $19 million in bond premiums from the Renew Atlanta infrastructure program were used to finance the extravagant pedestrian bridge over downtown’s Northside Drive. Renew Atlanta funds were also allocated to pay for a yet-to-be-installed statue of boxing legend Evander Holyfield, which hasn’t gone unnoticed. This kind of scrutiny—even when findings might be disheartening—is indicative of an involved citizenry willing to hold the powerful accountable.
- Sidewalk cafes could become more prevalent: Infamously a car-obsessed place, Atlanta isn’t known for its pedestrian infrastructure. But efforts are underway to change that in some neighborhoods. On Monday, for instance, the Atlanta City Council green-lit legislation that paves the way for more restaurants to feature street-side dining areas that afford plenty of room for passersby, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
- Transit expansion could finally be on the way: Atlanta’s cruciform heavy rail system leaves much to be desired, at least compared to other, usually older major cities. But last year, city transit officials okayed a roughly $2.7 billion list of projects that could eventually change the way Atlantans move around town. Additionally, newly formed regional transit agency The ATL is moving forward with a sweeping expansion plan that could grow metro Atlanta’s transit systems to the tune of more than $27 billion. Maybe.
- Impending growth is definitely on the way: This could be good or bad, depending on whom you ask, but experts predict the City of Atlanta’s population will double over the next two decades. The myth that “We Full” is on track to be debunked, and the population influx likely means Atlanta is primed to become a more sophisticated, denser, and vibrant city.
- People are fired up about traffic: Sure, the outrage seems like a staple of most major cities, but it’s also an important indication that people are invested in the future of transportation infrastructure. The Georgia Department of Transportation’s potentially $11 billion “Major Mobility Investment Program,” for instance, has met serious criticism from metro Atlanta leaders, some of whom think the state agency needs to further consider the future of mass transit.
- Multiple pieces of the Beltline are under development, and a regional trail network is beginning to look realistic: This winter, three different, significant pieces of the Beltline and offshoot connecting trails are expected to be under construction. It will be the first time in Beltline history that so much construction will be simultaneously underway. And much of that construction is making physical progress toward existing trails like the beautiful Proctor Creek Greenway, Buckhead’s PATH400, and the new Peachtree Creek Greenway in Brookhaven. How long before these trail’s are viable, contiguous commuting options to points all across the city?
- Intown architecture, in some cases, is becoming more interesting: Atlanta isn’t known for preserving its unique historic buildings, so it’s crucial for local leaders to hold developers and architects’ feet to the fire when crafting building designs. Eye-catching examples of under-development and proposed projects include West Midtown’s Star Metals mixed-use complex, the mammoth Midtown Union, and the much-anticipated, possibly happening No. 2 Opus Place. Finished projects like downtown’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Lilli Midtown tower are showing folks that noteworthy architecture matters.
- The city’s largest green space is under construction: The first phase of the Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry is now under construction. Once complete—the whole shebang will take years—the green space would span 280 acres, making the 185-acre Piedmont Park seem kind of puny.
- City leaders are planning to shell out, at last, for significant mobility infrastructure enhancements: It’s unfortunate that it took a spate of e-scooter-related fatalities to expedite infrastructure improvements for alternative modes of transportation, but Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s $5 million action plan unveiled in September promises big changes. The plan, if realized, would triple the city’s network of protected bike lanes and ultimately improve 20 miles of city streets for non-motorists.
- Atlanta United kicks ass (even when they blow it): Since its inaugural season in 2017, Atlanta’s still-fledgling Major League Soccer team has enjoyed a winning record each year. In the team’s second year, United claimed the MLS championship trophy, marking a stark departure from the habits of Atlanta’s notoriously choke-prone sports teams. Sure, the Five Stripes flubbed the conference final against Toronto FC last month, but they’re still famous nationwide for packing Mercedes-Benz Stadium with arguably the most passionate fan base—already—in MLS history.
— With contributions by Curbed Atlanta editor Josh Green