In the estimation of Kevin Green, Midtown Alliance CEO and president, 2020 will be viewed in the annals of Atlanta transportation history as a year both important and exciting.
Green has much to be excited about.
Following lengthy approval and design processes (a years-long slog, in some cases), Midtown is set for a year of unprecedented growth, as public infrastructural improvements are concerned, with more projects scheduled to break ground than any year before.
Roughly $47 million in public improvement efforts is in the works across the district, predicted to begin within months and carry over the next several years.
Collectively, the projects “will be hugely important in providing viable and safe alternatives for getting around without a car,” Green tells Curbed Atlanta. “What we’ve lacked is a connected network of protected lanes, and that’s what these projects will start to provide.”
Adding urgency (and financial oomph) to the changes in Midtown public right-of-ways is the City of Atlanta’s two-year, $5 million action plan to accelerate safety designs in more than 20 corridors, including several in Midtown. That was announced in September, following e-scooter accidents that resulted in four fatalities around Atlanta last spring and summer.
“The city is acting with a welcome sense of urgency here,” says Green.
Detailed below are key Midtown projects expected to see shovels meet dirt this year, with a goal of greater mobility and accessibility for pedestrians, bicyclists, e-scooter riders, or anyone else opting not to drive.
Complete street conversion: Juniper
You’re probably familiar with one-way streets meant to function as pairs in Midtown and downtown. Prepare for a much more extensive network of protected bike lanes that will serve the same purpose, beginning this year.
The most noticeable changes could come on Juniper Street and Piedmont Avenue, where complete-street overhauls sending non-motorists in opposite directions (north and south) will ferry Atlantans between Midtown’s more commercial areas and tree-canopied, residential streets.
Such changes for Juniper Street have been percolating but delayed for a decade, hamstrung by various federal and state requirements—and the discovery of old streetcar tracks buried under existing streets, according to Midtown Alliance.
Now, however, the required $8.7 million in project funding is in place for the Juniper portion, a mix of city, state, federal, and Midtown Improvement District money.
Spanning a dozen blocks between Ponce de Leon Avenue and 14th Street, the Juniper project is expected to deliver a safe bike route and beefed-up pedestrian amenities, such as wider sidewalks and furniture, without constipating car traffic.
Bids for construction are expected to be advertised early this year, with groundbreaking planned in July.
Per Midtown Alliance, the transformation should be complete within 18 to 24 months.
Complementing Juniper Street’s protected bike lane will be a Piedmont Avenue complete street overhaul stretching from Ponce de Leon Avenue to 15th Street, ending alongside Piedmont Park.
Expect a northbound protected bike lane to repurpose the avenue’s easternmost parking and travel lane between Ponce and 14th Street; a multi-use path will replace the sidewalk on the same side of the street north of there.
Construction is predicted to begin in mid-2020 and conclude by the end of next year.
Roughly $3 million from the city’s Renew/TSPLOST coffers, plus $2.2 million from the Midtown Improvement District, has been committed to cover costs.
West Peachtree and Spring streets “quick builds”
The city’s action plan calls for swift implementation of one-way protected bike lane corridors, meant to work in concert with one another, along stretches of West Peachtree and Spring streets in Midtown.
It’s referred to as a “quick build” process.
Expect protected lanes on both corridors from North Avenue to 14th Street, adding to existing (but unprotected) lanes on West Peachtree Street. One-way traffic operations will remain, though a vehicle travel lane, some on-street parking spaces, and potentially loading zones will be swapped for the protected bike lanes.
According to Green, Midtown Alliance plans to submit 60-percent design plans for changes to West Peachtree and Spring streets to the city within about two weeks. All designs, he says, should be wrapped in roughly a month.
“Once the city approves design,” notes Green, “they’ll bundle with some other projects and handle construction themselves.”
He estimates construction could start in early summer. The city’s $5 million commitment to safer streets is covering costs.
Art Walk update
The vision for an art-lined public park, shared street, and pedestrian promenade along Midtown’s Peachtree Walk should start to materialize this year.
The Art Walk is planned as a half-mile “highly visual and interactive urban experience” between the Midtown and Arts Center MARTA stations that emphasizes the neighborhood’s status as Atlanta’s epicenter for the arts.
Green says Art Walk’s initial $3.8 million phase should begin construction this summer, transforming a section of the relatively quiet corridor between 10th and 11th streets that’s partially restricted to vehicles now.
That work should finish in nine months to a year, if not sooner, says Green.
Alongside a bounty of public art installations, the Art Walk vision calls for pedestrian enhancements and possibly art galleries and studios interspersed with street-level dining in adjacent buildings, provided that developers cooperate.
Beyond the projects above, Midtown Alliance reports that design phases for other initiatives in the same general vein—the 5th Street complete street; enhancements around MARTA’s Art Center station; and Commercial Row Commons—are nearing completion now.
A big year for people-friendly updates, indeed.
How to get involved
Want to chime in—or learn more—about public safety improvements planned for Midtown and downtown, including those outlined here? As part of the mayor’s Action Plan for Safer Streets, the City of Atlanta is hosting a town hall alongside Midtown Alliance and Central Atlanta Progress officials soon. (Another topic of discussion: a planned quick-build complete street project stemming from Ralph McGill Boulevard up to Ponce).
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, February 3
Where: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church’s Parrish Hall (435 Peachtree Street NE)
Getting there: MARTA Civic Center Station is a block away; bike parking is available onsite and nearby; limited vehicle parking is also available.