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Midtown crafts new zoning policies to improve pedestrian experience

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Buried power lines, stringent streetscaping requirements, minimized parking, public art, and storefronts are all part of the rewrite.

A view down Peachtree Street, with hundreds of cyclist and pedestrians packing the street.
Can Midtown’s streets be as welcoming as during Atlanta Streets Alive?
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta

For years, Midtown has been working to manage the impact of explosive growth on the pedestrian steetscape, with varied success.

But now, new zoning updates targeting the urban experience have been revealed as part of an updated Special Public Interest zoning ordinance rework.

Midtown Alliance reports that community input was crucial in shaping some of the latest parameters meant to ensure “high-quality, high-value development in Midtown for the next decade.”

While the ordinance updates are far-reaching, they all address fundamental aspects that influence the human-scale friendliness of Midtown streets and attractiveness of the built environment.

The updates include:

  • Full streetscaping, consisting of sidewalk upgrades, lighting, trees, and other enhancements, are required within 18 months of demolition of a structure.
  • Developers can receive bonus incentives for inclusion of things such as affordable housing, public art, public park space, and adaptive-reuse of existing buildings.
  • The use and amount of parking is minimized by bonus incentives for buried parking, greatly reduced parking, and public parking; along with further regulation on the maximum number of parking spaces and location and size of any surface parking.
  • The visibility of parking structures is minimized in that they must be designed to be wrapped with active uses at street-level, including retail or residential units, and blended into buildings with architecturally compatible materials above street level.
  • Maximum setbacks for structures are specified to have minimize dead spaces along the sidewalk.
  • Local utility lines along prioritized streets are required to be buried or relocated away from view. (“Hoorah!” shout Atlanta planning wonks.)
  • Storefront windows must offer minimum visibility depths to let people see inside, versus being covered and obscured from view.
  • Prioritized streets are to have specific active, pedestrian-friendly uses while limiting the sizes of residential lobbies and clubhouses.
  • Rooftop equipment is to have screening requirements.

Overall, the rules could drive a much more user-friendly approach to the streets of Midtown in coming years.