Atlanta’s design project to unfold as a movable feast in three sites around city

By David Pendered

The first six months of public meetings for the upcoming Atlanta City Design Project will occur at Ponce City Market in space donated by its developer, pending approval of legislation the Atlanta City Council is expected to adopt Monday.

Ponce City Market

Ponce City Market is providing free office space for the first six months of the Atlanta City Design Project. Credit: jordanskala.com

Jamestown PCM Master Tenant, L.L.C. will provide 2,231 rentable square feet at no cost to the city. The city will be responsible for a $200 security deposit, utilities, internet service, furniture, and other incidental expenses, according to the legislation.

Jamestown valued its donation at $59,121.50, according to Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane.

Keane described the design studio as a movable feast. It will remain at PCM for six months, then move to other locations.

The studio probably will operate in three different locations over the next 18 to 24 months in order to gather opinions of Atlanta residents as to their ideas for the city in the future.

“It will be a location where we can involve people in the big city design project we brought Ryan Gravel in to help with,” Keane said at the Feb. 23 meeting of the Atlanta City Council’s Community Development Committee.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced Jan. 21 that Gravel was hired as project manager of the Atlanta City Design Project. Gravel is the urban planner who wrote his 1999 masters thesis at Georgia Tech on a redevelopment plan that evolved into the Atlanta BeltLine.

Here’s how the statement issued by the mayor’s described the project:

Ryan Gravel

Ryan Gravel will lead the Atlanta City Design Project, which is to begin at Ponce City Market in space donated by PCM’s developer. Credit: File/facebook.com

  • “This new project, under the direction of the Department of Planning and Community Development, will envision what Atlanta should look like decades from now, as well as guide future decisions on the growth and development of the city….
  • “The Atlanta City Design Project will create a plan to guide how Atlanta can grow equitably and sustainably while maintaining its core character. The Project will incorporate public engagement and input to begin this summer….
  • “The Atlanta City Design Project will promote sustainable design that incorporates the social, economic and environmental needs of an Atlanta that can be one of the most livable cities in the country.”

The design studio, and how it functions, will be a critical component of the process.

“It will be super user friendly,” Keane said of the studio. “There will be staff there. There will be an aspect of it that’s a retail situation, where you’re greeted and oriented as to what is going on. We will program it for specific things – meetings, or talks, or charette-type sessions around various topics.”

Ponce City Market

The adaptive reuse of a Sears warehouse into a mixed use project makes Ponce City Market a great place to begin the Atlanta City Design Project, said Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane. Credit: sweetsavant.com

The committee approved the proposal unanimously. But only after a fair amount of discussion about parking. It’s not free at PCM and not plentiful in the neighborhood.

Atlanta Councilmember Natalyn Archibong emphasized that parking is at a premium at PCM and in the surrounding area. She asked Keane if the city had asked Jamestown to provide parking for residents who visit the design studio.

Keane readily concurred that parking is a challenge in the Ponce de Leon Avenue corridor, as it is in other areas of the city. Keane’s response indicated that he thinks the PCM location will serve to entice residents to travel there by bicycle or transit.

“Ponce City Market is such a great model for Atlanta in so many ways,” Keane said. “The reality of parking in the city is it’s going to become more and more of a premium. This is a taste of the future.”

Atlanta resident Ron Shakir contended that the lack of parking at PCM will be an impediment to public participation.

“How are going to get to that side of town,” Shakir interjected at the end of the discussion.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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