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Atlanta’s vision for development aligns with King’s notion of ‘beloved community’

king family

Atlanta's new vision for guiding development harkens to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of the 'beloved community.' The first image in the book is of King's family: The Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.; Dexter King (son); Alberta Williams King (mother); Coretta Scott King (wife); Bernice King (daughter); Martin Luther King III (son); Martin Luther King, Jr.; Yolanda King (daughter). Credit: Atlanta City Design

By David Pendered

The title says it all, and there’s no mistaking the intention to align Atlanta’s newly minted long-range development plan with the notions of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “The Atlanta City Design: Aspiring to the Beloved Community.”

king family

Atlanta’s new vision for guiding development harkens to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the ‘beloved community.’ The first image in the book is of King’s family: The Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.; Dexter King (son); Alberta Williams King (mother); Coretta Scott King (wife); Bernice King (daughter); Martin Luther King III (son); Martin Luther King, Jr.; Yolanda King (daughter). Credit: Atlanta City Design

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said as much when he, planning Commissioner Tim Keane, and project manager Ryan Gravel unveiled the e-book at a Sept. 6 meeting in the Cascade community, in Southwest Atlanta.

“At the core of this book, you will see Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community,” Reed said. “That really is the core of what we’re trying to do. This is a once in a lifetime moment.”

The message in the book is both inspirational and aspirational, in keeping with the Atlanta style. The project started in January 2016.

The 410-page book begins by setting Atlanta in a big-picture perspective. By providing a sense of Atlanta’s place in the geography and history of the United States, the book lays a foundation for the granular work of managing the wants and needs of the projected influx of new city residents.

Reed portrays the project as a logical way to prepare for the tsunami of new residents expected to move into Atlanta in the coming 20 years. Forecasts calls for Atlanta to accommodate about 1.2 million of the nearly 2 million addtional folks expected to call the region home. Millennials are drawn to the Atlanta BeltLine, corporations are drawn by the labor force educated at area universities, and MARTA is poised to begin a $2.4 billion expansion – the largest in the history of the transit system, Reed said.

atlanta city design, chattahoochee river

‘The Atlanta City Design’ book begins by placing Atlanta in its place in geography and history. Credit: Atlanta City Design

“Growth always comes with hardships – rents rise, parking gets harder to find,” Reed said. “One hundred percent of successful cities have affordable housing issues. The answer to affordability is not to forget about having nice parks and trails or more grocery stores and expanded transit. I’m confident that, together, we can figure this all out.”

The book sets the stage for the discussion with a description of the beloved community. It reads, in part:

  • “As early as 1957, Dr. King described the outcome of the Movement and its highest aspiration in terms aimed not at political or economic power,but at the life of communities built on human decency and nonviolence. He said, ‘the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption … the aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community (Justice Without Violence, 1957). …
  • atlanta city design, people

    With purposeful planning, Atlanta can become a place characterized by three mantras: ‘Design for people; Design for nature; Design for people in nature.’ Credit: Atlanta City Design

    “With that as our goal, 20 years from now, we should be able to say that our city has grown not into a different kind of place, but into a better vision of itself – an Atlanta ever more confident of its identity and committed to its voice for peace in the world.”

Reed emphasized that a central mission of the design project is to ensure that city folks aren’t displaced by the expected influx of residents. Reed concluded his remarks by offering folks an economic incentive to stick with the city during the hardships of growth he had previously described.

Reed concluded his comments with these words:

  • “If you don’t remember anything else I’ve said … if you have a home in Southwest Atlanta, don’t sell it. Your cousins, your aunt, your children, your grandchildren – don’t sell it unless someone comes to the door and says, ‘Triple!’ I am telling you, I have a little more information than most of you. What is going on throughout Atlanta is unprecedented.”

Atlanta is in the process of obtaining hard copies of books to spread the message of the design project. The city issued a request for proposals for books that are to be available Nov. 1. Quantities are to range from 500 books to 1,500 books.


David Pendered

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.


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  1. brainstar8 September 12, 2017 10:16 am

    The vision sounds idyllic, but unless I missed it, I didn’t see references to fundamental lifestyle elements: safety; drivable streets and roads (for the foreseeable future, most people will not use public trans); improved public education; and the costs of utilities. As of now, in the part of the city where we live, power outages have become common.

    Just curious – how many people who write and blog for Saporta Report actually reside in the City of Atlanta?Report

  2. John R Naugle September 12, 2017 2:26 pm

    Greetings from Atlanta: City of Peace. David: Intrepid Reporter, your article was inspiring for numerous reasons. It’s fascinating to see that you published it on 9/11 when Hurricane “IRMAgeddon” was stomping through Dr. King’s birthplace. I actually had to call the 911-Emergency Services phone number because the high winds & heavy rain made a huge tree fall across a power line and the road, just 40 feet from the front door. Georgia’s Governor reported flooded streets and over 800,000 people without power, plus Atlanta had over 4,000 trees blown over.

    David, I published a “9.11 story” too and it even referenced the Beloved Community. Please check it out…

    “Gandhi & King — 09/11 Link!”


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