Hollowell Parkway: Atlanta’s next possible development hotspot avoided fall into decay

By David Pendered

When homebuyers start looking to purchase a place in the communities to be built over the next five years along Atlanta’s Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, they’ll discover a corridor that didn’t fall as far as some others and is already on a path toward recovery.

Hollowell Parkway, good brick

Some of the commercial buildings along Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway are aged, but the brick and mortar on many of them appears to be in good repair. Credit: Kelly Jordan

A happenstance alignment of public and private investments helped support, during Atlanta’s decades of urban decay, a road that stretches some six miles between Northside Drive and I-285. These investments include a MARTA rail station, two major health clinics, and a scattering of vibrant commercial and industrial sites.

In addition, the parkway abuts areas that have already been retooled, including the phalanx of mixed use developments emanating from the vortex of Howell Mill Road and Marietta Street.

In terms of reported crime, the crime rate in the area spanning a quarter-mile on either side of the parkway dropped in 2017 compared to 2016, according to a report the Atlanta Police Department produced for SaportaReport.

The incidence of major crimes is down 10 percent during that period. Car thefts and thefts from vehicles dropped significantly. Rape is one category of crime that increased, and the rise accompanied a new definition of rape. The FBI has expanded the definition from penetration of a woman by a man, to penetration of a woman or man by a man, woman or foreign object.

Hollowell Parkway, passerby

Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway is part of an interstate highway that attracts a diverse group of travelers, including this motorist who passed a purple building with a sign on the front door that reads, ‘Private Club House Members Only”. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway probably benefits from having been on the minds of planners for years. The Atlanta Regional Commission has funded at least one study by the city, and the Georgia Department of Transportation did an evaluation that resulted in intersection and sidewalk improvements. Atlanta now is conducting meetings to improve the streetscape, according to signs posted on poles.

Georgia Tech graduate student Christy Dodson has recently released a paper that offers this insight of past plans: So many of them do a great job looking at silos, such as transportation or parks, but they forget the bigger picture – “The consideration of the daily lives of people within the communities and the need for a vibrant, active, accessible public realm.”

Dodson points to the refurbished intersection of the parkway and Marietta Boulevard as an example of a road project that’s a great improvement for the truck drivers passing through the neighborhood. But, as Dodson contends, it is tone deaf to the needs of most anyone who spends any time in the area.

Hollowell Parkway, intersection with Marietta Blvd.

Truckers find it easy to navigate the retooled intersection of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway and Marietta Boulevard. A new study by a Georgia Tech student contends the intersection is not easy for those who walk along the corridor. Credit: David Pendered

On Monday, trucks had no trouble turning on and off the parkway, likely traveling between I-285 and the warehouses near the railroad yards. Drivers honked at a man on a motorized wheelchair as he crossed the parkway in a crosshatch. A pedestrian had no trouble crossing the abutting North Avenue, which is lightly traveled at this edge of Maddox Park.

Many commercial buildings lining the parkway are old, some so old that their dates of construction aren’t listed on Fulton County property records. But many are well maintained – buildings are painted, asphalt lots are swept clean. Storefronts are open and customers come and go without giving signs of milling about or wandering down the street to loiter.

The parkway benefits from its proximity to the renewal programs sponsored by the Westside Future Fund, which is retooling two neighborhoods closer to Mercedes Benz Stadium. Likewise, the parkway is to benefit from the Atlanta BeltLine, which is to cross the parkway a short distance east of MARTA’s Bankhead Station. The future water reservoir and BeltLine park, to be built at the former Vulcan rock quarry, is a short distance north of the parkway.

The public entities that have helped maintain the parkway include MARTA’s Bankhead rail station and a neighborhood health center operated by Grady Health System, the Asa Yancey Health Center. Private entities include the gas stations, restaurants and retail shops that flank the eastern end of the parkway, and the industrial trucking and trash facilities located near the I-285 interchange.

Hollowell Parkway, decay

Not all buildings along Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway are ripe for retrofit. The green sign on this building warns that the fire marshal has determined, ‘this structure is dangerous and unsafe.’ Credit: Kelly Jordan

Not to be overlooked is the Good Samaritan Health Center, which on a webpage offers the following sobering thought: “The average life expectancy for someone living in the communities we serve is 13 years less than that of their neighbors in other areas of Atlanta.”

The center’s founder is pediatrician Dr. Bill Warren, a great-grandson of Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler. He started offering health services in a Downtown church in 1998 and the growing service moved in 2009 to the facility on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.

The parkway formerly was known as Bankhead Highway and was renamed to honor Civil Rights leader Donald Lee Hollowell. He may best be remembered for his major role in the desegregation of the University of Georgia, and he also was involved in lawsuits to desegregate Atlanta Public Schools and to free the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. from jail following King’s arrests for protests.

The parkway’s current development posture doesn’t suggest that it’s on the verge of blossoming overnight into something akin to the neighborhoods around the Historic Fourth Ward Park. Prices there have skyrocketed over the past dozen years. The land along Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway isn’t at that stage.

As residential developer Steve Brock said last month, land prices along the parkway are low enough that he can sell condos at the pending The Finley development at a price less than that of the same size and quality of a unit at his company’s Westside Station development.

 

Donald Lee Hollowell

Civil Rights attorney Donald Lee Hollowell (center, left) speaks with reporters during the 1961 desegregation of the University of Georgia, in which he represented Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the first Afrian Americans to be admitted to UGA. Credit: georgiaencyclopedia.org

 

The rate of major crimes has decreased along the Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway corridor in 2017 compared to 2016, according to a report by the Atlanta Police Department. Credit: Atlanta Police Department

 

Hollowell Parkway, wheelchair

Motorists honked at a man in a motorized wheelchair as he crossed Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, at Marietta Boulevard, on Monday. Credit: David Pendered

 

Hollowell Parkway, coffee shop on Marietta Street

The first residential development planned along Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, The Finley, is a short commute from the coffee shops and other establishments stretching out from the intersetion of Howell Mill Road and Marietta Street. Credit: 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. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

12 replies
  1. edwin mcbrayer says:

    You overlooked the Proctor Creek Greenway being built by PATH from the MARTA station, through Westside Park to West Highlands. I need to take you on a tour.Report

    Reply
  2. angela moss says:

    As a resident and business owner on DL hollowell for over 30 yrs,l am glad to see growth in our area.we have a lot of talented well meaning people in our community-people that are truly passionate about the “Westside”. We did not move here because it’s trendy or convenient, we live here and stayed here and held it down thru the 80s and crack in the 90s.most of us didn’t stay hoping that someone would save us and see our value, hoping that people would see that we’re just hard working folk trying to make a living and raise our families. So now as you drive thru the ” New Westside “remember those of us that are here and in it for the long haul.Report

    Reply
  3. Ctfatlanta says:

    Agreed. But the tidal wave is building. Greenway + Beltline + Mercedes Benz Stadium communities ‘redevelopment’ + etc etc etc. Any locals leasing a business need help buying it now. Any home renters who want to stay, need help buying their place now.Report

    Reply
  4. Chris Johnston says:

    Let’s revisit this subject in five years. I expect we will then find little positive change has occurred, except at the end closest to downtown.
    This neighborhood has been one of Atlanta City’s versions of Fort Apache The Bronx for many decades.Report

    Reply
  5. Tania Tompkins says:

    Hopefully, developers are looking at the west side of the 4-lane Hollowell Parkway near I285. It is a highly travelled corridor between Cobb and Douglas counties with Fulton. If properties along the entire Hollowell corridor, I285 to GA Tech, would be rehabbed and improved, the city then invites young families, millennials, transplants, and more investors to come and live. What a boost to the city’s tax base this could be. Also, the neighborhood of Historic COLLIER HEIGHTS is adjacent to Hollowell, near I 285. Many have stayed and many are moving in, in hopes of economic development AND a short commute into downtown.Report

    Reply

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