How We’re Creating More Predictable People Energy on Midtown Streets and Sidewalks
By Brian Carr, Director of Marketing and Communications, Midtown Alliance
I met recently with a restaurateur who bravely opened his wine and coffee bar on Peachtree Street during the depths of the pandemic. We talked about foot traffic and learning the cadence of his dining crowds. And his candid observation was that after nearly two years of being in business – two years of whipsawing, as crowds went away from Midtown and on their return have created new patterns of activity that still don’t seem settled – there was no real baseline to tell him what normal patronage should look like.
Predictability is not gone from everything. But it feels like it has become less attainable for some things. When it comes to predictable people energy, we’re working with the information we have at hand to define where the challenges in our city fall today on a scale of formidable to feasible. Here’s what we know of late in Midtown Atlanta: we spent a lot of time this year creating new ways for people to get outside and experience their city. In fact, our team produced more community events over the past 12 months than any prior year we can recall. And what we did is beginning to make an impact to draw people to Midtown.
Here are three learnings from this work that are certain to propel our efforts into the new year.
1. Make the Street-Level Experience Stickier
Our staff focused more of our energies in 2022 on what we could deliver quickly. We directed more of our resources this year to creating excellent open spaces that positively impact the district. In fact, some of the biggest wins from 2022 have happened in the spaces between buildings, where the pent-up demand for gathering space was obvious. From parks and parklets to plazas and play areas, we cut the ribbon on nearly 40K combined square feet of updated publicly-accessible open space in 2022. We also unveiled more than a half dozen new public art installations as a result of partnerships with Midtown property owners. And people who spend time in Midtown have soaked these amenities up. In the days before the construction barriers officially came down at the new off-leash dog park at Peachtree and 10th Streets, excited dog owners scaled the fences and stealthily opened the gates for their dogs to play.
2. Try New Approaches to Events and See What Resonates
Our team filled the community event calendar to the brim with more than two dozen community events in 2022, from Food Truck Thursdays and live music performances to an outdoor movie screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and hands-on workshops conducted by Midtown artists-in-residence. 2022 proved to be a great year to experiment with events and activities to bring people outside unlike any we’d ever attempted before. Some were quieter in terms of headcount. Others were packed with people. Everything presented a chance to study and learn. For example, some Food Truck Thursday events were planned around a lunchtime crowd of daytime workers, but got an unexpected lift from residents in the area when we shifted the hours more toward dinnertime. It’s fun to get to use Midtown as a living laboratory for programming.
3. Tap Into Partnerships to Make it All Come Together
The work on spaces and programming has brought all kinds of partnerships to bear, from curating local music talent via Zero Mile Productions to pairing MODA pop-up activities outside with food trucks on 16th Street. We worked with private property owners to get murals and rejuvenated publicly accessible open spaces to happen. The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and MARTA stepped up with commitments that burnish Midtown’s reputation as a place to appreciate art. Residential and office buildings got the word out to everyone about where the good times are.
To be sure, there are many issues that keep city leaders awake at night when they ponder what’s needed to create more predictable people energy on the streets. Getting workers back into the office more often. Strengthening community bonds. Reducing violent crime and property crime. Keeping Atlanta’s economic development momentum going. Enhancing quality of life for everyone. But the experiences of 2022 in Midtown have shown us that we can influence these issues, and make people energy more certain. And we know the best is yet to come. Find out more about our big ideas for creating active public life in Midtown – and your role in them – at our 2023 Midtown Alliance Annual Meeting, happening February 8, 2023 at The Fox Theatre.