George Dusenbury, Timothy J. Keane

By George Dusenbury, Georgia State Director for Trust for Public Land, and 

Timothy J. Keane, Commissioner, Department of City Planning, City of Atlanta

Have you taken in the view of Atlanta from the Jackson Street Bridge? It is undeniably one of the most incredible spots in Atlanta to take a photo. The sweeping skyline view from this vantage point has served as the backdrop for countless tourist selfies on Instagram, and it is THE spot for photos of couples announcing their engagement. It’s printed on postcards, featured on local newscasts and has even framed scenes of a zombie apocalypse in The Walking Dead. Yet the bridge from which these amazing images are taken, isn’t exactly an inviting place. It doesn’t encourage visitors to linger, to be inspired to explore our city more. Too often the crowds it draws spill into a too-wide street with an unnecessary middle turn lane that simply takes up space. But all of that is about to change.

Have you spent time around Atlanta’s Historic West End, a part of our city with incredibly diverse culture, amazing residential architecture and a rich legacy as one of Atlanta’s first business districts? White Street, which runs through the community, is currently underwhelming and overly broad—but it won’t be for much longer.  Residents see the road as an opportunity to tell their story through art and the creation of small gathering spaces. A chance to use asphalt as a canvas for capturing the rich texture of one of Atlanta’s historic neighborhoods.

These are just two examples of how placemaking—the process of creating quality places that people want to live, work, play and learn in, is transforming public spaces into vibrant areas that celebrate culture and increase accessibility. The Trust for Public Land and the City of Atlanta are working with residents to transform excess concrete and asphalt into vibrant community spaces through placemaking.  

It’s about making safer, more interesting and beautiful public spaces – streets in particular. Atlanta is a vibrant and growing city. In order to continue that progress and remain inclusive, it’s dedicated to enhancing its public realm. That mission is spearheaded by the Office of Mobility Planning and will increase multimodal access and livability for our beloved community. When we reimagine and reshape our city, we contribute to a culture of exploration so that every resident and visitor can appreciate all that our city has to offer.  

In December 2017, Atlanta’s Department of City Planning launched such an effort with pilot projects at Cascade Heights at Cascade and Beecher Road and North Highland Ave. NE and Amsterdam Ave. NE, led by the Office of Mobility Planning. During the planning and implementation of these pilot projects, The City of Atlanta announced the first Placemaking Program grants. The Jackson Street Bridge and West End projects were selected from a pool of 31 applications received in March 2018. The Department of City Planning partnered with The Trust for Public Land in 2018 to further develop the Placemaking Program to expand the program’s impact and replicate the ideas of placemaking elsewhere in the City.

Do you have a dull and underutilized area in your neighborhood that could become a vibrant gathering spot? An intersection that could be vastly improved with a little bit of planning and investment? We invite you to apply for support through the Placemaking Program. Applications are due Friday, March 29. The application and Program Guide are available online, and a public information session to ask questions and get more information about the program will be held Tuesday, February 26 at 6:30pm at the Atlanta Regional Commission in Peachtree Center (229 Peachtree St NE), convenient to the Peachtree Center MARTA station.

To be selected, proposed projects must be in the City of Atlanta, provide a clear safety benefit, creatively improve the existing use of space and have documented neighborhood support. After March 30th, the City will review all applications based on a scoring system found on page 12 of the Program Guide. Projects chosen to receive design help and funding will be announced in May 2019. The Department of City Planning has allocated $100,000 to oversee management and development of placemaking projects each year, and The Trust for Public Land is actively fundraising to support a goal of providing up to $100,000 in technical assistance and materials.

The Department of City Planning’s Office of Mobility Planning strives to provide Atlanta with a safe and reliable transportation system that enhances the City’s environment and economic vitality. The office’s vision is to shape the best Atlanta by connecting people to great places. The Trust for Public Land is a national organization committed to ensuring all people live within a ten-minute walk of a park; placemaking is an important element of reaching that goal. We have worked in Georgia for decades, helping to create public spaces from the Atlanta BeltLine to the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area.

Together, we can build momentum around placemaking and create more opportunities for community ideas to become a reality. If you love Atlanta as much as we do, join us by applying for support in your neighborhood today.

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