Our 2020 Imperative: Breathing New Life into Public and Private Spaces
By Kevin Green, President and CEO, Midtown Alliance
In successful cities, there’s a growing demand to create quality public spaces that foster a civic identity so when you’re there, you know you’re there. Places that make you stop, take note of your surroundings and appreciate the moment enough that you can look back on the time you spent there and associate it with the city itself. Places that are available to all – and invite you in and make it easy to meet others, to play, or just sit back and people-watch.
According to our 2019 Midtown Community Survey, 95% of respondents feel that creating more smaller parks and open spaces throughout the district is important and would add to their experience. As we go forward into a new decade with historic growth continuing in Midtown, breathing new life into boring plazas (“blahzas”) and open spaces has never been more important. But in fast-growing places like Midtown, finding available — and affordable — land to create open spaces for art, activation and recreation is no easy task. It demands creativity and new partnerships to make the most of the available space in the public right-of-way and the space between buildings on private property. With this in mind, Midtown Alliance has a record number of projects slated to be constructed this year, and more in the coming years.
10th Street Park Enhancements: One example of a great partnership with private landowners is the 10th Street Temporary Park that Midtown Alliance leases from Dewberry Capital for $1 a year. This year, we’ll rotate out the “Autoeater” sculpture at the corner of Peachtree and 10th Street with a new piece, and we’re advancing plans to turn the footprint of the current park space into a series of “rooms” to include a small outdoor dog park, a play area for children of all ages and an activity zone for lawn games. We want this to be a thriving space where Midtown residents, workers and visitors drop in to play.
Commercial Row Commons: By trading a handful of on-street parking spaces for a wider sidewalk and small public plaza adjacent to food options, we can create a thriving new gathering place to enjoy a meal and catch up with friends. This project will be under construction in 2020.
15th Street Arts District Plaza: This year, we look forward to celebrating the return of the “Sabine Woman” sculpture by artist Dorothy Berge. The piece stood watch over the Midtown Arts District from 1968 until renovations began at Colony Square in recent years. It will be featured at the Northwest corner of 15th Street, along with new lighting and multi-purpose platforms to accommodate casual seating and small performances. When you get to this plaza space, you’ll know you’ve arrived in Atlanta’s heart of the arts.
These projects are significant, but they also represent a fraction of what is possible – and necessary to make Midtown and our City even more exceptional.
So, we’ll continue to move these projects forward, and we’re actively looking for more private property owners to partner with. All sides of activations have something to add to the community; smaller projects activations add a level of intimacy, and bigger is not always better.
So what if we got five of these types of projects implemented in different locations throughout the district each year for the next five years? Twenty-five new activations around Midtown would strengthen our retailers and restaurants and give people even more places to explore.
We think this is doable and worthy of our time and efforts in 2020. With new activities and open spaces, the district would be alive with things to do outside, which will bring people back to Midtown to create meaningful experiences for years to come.