So sad: Midtown/Grady High’s front lawn becoming a parking lotAFTER: Midtown/Grady High's front lawn on July 11, 2021 as it's being turned into a parking lot (Photo by David Luse)
By Maria Saporta
It’s hard to believe this is actually happening.
Midtown (formerly known as Grady) High School’s historic front lawn is being turned into a parking lot.
Here we are in 2021 – in a city that is supposed to be opposed to creating new surface parking lots and converting green space to parking; in a city that is supposed to working against heat islands and climate change; in a city that’s supposed to be promoting alternative modes of transportation – walking, cycling, transit – to get around.
But the powers that be at Atlanta Public Schools were able to cut down old-growth trees and ramrod the parking lot onto Midtown/Grady High’s front lawn – despite minimal neighborhood involvement and despite the parking lot being detrimental to the city’s urban design.
We should know better in 2021.
After all, the Atlanta Public Schools is working to make the grounds of several of its schools into public green space that can add to the city’s overall parks infrastructure.
Midtown’s/Grady’s front lawn served as a wonderful green bridge between the community and Piedmont Park – providing a cooling amenity to the Midtown Garden District (the name of the surrounding neighborhood).
The High School also will be developing another surface parking lot just north of the former green front lawn adjacent to the new addition that is supposed to open up during the upcoming school year.
What lesson does that teach the students of Midtown/Grady High? And what message does that send to the community about how APS interfaces with its surrounding neighbors?
Now people walking between Midtown to the park will have to be on the lookout for cars coming in and out of the former front lawn, creating even a greater danger to pedestrians on the sidewalks or cyclists on the streets.
Sadly, there were other solutions that should have been considered.
An easy solution would have been to turn the city parking spaces along Charles Allen Drive from parallel parking to diagonal parking, which would have doubled the number of spaces on the street and removed the need for the parking lot on Midtown/Grady High’s front lawn.
A City of Atlanta-APS agreement could have reserved those spaces for the High School during school hours, and then those spaces would have been available to the general public on evenings and weekends.
Although I’m not a fan of more parking in the Midtown community, at least that solution would have repurposed existing asphalt rather than creating another parking lot.
Before writing this column, I did reach out to APS, which provided the following statement:
“In order to provide ample parking for the faculty and staff at Midtown High School, extra parking spaces have been added to the campus. This new parking facility also includes a full greenspace area, featuring various trees, plants and shrubs, that will add even more beauty to the aesthetics of the Midtown community.”
So, APS, which cut down trees in its front lawn and removed the natural green lawn that has adorned the school for decades, is going to landscape the land around the parking lot.
I’m sorry. I just don’t buy it.
We as a city deserve better. We deserve an Atlanta Board of Education that is much more sensitive to the relationship between the city’s schools and its neighborhoods. We deserve a city that converts parking lots into green space – not the other way around. And we deserve a city that is committed to creating an environment for non-vehicular modes of transportation.
Personally, it makes me especially sad.
In an earlier column, I did make an appeal to the city and APS to not turn the front lawn into a parking lot. Sadly, my words fell on deaf ears, and that makes me sad.
Now, as an across the street neighbor, I will have to live with the daily reminder of this loss of public green space. And it will be a constant reminder of our city’s/APS’ shortcomings to preserve a pedestrian-friendly and environmentally-friendly space for our residents and visitors.
Atlanta, we can do better than this.