Atlanta is starting to think about how the city will look if its population inside city limits doubles to over 1 million in the coming decades. Residents will hear Arthur C. Nelson, a University of Arizona planning professor and expert on urban growth and demographics, say how close that figure is to what they should actually expect as part of a public discussion Thursday night. Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane will join Nelson and Ryan Gravel, the urban designer and visionary for the Atlanta Beltline (a walking/running/biking path under construction to connect several city neighborhoods), to ask “How Big Can Atlanta Be?”
“The city’s growth has been pretty static, growing slowly, compared to the region,” Keane told Creative Loafing Atlanta. “What we’re saying is over the next 25 or 30 years, that won’t be the case. That’s what we’re finding. But we want someone else to come in … to tell us what he sees and whether we’re being too optimistic or not aggressive enough.”
Thursday’s talk is part of an ongoing larger City Design Project that has drawn residents, businesses, and elected officials in to help decide how Atlanta should prepare for a growing population and how the city should look in the future. The intent is to support growth while also protecting neighborhoods and making Atlanta open and available to everyone. Nelson’s findings will eventually guide a rewrite of the city’s zoning code, the blueprint for Atlanta’s growth. The complicated and long-overdue rewrite will be a first for a city that has spent decades reacting to growth rather than planning for it.
“The idea of the City Design Project is a physical manifestation of the number we’re shooting for,” Keane says. “Over the course of the coming months we’ll be basing our work on a goal of population growth. That’s why we started this, to have a reasonable, defendable and aspirational goal for the city. Then we literally build a model off of that. How would the city physically accommodate that?”
Proper planning and subsequent policy making will ideally address the social and racial inequity that comes with reportedly being the nation’s fifth most gentrified city, a symptom of Atlanta’s reportedly nation-leading income inequality. Progressive non-profit Goodie Nation, founded by Joey Womack and Justin Dawkins, is bringing together designers, developers, and project managers to create sustainable solutions to problems like waste reduction in Charlotte, and gentrification in Atlanta.
With major funding from Google and guidance from a board of directors made up of Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, Earl Coleman, Greg Clay, and Jewel Burks, the mission of Goodie Nation is to build tribes of change makers and entrepreneurs to engage in an innovative process to help under-served communities globally. The “Ideation” phase of the process will crowd-source solutions to problems created by gentrification on September 10, and the “Hackathon” phase will feature teams of volunteers from various professions working to manifest marketable products and services from the solutions during the weekend of October 14-16.