About This Site


City on the Verge, by Atlanta native Mark Pendergrast, will be published in hardback by Basic Books officially on May 16, 2017, although copies may be available several weeks before that date.

Pendergrast, who lives in Vermont now, will be in Atlanta the following week to host several events, including a speech at the Carter Center on May 23. See all upcoming events

Mark would be glad to hear from readers and hopes that this website will provide a forum for discussing the city’s future and issues it faces, as well as providing excerpts from the book. He will be soliciting guest blog posts to promote thoughtful discussions.

About the Book

Atlanta is on the verge of tremendous rebirth-or inexorable decline. A kind of Petri dish for cities struggling to reinvent themselves, Atlanta has the highest income inequality in the country, gridlocked highways, suburban sprawl, and a history of racial injustice. Yet it is also an energetic, brash young city that prides itself on pragmatic solutions.

Today, the most promising catalyst for the city’s rebirth is the BeltLine, which the New York Times described as “a staggeringly ambitious engine of urban revitalization.” A long-term project that is cutting through forty-five neighborhoods ranging from affluent to impoverished, the BeltLine will complete a twenty-two-mile loop encircling downtown, transforming a massive ring of mostly defunct railways into a series of stunning parks connected by trails and streetcars.

Acclaimed author Mark Pendergrast presents a deeply researched, multi-faceted, up-to-the-minute history of the biggest city in America’s Southeast, using the BeltLine saga to explore issues of race, education, public health, transportation, business, philanthropy, urban planning, religion, politics, and community.

An inspiring narrative of ordinary Americans taking charge of their local communities, City on the Verge provides a model for how cities across the country can reinvent themselves.

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About the Author

Mark PendergrastMark Pendergrast was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the fourth of seven children in a family that valued civil rights, the environment, sailing, reading, and games of chase and charades. He earned a B.A. in English literature from Harvard, taught high school and elementary school, then went back to Simmons College for a masters in library science and worked as an academic librarian—all the while writing freelance articles for newspapers and magazines. In 1991, he began writing books full time, which allows him to follow his rather eclectic interests.

Pendergrast’s books have been published in 15 languages. For God, Country & Coca-Cola was named a notable book of the year by the New York Times, and Discover Magazine chose Mirror Mirror as one of the top science books of the year. Pendergrast has given speeches to professional groups, business associations, and college audiences in the United States, Canada, the U.K., and Germany. He has appeared on dozens of television shows, including the Today Show, CBS This Morning, and CNN, and has been interviewed on over 100 radio programs, including All Things Considered, Marketplace, and many other public radio shows. He lives in Colchester, Vermont.

City on the Verge is Pendergrast’s third book related to the city of Atlanta, following For God, Country and Coca-Cola, a history of the soft drink, and Inside the Outbreaks, a history of the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the CDC.

LEARN MORE: markpendergrast.com

Praise for City on the Verge

Other than Atlantans interested in their roots, current socioeconomic challenges and future growth, as well as planners, sociologists, community developers and the like, who should read City on the Verge? The answer is anybody who recognizes the imperative of building more sustainable cities and who would appreciate an engaging urban history explaining how the BeltLine project came about, in tandem with alternating chapters exploring relevant Atlanta history in key areas such as race and public health.

Marilyn GatesNew York Journal of Books

Offering both an account of Atlanta’s tumultuous history and an anatomical breakdown of the BeltLine project so far, Pendergrast situates City on the Verge within the larger context of urban America’s future. A must-read for urban-planning junkies, it should also appeal to those interested in community building and the oft-charged politics of the built environment.

Seven Days

The story of this era's American renewal is mainly being played out in its cities. And the story of Atlanta's effort to remake itself, around its ambitious and visionary BeltLine project, is one of the most significant and evocative of today's urban dramas. Mark Pendergrast does a wonderful job of connecting the details of his native city's successes – and struggles – with the implications for cities in the rest of the country and around the world.

James Fallowsnational correspondent for The Atlantic

Atlanta is creating something unique among American cities: a green network of more than 20 new or expanded parks occupying 1,300 acres, connected by multi-use trails and new transit lines, encircling the entire city and connecting 45 neighborhoods. City on the Verge describes how this BeltLine, for which I prepared the initial master plan, overcame financing problems, litigation, power struggles, politics, property rights, and topographical reality, to become a major recreational resource that is already enhancing the daily life for tens of thousands of Atlantans.

Alexander Garvinarchitect, city planner, and author of What Makes a Great City

In the late 20th century, metro Atlanta became the fastest growing human settlement in world history; the poster child of sprawl. With the building of the rail-and-trail BeltLine it will once again lead the country, but toward a walkable urban future. Every metro area in the country will consider building a BeltLine. Pendergrast’s book is required reading to understand the future of metropolitan America.

Christopher Leinbergermetropolitan land use strategist and author of The Option of Urbanism

Atlanta colleagues used to joke that Atlanta was the “Public Health Capital of the US” because it had CDC, the Carter Center, and good hospitals. “No,” I would argue, “There aren’t enough sidewalks, scarcely anywhere to walk, and parks are too few and poorly accessible. The place seems built only for car drivers and country club members. In Pendergrast’s excellent book, we see how Atlanta is going from a fat city to a healthy one with the help of the BeltLine and good leadership.

Dr. Richard Jacksonformer Director, CDC National Center for Environmental Health, and author of Designing Healthy Communities

Atlanta is indeed a City on the Verge, as Mark Pendergrast observes -- it aspires to remake itself into a vital, sustainable, livable mecca. Pendergrast weaves together lessons in urban design, local politics, history and human nature that pull the reader in like a mystery. His book reinforces the famous Margaret Meade quote about the ability of a small group of dedicated people to bring about change.

Dennis Creechco-founder of Southface Energy Institute

City on the Verge tells the story of the many Atlantas that are coming together through the creation of the Atlanta BeltLine. While this convergence is at times painful and uncomfortable, it is also long overdue. Thanks to Mark Pendergrast for presenting his insightful observations about our past, our present and the opportunity before us as we approach the future.

Michael HalickiExecutive Director, Park Pride

City on the Verge is a must read for city-builders, urbanists, and anyone who cares about our future. Sunbelt cities like Atlanta are booming, attracting people from across the country and remaking themselves from sprawling suburban areas to more dynamic urban centers. With a journalist’s eye for detail and a writerly knack for great story-telling, Mark Pendergrast takes us inside the forces and actors that are transforming Atlanta and the urban world we live in.

Richard Floridaauthor of The Rise of the Creative Class, The New Urban Crisis, and other books