Welcome to blogs related to my book, City on the Verge. I’m writing the first such essay, but I have asked a variety of guest bloggers to react to the book by writing from their own expertise, interest, and experience. These essays will be added weekly to this website, so stay tuned. I anticipate that this site can provide a forum for discussions of many different aspects of Atlanta and the wider metro area – and, indeed, of urban issues in general. Readers can also comment on the blogs. Ultimately, my most fervent desire is that these blogs and discussions help to inform crucial decisions that the city faces in the coming years.
In City on the Verge, I included two historical chapters (Chapter 2, “City on the Move,” and Chapter 4, “Two Atlantas: The Racial Divide”), explaining how this young city grew from a rowdy place called Terminus, at the end of a railroad line, to be the Queen City of the South. These two chapters focus on transportation and racial issues, both of which continue to haunt and inform virtually every other issue that the city faces, whether it be affordable housing, MARTA and other transportation plans, art, education, religion, parks, business, the film industry, or recreation.
Unless we know the past well and learn from it, we are very likely to repeat the mistakes we always seem to make as flawed humans, so I think those two historical chapters are extremely important. But most of the book is contemporary and forward-looking, tracing how the BeltLine came to be, and exploring neighborhoods around that loop, along with forays outside the Perimeter and into the downtown area. I tried, as best I could, to show how complex the BeltLine development has been, what enormous challenges it faced, and how different personalities and politics played out as it has slowly come into being. And, of course, it is really only just beginning. It is not clear how, when, or even if, the entire loop will be completed, and whether it will have streetcars running on it.
So, to provide a broad perspective – within the city limits of Atlanta itself about 455,000 people currently reside. After decades of white and black flight to the suburbs, people are now in reverse migration back to the city – a movement that is occurring nation-wide. Tim Keane, the relatively new Commissioner of Atlanta Planning and Community Development, thinks that the population could triple to 1.5 million within the next two decades. He has hired BeltLine visionary Ryan Gravel to lead the Atlanta City Design Project, figuring out how to accommodate this massive growth sustainably and equitably. A huge part of that effort will involve rewriting Atlanta zoning requirements.
I no longer live in Atlanta, where I grew up. My mother, three siblings, and numerous other relations still live there, and I visit frequently. So I have a kind of outsider-insider perspective, and I hope that from that viewpoint, I can help to foster a useful conversation about this city that is indeed on the verge of major changes.