What do I love about new urbanism? It’s focus on human beings. That’s the root of the movement, really. Scaling urban areas to fit the human person, how we live, what we like to do, how we work, where we spend our time.
And that is why I loved reading Mark Pendergrast’s City on the Verge, which so well describes the challenges and opportunities that face Atlanta in the past, present, and coming years. Anyone who wants to understand new urbanism should read this book, which delves down to the neighborhood level and the people living there.
New urbanism a vision of everyday reality for people and what matters most to them—to us. It also looks at spaces in cities that need revitalization and re-imagine them to be the best they can be. A bright future.
New urbanism lies at the heart of two communities I’m passionate about: The Westside of Atlanta and Pinewood Forrest.
With the inclusion of long-time neighborhood residents, faith leaders, and Atlanta’s corporate community, there is a shared vision to help revitalize the Westside, an area rich in culture and history.
The Westside is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s global vision of The Beloved Community was conceived; it was his home when he was assassinated and was the cradle to the civil rights movement.
King’s vision was one where people of different backgrounds could build a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human beings. His vision is a prescription for a healthy society today and tomorrow. It’s a passion for interconnectivity and unity, a commitment to new urbanist thought.
But it’s not just those, like King, Hollowell, Lowery, Boone, the public knows and remembers (in part through the roads names after them) who have history on the Westside of Atlanta. It’s the people who live there now—their families, their friends, their memories.
When we talk about new urbanism we’re not talking about revitalizing an area at the expense of the good people who live there. It’s not about displacement. Rather, it’s about a shared vision for a thriving area, of working together with those who know the area best.
When I think about redevelopment, I think of the beauty that comes from people from all walks of like uniting for a common cause. This kind of work can and does bring life and hope to the city. I’ve seen it first hand and am so proud to partner with those who share that vision.
The work of those associated with the Westside Future Fund has taught me so much. And those lessons have fueled my imagination as I work at Pinewood Forrest, a new mixed-community development on Atlanta’s south side (Fayetteville), built on 234 acres, created with work, life, and collaboration in mind.
I love how my friend Rob Parker describes new urbanism. Rob is the president of Pinewood Forrest. He says it’s a “movement to restore the best of our traditional neighborhoods where we used to live, work, and play; where everything was within a ten-minute walk.”
I could talk all day about the amazing features of Pinewood Forrest. But all those exciting features can be distilled into the fact that a place like Pinewood Forrest is really about creating inspired spaces for people to thrive at life as a whole.
These two projects demand a lot of time and hard work by a great many people. They require large amounts of resources, both financial and material. They require us to roll up our sleeves and dig in.
But when the end result brings families together, joins creative minds together on work projects, gives people a place they can love and call home, the work becomes a joy.
My dad (Truett) used to say, “It is when we stop doing our best work that our enthusiasm for the job wanes. We must motivate ourselves to do our very best, and by our example lead others to do their best as well.”
When we, together, dig into the task at hand, it’s contagious. People notice, and get inspired. People come together for a common purpose. The hard work of new urbanism requires us to do our best work. And that exhilarates me if for nothing else that we all can use a little inspiration and revitalization to make our communities even better.