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Midtown Alliance Taps Global Experts for New “Public Life” Action Plan

Effort will create the business case for more public space throughout Midtown

09/01/2022

BY BRIAN CARR

Midtown Alliance and Gehl Studio have announced a new effort to enhance public life in Midtown. The work will include creating a network of new public spaces at various sizes and designs that are flexible and adaptable, a programming and activation playbook for Midtown public spaces, and toolkits to make building edges more vibrant and active, including evolved retail façade and outdoor dining strategies.

Examining Midtown's Need for More Open Space

The 1.2 square mile district has experienced unprecedented growth over the past 20-plus years, accelerated by a red-hot real estate market.  This has brought more buildings and tens of thousands of people but very little new public space.

"Roughly one-tenth of one percent of the overall land area that comprises the Midtown Improvement District is plazas and park spaces," said Midtown Alliance President and CEO Kevin Green. "To achieve our goals as an exceptional urban place, we must integrate more places for people into Midtown's urban fabric. This project will help make the business case for more spaces that foster robust public life as development activity continues to surge."

The 189-acre Piedmont Park - among the largest parks in the City of Atlanta - is a jewel, but only represents one piece of the puzzle. It forms Midtown’s eastern boundary but falls beyond the 10-minute walking range for most people who spend time in Midtown that the Trust for Public Land recognizes as a determinant of a place's quality of life. Today, Midtown only has 1.2 acres of permanently protected open space. Midtown Alliance has demonstrated success leading partnerships with the City of Atlanta, MARTA and private property owners to rejuvenate various spaces with public art, games, seating, wayfinding, and performances, among other active uses. 

Building on Concepts Introduced at Midtown Alliance's Annual Meeting 

The 2022 Midtown Alliance Annual Meeting discussed the importance of gathering places and featured podium remarks from a subject expert at Gehl Studio. Matthew Lister, Managing Partner at Gehl Studio in New York, who has previously consulted with the City of Atlanta's Department of Community Planning, spoke about Midtown's potential to become a standout example in the southeast as a place designed for people. He noted, "Mixed-use districts with human-scaled public space networks are going to be the places that are most attractive and successful in a post-pandemic world."

"Public life is what a collective group of people create when they live their lives outside of their homes, their businesses and their cars," said Lister. "And Midtown Atlanta can be a place where people can create and participate in a more dynamic, a more connected, a more balanced, a more human life together."

Background Work to Begin Later this Month

The consulting engagement is funded by the Midtown Improvement District and will be informed by a steering committee, beginning with an on-the-ground assessment of existing conditions and learning from global best practices for delivering quality public space to support robust public life. In addition, the 2022 Midtown Community Survey - a research project conducted every three years by Midtown Alliance to gauge attitudes, perceptions and priorities about the district - includes several questions this year to measure the community's support for public open spaces and amenities. 

Watch this space for more information about the Public Life study and how you can get involved.

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