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Colorful New Performance Space Lands at North Ave. MARTA Station Plaza

Network of partnerships delivers Midtown’s newest community gathering spot


Image Credit: Carla Contreras

A constellation of partners has teamed up to transform the North Ave. MARTA station plaza into an inviting space that brings art and programming for the diverse community members it serves.

The plaza – situated at Ponce de Leon Ave. and West Peachtree St., currently experiences limited activity, presenting an opportunity for increased community engagement. This month, it will become Midtown’s newest outdoor public gathering spot, anchoring the south end of Midtown with a performance stage fabricated from a shipping container, community events, a vibrant mural created by a local artist, and more.

Midtown Alliance received a $40,000 Community Placemaking Grant to catalyze this transformation, awarded by Project for Public Spaces, the organization that has been creating community-powered public spaces worldwide for almost 50 years. The grant is funded by Niantic, a tech company focused on engaging the community in the real world through their games, including Pokémon GO. In addition to direct grant funds, the award includes technical assistance from Project for Public Spaces from community engagement through design and implementation.

Community Input Guided Vision for Plaza + Programming

Throughout the two-year engagement, the Project for Public Spaces team has been central to orchestrating partnerships and framing the community vision for the North Ave. MARTA plaza’s future. They convened a series of onsite meetings with Midtown Alliance, MARTA, and community members to co-author a shared vision for the plaza’s future. In these discussions, strong interest emerged for a multi-use outdoor destination that can draw people in and build on Midtown’s identity as a hub for the arts.

Community visioning session held in 2022, led by the team from Project for Public Spaces

“We selected the North Avenue MARTA station in partnership with Midtown from more than 170 applicants as the recipient of a competitive Community Placemaking Grant for the project’s special partnerships and great placemaking potential,” says Project for Public Spaces’ Director of Projects Elena Madison. “We are thrilled to see creative placemaking in action, with art bringing vibrancy and dynamism to transform a transit hub into an active community place with a unique mural and a stage with performances and community events for residents, transit riders, students, visitors and office workers.”

Latest Transit Station Effort Via Longstanding Partnership with MARTA Artbound

Midtown Alliance and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority have partnered on multiple enhancement projects over the years that maximize the enjoyment of spaces outside transit stations where people spend time. Working in collaboration with MARTA’s Artbound program, Midtown Alliance and the Midtown Improvement District have implemented colorful public art installations, activity spaces, seating, and other amenities on MARTA property.

"This collaborative art initiative will revitalize the space and help foster community connections, further enriching the vibrancy of Midtown, said MARTA Director of Art in Transit Katherine Dirga. "MARTA is excited about this artistic partnership."

These endeavors are part of an overarching strategy in Midtown to strengthen invitations for public life by developing a cohesive network of outdoor open spaces where people can gather. Relative to the large number of people who spend time in Midtown each day, the district has few permanent public spaces. Rejuvenating underused plazas at MARTA stations benefits transit riders, adjacent street-level businesses, and community members alike. The spaces also support the local arts economy by connecting talented artists with opportunities to create visual and performance art for everyone to enjoy.

Image Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The North Ave. MARTA station opened in 1981. Today, the station serves about 15K transit riders each day, in addition to 25K people who live in, work in, or visit venues within a short walk of the facility. Reshaping the experience on the plaza outside the North Ave. MARTA station for a diverse group of users will deliver a range of community benefits.

What You'll See at the Refreshed Plaza

The first phase of improvements at the 6,500-square-foot plaza brought upgraded seating, a fresh coat of paint, and new landscaping. The next phase, currently underway, will introduce a 30-foot shipping container that functions as public art and during events it will transform into a performance stage with tables and chairs, umbrellas and other amenities. With the physical infrastructure in place, the plaza will become a buzzing activity center on the south end of the district offering a schedule of music, dance, spoken word, and other performances hosted by Midtown Alliance and MARTA Artbound.

A look at the disused plaza before enhancements arrived

“The plaza is accessible, but few people spend time there today because there is nothing to see or do,” said Ansley Whipple, Midtown Alliance Project Manager for Programming and Activation. “Through these improvements, we hope to make it recognizable as a community asset where people can gather and build social connections. We also hope to enhance the transit experience and encourage more people to ride MARTA.”

Fortune 500 Neighbor Plus Local Artist and Design Firm Contribute to Project

Located across the street from the venue, Atlanta-based Fortune 500 company Norfolk Southern is also a project funding partner, contributing $65,000 for mural art and plaza enhancements. The railroad company maintains a robust corporate art collection that unifies its employees around company values, with pieces that reflect industry, innovation, and the communities they serve. In addition, Norfolk Southern operates an artist-in-residence program, providing studio space at its Midtown headquarters where a local artist works for a two-year term. The company partnered with Midtown Alliance to commission its current artist-in-residence, Carla Contreras, for a mural at the North Ave. MARTA station plaza.

Image Credit: Carla Contreras

Contreras, an Atlanta based American-Ecuadorian multidisciplinary visual artist, has created a dynamic and bright concept titled “Samaras” that explores the beauty of maple seeds blowing in the wind. The visual message celebrates the hope, renewal, and energy found in Midtown’s public spaces through artistic expression that elevates the urban experience for everyone.

Providing part of the canvas for Contreras’ work is Atelier7, the Atlanta design firm that also brought shipping container projects to the Atlanta BeltLine Marketplace and Pittsburgh Yards. Atelier7 repurposes these metal boxes into various uses, from vending kiosks to container parks, offices, art studios, and even residences. The shipping container headed for the North Ave. MARTA plaza will function as both a performance stage and storage unit for event production equipment.

Image Credit: Atelier7

Join us for a free kickoff event June 12.

Construction and mural installation at the plaza began in early April and was completed in late-May, with a community launch party event slated for June 12. The event will feature live entertainment, food trucks and more. RSVP at