Search results for "Atlanta"

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Park It

Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park gets a bland new redesign
The Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) has just released new renderings for the renovation of Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. Built for the 1996 Summer Olympics and located in the core of Atlanta's downtown, the 21-acre park is one of the city's most frequented green spaces, crowned at its north end by a trio of tourist magnets: the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, and the Children's Museum of Atlanta. Construction has already been underway for most of the year. The improvements focus on six specific areas of the park with staggered timelines for each. Phase One, which includes renovations of the West Lawn Promenade and the Fountain of Rings Plaza, is slated for completion in January 2018, while Phase Two, which includes a new events center, renovated amphitheater, streetside water feature, and Paralympic Plaza, is expected to wrap up in early 2019. The new renderings are also an improvement on those released in March 2017, which mostly depicted flatly nondescript grassy spaces with little appeal. Phase One largely targets footpaths and plazas. During this phase, a road that used to cut through the park, Andrew Young International Boulevard, will be completely pedestrianized. Many of the designs for the park leave much to be desired, with their monotoned pathways, expanses of shadeless lawn, and lack of seating or plant variance. Thankfully, some shade structures will be built near the Southern Company Amphitheater–in southern climes like Atlanta with year-round heat, temperature matters. According to the GWCCA, the park's legacy is twofold: to preserve and honor the Olympic Games of 1996, but also to ground development efforts downtown in an accessible public space. The organization was created in 1971 to create a convention center for downtown Atlanta, and now manages a number of properties around the park including the Georgia World Congress Center, the Georgia Dome, and the New Atlanta Stadium, as well as a conference center to the south in Savannah. Many cities left with vast, expensive spaces after hosting the Olympics face the question of how to repurpose and maintain them once the games are over–here, the GWCCA appears to have stuck to the model of keeping a banal park space to fuel corporate development at its fringes.
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Silicon of the South

Georgia Tech lab cultivates Atlanta’s high-tech building industry
Georgia Tech's Digital Building Lab (DBL) is at the forefront of AEC industry applications of emerging technologies, thanks in large part to founder Chuck Eastman’s groundbreaking work in building information modeling (BIM). New DBL director Dennis Shelden is positioning the Lab and Atlanta as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the built environment technology sector by cultivating partnerships between academia and industry. On October 2-6, the DBL will participate in BuiltTech Week, a week of panel discussions, workshops, and new initiatives presented in partnership with Supernova South, the Southeast’s largest and longest-running tech conference, and BuiltTech.com “Atlanta has all the ingredients necessary to become a leading center in high-tech applications to the built environment,” Shelden said. “Atlanta’s growth is driven by the intersection of technology development and real estate investment serving high tech.”  Examples of high-tech innovation abound, such as Tech Square at the edge of the Georgia Tech campus. Tech Square is home to numerous startups, entrepreneurship support programs such as ATDC, Venture Labs, The Garage and TechSquare Labs, as well as dozens of corporate incubators. Shelden is not alone in his vision for industry transformation. Fellow Atlanta innovator, K.P. Reddy, is co-founder of The Combine and Shadow Ventures, a venture firm focused on seed investing in BuiltTech companies.  The Combine is an industry leading incubator that helps traditional building industry companies launch startups and is working with the Digital Building Lab to incubate a regional BuiltTech network. “We see the BuiltTech market as one of the emerging leaders in technology entrepreneurship” said Reddy.  Reddy will be leading the BuiltTech programming at Supernova South.  Another BuiltTech Week collaborator is Dave Gilmore of DesignIntelligence. Prior to becoming the CEO of DesignIntelligence, Gilmore spent years in the technology worlds of Silicon Valley, Boston, and Tel Aviv, facilitating funding for startups and established firms to help their strategic growth. Gilmore said, “The industry is ripe for the sort of disruptive technology plays we’ve seen in other markets, and it’s exciting to see the local academic, research, commercial and government leadership coming together to tackle this opportunity.” What are the future models of practice for architects, engineers, and builders? How will the existing organization of the design and construction industry evolve to capitalize on new opportunities? Will outside players disrupt entrenched AEC culture or will AEC leaders learn to become more like entrepreneurs?  Shelden, Reddy, Gilmore and the many innovators at DBL will be tackling these challenges head-on during #BuiltTechWEEK 2017, which convenes in Atlanta on October 2-6. This first-of-a-kind event focuses on built environment technology as an emerging high-tech market. The inaugural #BuiltTech Week will culminate in Georgia Tech’s Digital Building Lab's annual symposium on the theme of “AEC Entrepreneurship: Creating the High Tech Building Economy” on October 5-6, 2017 at The Historic Academy of Medicine at Georgia Tech. 
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Water feature

First phase of Atlanta BeltLine’s reservoir and green space slated for 2019 opening
Last week, the City of Atlanta announced that the first phase of the Atlanta BeltLine's keystone project – a 400-foot deep former granite quarry proposed as a new reservoir and public greenspace – will open to the public in 2019. The Atlanta Beltline is a ring of former railways around the southern capital that is being redeveloped into a 22-mile ribbon of parkway that will eventually connect 45 neighborhoods. It is the single largest economic development project the city has ever undertaken. The Bellwood Quarry itself is an impressive site at a monumental scale, and has been featured in shows and movies like The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, and The Hunger Games.  The re-use of the quarry and parkland surrounding it, spanning 280 acres, is no small task. In partnership with the BeltLine, the Department of Watershed Management has drained the mineral pit of its standing water and is now boring a massive mile-long tunnel connecting it to the Chattahoochee River, with the end goal of providing Atlanta with 30 days of reservoir water rather than its current 5-day supply. Although the quarry is closed to the public for construction, it seems to be proceeding at a clip, and this announcement may be a hint that the process is being expedited in line with the end of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's term in November. After all, the quarry is a highly-anticipated legacy project. The RFP for design proposals for the park surrounding the reservoir closed yesterday after opening in late July. According to an anonymous source close to the project, the first phase of the Westside Reservoir Park will likely be a smaller prototype park on a small fraction of the total property, meant to garner public enthusiasm and draw investment while the larger reservoir project undergoes construction. Whether this pocket park will be completed by 2019 is a matter of skepticism within the organization, according to AN's source. One factor complicating matters is a recent shakedown in leadership: Paul Morris, the former CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., stepped down three weeks ago after a heated public controversy surrounding the organization's shaky commitment to affordable housing in new development around the park. However, Morris' replacement, Brian McGowan, brings a hefty amount of experience in civic and economic development to the seat, having formerly served as the Executive Vice President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, CEO of Invest Atlanta, and is now leaving a position as a Principal at international law firm Dentons. Whether the first chapter of Bellwood Quarry's extensive refurbishment will be open to the public by 2019 or not, the BeltLine and its partners have, at least for the time being, redirected public attention away from what's sure to be a long and drawn-out debate about what the BeltLine – with all its ecological, recreational, and economic benefits – will mean for surrounding neighborhoods in the long term. This is not a question limited to the BeltLine. Hopefully the project will spur lawmakers to push for more affordable housing than is currently proposed by ABI, which now works in tandem with the Atlanta Housing Authority. For the scale of the project – which circles the entirety of Metro Atlanta with a population of 5.7 million – 5,600 affordable units seems like a low bar.
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Recap

From SO-IL in Paris to Atlanta’s ambitious highway-capping park: AN’s can’t-miss top posts from this week
Missed some of our articles, Tweets, and Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! SO-IL and the triumph of non-“starchitecture” in Paris When someone tells you that they won an international competition in Paris along the Bastille axis on a site at the junction of Canal Saint Martin and the Seine River, images of Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton, I.M. Pei’s Pyramide du Louvre, Bernard Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette, or Jean Nouvel’s Institut du Monde Arabe come to mind. However, New York–based architects SO-IL took a much different route and made something almost as non-“starchitect” as possible. Midtown East rezoning gets unanimous approval from land use and zoning committees

Following several key revisions, Midtown East’s rezoning plan was unanimously approved by both the City Council Land Use Committee and the subcommittee on zoning and franchises.

Atlanta’s highway-capping park moves forward but seeks new partners and funding The plan to build a nine-acre park over a highway in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood is moving forward after the Buckhead business district voted to create a nonprofit organization that will manage its future development. Facing soaring costs, the world’s skinniest skyscraper is facing foreclosure The world’s skinniest skyscraper on Billionaire’s Row in New York City could be headed towards foreclosure. The SHoP-designed building on 111 W. 57th Street has only been built up to 20 stories and is already $50 million over budget. Met Breuer exhibit introduces an Ettore Sottsass you’ve never seen before Although Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass is perhaps most famous in the United States for his legendary design collective, Memphis, his life and career involve far, far more, as a fascinating new exhibition at the Met Breuer in New York reveals.
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Buckhead Park Over GA400

Atlanta’s highway-capping park moves forward but seeks new partners and funding

An ambitious plan to build a park over a highway in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood is moving forward after the Buckhead business district voted to create a nonprofit organization that will manage future development, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The nine-acre linear park—proposed last year and planned for a section of Georgia 400—would be designed by the two New York–based firms ROGERS PARTNERS Architects + Urban Designers and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. The Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID), a public-private organization that invests taxes from commercial property owners within the district into the public realm, released today an updated timeline for the project. The next five months will be dedicated toward the creation of the nonprofit, as well as the planning and design of the park. The CID has also dedicated up to $262,500 in order to sustain its contract with the design team through 2017.  

“The goal would be for us to truly hand this off to the new entity where they could count on some funding from the CID to help stand them up and help attracting additional partners,” Buckhead CID Executive Director Jim Durrett said to AJC.

Buckhead Park Over GA400, the park’s current tentative name, is a push from the city to encourage walkable environments and green spaces. The park is located at the confluence of Georgia 400, Peachtree Road, the MARTA red line, and the Path400 Greenway Trail. 

The current design is an open scheme with various public spaces—a Commons, a Plaza, and the Gardens—that aim to create diverse experiences through the park. It will also be built over a MARTA station (acting as a roof, almost) and will be connected to various pedestrian paths. Public engagement is expected to play a role during the design phase, as well as in the formal naming of the park.

The approval was a narrow vote, 4-3, with dissenters citing a lack of key details—including funding sources. The estimated cost of the project is as high as $245 million, with Buckhead CID officials saying they expect funding to come through both public and private sources, including MARTA when the Buckhead MARTA station goes through a redesign.

With this approval to move forward, the Buckhead CID is hopeful that pre-construction work will begin in January 2018, groundbreaking will happen by 2020, and a fully operational park will open by 2023, according to AJC. 

Explore the park in 3D here.
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"make homelessness rare and brief"

Atlanta’s $50 million fight to end homelessness is moving forward

Atlanta’s city council approved major funding for a plan to end homelessness, voting unanimously on Monday to issue $26 million in bonds to match another $25 million promised by nonprofit United Way of Greater Atlanta, as first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The city’s mayor, Kasim Reed, has made tackling homelessness a priority during his time in office. During his “state of the city” address back in January, he announced United Way’s commitment to match any city funding towards the homeless initiative.

“I am proud to announce that with the unanimous approval of the Atlanta City Council, we will move forward with our $50 million commitment to make homelessness rare and brief in the City of Atlanta,” Reed said in a press release.

The bonds and the matched donation will indeed bring in more than $50 million. The city will also leverage (i.e. taking on debt to increase the return on investment) an additional $66 million to make a total investment of more than $115 million to tackle homelessness.

Over the next three years, the money will be distributed to provide different services, including 264 new emergency shelter beds and housing interventions. Approximately $7.6 million will be used for the acquisition and renovation of shelters over the course of the next three years. The majority of the money (around $16 million), however, will go towards the primary goal of the city’s homeless initiative: buying or renovating 500 units that will be used as permanent homes for the homeless.

Atlanta has more than 3,500 individuals and families in need of shelter, according to an analysis by non-profit Partners for Home. But homelessness in the city has been on a downward trend, decreasing by 16.5 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to National Alliance to End Homelessness’ report 2016 The State of Homelessness in America. This approval of funds brings Reed’s pledge one step closer to reality.

“We now have the opportunity to end chronic homelessness in our city and ensure that all men, women, and children—regardless of circumstance—have the chance to live stable, meaningful lives and participate fully in their communities,” Reed said. 

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The A Team

Emory University, CDC, and others seek to be annexed by the City of Atlanta
The City of Atlanta would gain 630 acres, and an entire university campus, under a proposal that would dramatically change the city’s footprint. Emory University, currently part of the Druid Hills section of DeKalb County, Georgia, filed a petition this week to have its campus annexed by the City of Atlanta, while also remaining part of the county. Emory is one of three institutions that have filed petitions to become part of the city. Others include Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Egleston Hospital and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency. If Emory’s plan is approved, Atlanta would be able to say it is home to yet another well-known institution of higher education, along with the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University. Atlanta would also become home to Emory-affiliated medical facilities that are not already in the city. Established in 1836 as Emory College, Emory is a private research university with 14,913 students as of fall 2016, 29,000 employees, and an endowment of $6.4 billion. It’s the second oldest private institution of higher education in Georgia and one of the 50 oldest private universities in the United States. Emory President Claire E. Sterk said in a prepared statement that the annexation into Atlanta will complement the university’s commitment to both the city and the county. “We are enriched by our relationships with the county and the city as well as the larger region and the state and look forward to building upon our commitment to community involvement, academic excellence, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” she said. The university indicated last year that it might petition for annexation, but this week’s action makes it official. “Emory’s annexation into the city of Atlanta has always been viewed as one of the most viable, long-term options and one that provides consistency and alignment relative to the University’s marketing and branding initiatives,” officials said in a statement last August. “Emory already promotes its location as Atlanta, is known internationally as being in Atlanta, routinely recruits faculty and students to Atlanta, and has an Atlanta address and zip code. The prestige of Emory as an international university and Atlanta as a global city are inextricably linked.” The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Egleston Hospital is on Emory’s campus, and the hospital sought annexation to be consistent with what Emory is doing, officials said in a statement quoted by The Atlanta Business Chronicle. The annexation would be for the Egleston Hospital on Clifton Road but not the entire health care system, they explained. The CDC filed its petition after “careful consideration,” the federal health agency said in a statement. The petition is for its Edward R. Roybal Campus on Clifton Road to be annexed by the city of Atlanta. “Annexation by the city of Atlanta allows CDC to continue working with DeKalb County’s critical response capability while linking to Atlanta’s infrastructure and municipal services,” the organization said. The petitions will now be considered as part of the city’s public meeting process for annexations. If the requests are approved, officials say, the annexations could take effect as soon as this fall.
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PARKing

New seven-acre Atlanta public park will sit atop parking facility
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has announced plans for a new parking center and ‘mobility facility’ in the city's Grant Park neighborhood. The $48 million project, titled Grant Park Gateway, will sit on what is currently an eight-acre surface parking lot that serves Zoo Atlanta. The new deck will be partially underground and will provide approximately 1,000 parking spaces, more than double the current lot's capacity. A rooftop park and other vegetation on the structure are intended to help manage storm water run-off and to help the project reach LEED-certified status. A multidisciplinary design-build team led by Atlanta-based Winter Johnson Group and Smith Dalia Architects will helm the project. "The Grant Park Gateway will be the first facility of its kind in the City of Atlanta, and earned its name because it provides an entirely new way of looking at the entrance to a community," said Mayor Reed in a press release. “The design benefits the Grant Park neighborhood and respects its history as Atlanta’s oldest park, while addressing parking demands, reducing traffic congestion, and improving the overall safety in the area.” The parking garage itself will utilize an intelligent parking system that will be able to tell visitors where to find empty spots and help manage some of the traffic jams that have plagued the area. As if the rooftop park was not enough to make the area a destination, a new restaurant, which the Mayor said will highlight local cuisine, will also be placed on the deck’s rooftop for visitors to enjoy. The Department of Parks and Recreation will host several meetings with the community in the coming months to engage local residents about the project, which is projected for completion in late 2018. To learn more about the project, you can visit Smith Dalia Architects’ website here.
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Coda at Tech Square

John Portman & Associates unveils a tech center for Midtown Atlanta
John Portman & Associates (JPA) has unveiled the design for a hybrid complex in Atlanta that blends classic Portmanian forms with a distinctly 21st-century approach to urbanism. The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) asked the Atlanta firm to design Coda, a 750,000-square-foot mixed-use complex with some unusual features. The development is a key addition to the school's Tech Square, a mini-neighborhood in Midtown planned in the early 2000s as a hub for education, operations, and real-world learning. To embody its future-forwardness, Georgia Tech wanted to move away from stately collegiate brick towards a glass-clad mix of education space, offices, and an open-air gathering space that ties Coda to its surroundings. Though firm founder John Portman's work defines the city's skyline, some critics maintain that his theatrical-but-insular designs do little for the city streets. Instead of reproducing the forms for which Portman is best known, for this project JPA extended a core atrium outdoors to create a public plaza and mid-block conduit to nearby development. Furnished with long, zigzagging planters that double as seating, the "outdoor living room" will parallel a multistory indoor piazza where local food vendors and two anchor restaurants should sustain the area's activity even after the office workers go home. "Those Portman atriums in Atlanta and elsewhere were the products of a different era, there were different reasons why those were built," said JPA vice president of design Pierluca Maffey. "This project is a turning point for our firm in opening up—the right thing to do now is open up to the street. We made a commitment to create a place for the people with this project." The development builds on similar context-focused developments, like the revamp of Colony Square, but it is especially well-positioned for placemaking: The nearby intersection of 5th and Spring streets, Maffey said, is the busiest by foot traffic in Atlanta. In addition to its more traditional elements, Coda, bounded by 4th, West Peachtree, and Spring streets, hosts a program not found on the typical campus. To support the high-performance computing modeling, JPA was asked to design a 63,000-square-foot vertical data center that sits behind a cherished 1920s building on the site. Prior to this project, the building's footprint was reduced by a partial demolition, but its Italianate character remained. To honor the remaining structure, the design team arranged the tower's lower massing to dialogue with the scale and proportions of the older building without swallowing it. Across the plaza, a white tulip-shaped column at the base of the tower is an homage to Portman formality, to his playfulness with shapes. "We call it the 'martini glass,'" Maffey said, laughing. "We always tell Mr. Portman his interiors are great for Gregory Peck, walking around with his martini." The reference may be vintage, but the gesture is not. Sprawling Atlanta is doubling down on density at key nodes in the center city, fostering demand for more—and better-designed—public space. There's little demand, Maffey noted, for the enclosed, monumental plazas of the 1960s and 70s, and that attitude will be reflected, he hopes, in the eventual reception of the project. "We're interested in designing the object, yes, but we're much more interested in how it ties into the ground, how this piece fits into the city."
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2017 Emerging Voices

Atlanta-based BLDGS brings new creativity to adaptive reuse projects

The Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series spotlight individuals and firms with distinct design “voices” that have the potential to influence the discipline of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. The jury, composed of Sunil Bald, Mario Gooden, Lisa Gray, Paul Lewis, Jing Liu, Thomas Phifer, Bradley Samuels, Billie Tsien, and Ian Volner, selected architects and designers who have significant bodies of realized work that creatively address larger issues in the built environment.

The Architect's Newspaper featured the Emerging Voices firms in our February issue; stay tuned as we upload those articles to our website over the coming weeks. The firm featured below (Atlanta, GA–based BLDGS) will deliver their lecture on March 2, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

When Brian Bell and David Yocum first founded BLDGS 10 years ago, they didn’t plan to specialize in adaptive reuse—certainly not in Atlanta, a city not necessarily known for exploring the past.

But after they continued to land such commissions, they began to relish the role and have elevated this ever-expanding realm of architecture to a more creative, thoughtful, complex level than almost any firm has been able to achieve.

“We take a lot of pleasure in uncovering,” Yocum said. “If we can find the truth in each of the challenges and kind of reflect the presence of that truth it gives us a lot that we would not be able to layer onto a project.”

Bell and Yocum met at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and then worked together at Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects in Atlanta. They founded their firm in 2006, spurred mostly through work from art galleries, whose budgets and interests called for work within existing spaces. One of their first, Whitespace Gallery, is located inside an 1880s carriage house. Impressed by how clearly the original functions were expressed structurally, they set out to not only maintain that core, but also express the building’s new artistic focus with equal intensity. They hid lighting and HVAC along the periphery, and installed thin, floating panels—framed in steel—to display art.

Yocum calls this inserting the “featherlike presence of the new while respecting the gravity of the old.”

“We’re pushing and pulling off things that are seen and unseen rather than inventing from our own imagination,” added Bell. “There’s a lot of fascination with the situation that’s already there.”

Their work has continued along these lines, pushing and pulling on the complex layers of existing materials and techniques and the addition of contemporary ones. The installation Boundary Issues at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center removed contemporary plaster walls to display a mesmerizing combination of existing paint and bricks.Essentially they practiced addition by subtraction, architecture’s version of etching away a solid in a block print.

For their Caddell classroom and faculty building at Georgia Tech, they took cues for a new canopy from the structural logic of the existing 1950s building, whose steel frame is hidden behind a concrete exterior. The resulting canopy of aluminum louvers looks ultra-light from below, but like the original building, its thick steel frame is hidden above, out of sight. At Congregation Or Hadash Synagogue, they converted a former Chevrolet paint and auto body repair shop by carefully carving away its tilt-up concrete and sheet metal cladding, creating a radically different typology, nonetheless informed by its bones.

Even their only ground-up building, the Burned House in Atlanta, plays with history. Its cladding is painted with dozens of layers of paints, stencils, metallics, and other markings, which are meant to become exposed as the paint decays. Its interior plays with solid and void, with spaces pushed and pulled in unusual configurations to maximize exposure and push the boundaries of expectation.

“We wanted to think of history in reverse,” said Yocum. “Everything has a historical presence. If you’re not exploring that you’re missing opportunities.”

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Buckhead Park Over GA400

New renderings revealed for ambitious, highway-capping park in Atlanta
Atlanta is planning a cap-and-trade of the best kind: Today, ROGERS PARTNERS Architects+Urban Designers (Rogers Partners) and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects released more details of a proposal to cover a stretch of highway in the city's Buckhead neighborhood and convert it to a lush nine-acre park. "Buckhead Park Over GA400 is a new park typology for the city. Most Atlanta parts are historic, or like Centennial Park, built for a special purpose [such as the Olympics]. This park will create quality public space where you already have density. Like most great public places, it's about creating a series of scaled experiences" for visitors, explained Rob Rogers, principal at Rogers Partners. Thomas Woltz, principal at Nelson Byrd Woltz, added that the park, which straddles an eight-lane highway, "is connected to existing infrastructure and is being built in found space, much like New York's Hudson Yards and Millennium Park in Chicago." The pair presented their design this morning for Buckhead Park Over GA400 to the board of the project's sponsors, the Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID). Buckhead, an affluent neighborhood in northern Atlanta that's crisscrossed by interstate and local highways, is one of the city's primary commercial districts, with dense development clustered along its main corridor, Peachtree Road. As car-oriented Atlanta grows, the city is looking to enhance the quality of its green spaces and encourage walkable environments. Buckhead Park Over GA400 is born out of that ambition, and designed as a local park with regional pull, Rogers and Woltz agreed. A series of public spaces—the plaza, the commons, and the gardens—will be complemented by MARTA stations that bring commuters into the neighborhood and by connections to the Atlanta Beltline, and Path 400, a state-funded recreational trails initiative.
"When we started the project, one of the things we thought was most exciting was taking this void in the middle of the neighborhood, and turning that into the heart of Buckhead as a public space. When you're making this major public space, we thought, 'How do you ground that? How do you make this part of Atlanta?'" Woltz said. The design team looked to nature: the Appalachian foothills are one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, so he and Rogers decided to ground the design of the ab ovo park in the region's bio-heritage. The curving lawns, stepped seating, and sweeping overhead paths that will guide visitors over sunken lanes of traffic are manifestations of the region's ecology, abstracted through form, material choices, and horticulture, especially. The plaza's high canopies evoke the native savannah, while upland ecology is represented in the park's commons, which is scaled to host large events. The gardens off of Peachtree Road buffer visitors from that busy, car-oriented thoroughfare. Even at the conceptual level, the design choices reflect structural considerations, Woltz explained. A half-mile-long allée linking the plaza, the commons, and the gardens will be planted over the structure of the train tracks, so the designers know they will have enough stability to support mature trees. "This approach is the opposite of decorating the outdoors with plants," Woltz added. "We're selecting the most resilient plants that are still iconic for this ecology." Woltz and Rogers are hopeful that the next part of concept study, which includes community outreach and deeper financial analysis, will move forward soon.
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The Stitch

New engineering study would explore capping and developing a swath of Atlanta’s downtown highway
The private nonprofit Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) is raising $1 million for a detailed engineering study for "The Stitch," a 3/4-mile-long platform and park that would be installed over the congested Downtown Connector highway that runs through Atlanta. According to Atlanta Magazine, CAP already paid $100,000 to the Pasadena, California-based engineering firm Jacobs for an 114-page-long concept plan (whose images are seen here). The Downtown Connector, also known as Interstate 75/85, split Atlanta's downtown and midtown apart when it opened in 1952. The stretch was named among the country's worst traffic choke points by Forbes. The capped area would extend from the Civic Center MARTA station to Piedmont Avenue. The Stitch would reclaim that area; the current proposal includes three mixed use "character zones" with a variety of programs. The first, "Emory Square," would be an urban plaza atop a reimagined MARTA station. The Civic Center bus and train terminal would become the Emory Square station, the centerpiece of a public park. "Peachtree Green," at Peachtree Street and Ralph McGill Boulevard, would become a three-acre park with water features, a restaurant, a pavilion, and a memorial. Finally "Energy Park" would be a mixed-use residential development located next to Georgia Power's headquarters. Energy Park would include lawns, a dog park, a playground, water features, and a pavilion. Other cities, including New YorkToronto, and Philadelphia, also have plans for development on capped rail yards. Additionally, the city of Atlanta is working on the BeltLine, a project to convert the city's old rail corridor into 33 miles of multi-use trails. Four trail segments and six parks are already open, as is affordable housing along the corridor. The Stitch is still in the conceptual phase; a construction schedule and concrete budget have not yet been determined. CAP estimates a $300 million price tag for the project based on recent similar capping projects.