Atlanta Housing Authority – Civic Center Charrette – 19 April 2018 – St. Luke’s
by Kit Sutherland
Community outreach has begun for the redevelopment of the Atlanta Civic Center property!
On Thursday, April 19, 2018, the Atlanta Housing Authority (now re-branded “Atlanta Housing”) held a public meeting at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Episcopal Church, located a short distance from the Civic Center site. Representatives of Atlanta Housing and other project team members introduced themselves and presented an overview of their plans for a mixed-income redevelopment of the Civic Center site, purchased from the City of Atlanta last year. Local residents, including board members and residents of the Fourth Ward West neighborhood association, participated in a planning charrette to prioritize neighborhood goals and preferences for the property, which anchors the northwest corner of the Old Fourth Ward.
Atlanta Housing CEO Catherine Buell described new objectives and methodologies now in place at public housing authorities in cities across the US, including Atlanta. Public housing today isn’t what you might think! In keeping with national trends, Atlanta Housing seeks to be a quality partner in community redevelopment, planning and managing properties in partnership with surrounding neighborhoods. Innovative AH projects now planned or under development in Atlanta include Herndon Square, near Georgia Tech, and Englewood Manor, in the Chosewood Park area.
Partners to the Civic Center redevelopment project include Weingarten Realty, which will bring retail and office space to the site. Local collaborators include the Atlanta City Studio, a pop-up design studio within the City’s Department of City Planning. Atlanta City Studio representative Kevin Bacon explained that affordability is of utmost importance in the proposed new development, whose first phase will be housing. A quote from the Urban Design Institute describes the new vision for public housing: “Affordable housing projects frequently are isolated from the rest of the city, and new development has often turned its back on these buildings. A better idea is to knit affordable housing into the urban fabric so residents have access to transportation, jobs, and all community resources (2015).”
The development of the Civic Center on the site of the O4W’s historic Buttermilk Bottom community during the 1960s created a massive superblock that doesn’t relate to the surrounding community – that needs to change. The current site layout is internally focused and doesn’t take advantage of opportunities to connect with nearby amenities, including the Civic Center MARTA station, the Emory Midtown Hospital complex, Renaissance Park, and the Publix shopping center. The surface of the existing project site is currently 82 percent impervious, and the topography of the site presents stormwater and wastewater challenges that must be addressed. The new development must re-establish connectivity with the surrounding neighborhood and incorporate innovative building forms and architecture to create a livable, walkable community that is sustainable in nature.
Participants in Thursday night’s charrette reviewed large-format presentation boards describing design principles for topics such as Connectivity, Land Use, and Open Space. Using colored dots, attendees added “yay” and “no” votes to the presentation boards, expressing their insights about site features they’d like to see incorporated – or avoided – in the design of the new development. The project team will evaluate the input received from community stakeholders during the charrette and will take into account those concerns and priorities in the next phase of the design process.
The slide show and design boards presented at the April 19th charrette should be posted soon on the AH website https://www.atlantahousing.org/ Additional public meetings about the Civic Center redevelopment will be held in the upcoming months – so stay tuned for updates on social media. This project will be another “game changer for the O4W community, so be sure to stay informed and involved – your voice MATTERS!