A Plea for City Leaders to Support Smart Projects, Not Crony Subsidies

The top image shows a 191 aerial map of south downtown Atlanta. The below image shows what it looks like in the present day. Image: ATL Urbanist
The top image shows a 1919 aerial map of south downtown Atlanta. The below image shows what it looks like in the present day. Image: ATL Urbanist

Darin Givens at ATL Urbanist is retiring his blog after five years writing about city planning in Atlanta. Thinking about the future of Atlanta in his final post, he touched on something important and universal: Who gets public resources, and what types of projects should city leaders support?

City leaders bend over backwards as they prioritize mega developments like stadiums and corporate relocations. That’s when they bring out the big guns and use all the available municipal tools for making something happen — rezoning, tax breaks, grants, partnerships, fees… whatever it takes.

Leaders are likewise capable of prioritizing things like safe streets, blight, disused land near transit stations, geographic segregation of economic classes, the need for comprehensive services for people experiencing homelessness … all of this and more. Those issues should be getting the priority treatment.

Atlantans: don’t be afraid to step up and lead with boldness or to support others who will.

Stand up to the voices that dismiss ideas about good urbanism by claiming “that won’t work here” or “Atlanta isn’t that kind of place.” A great city is never a single kind of place. It has multiple personalities that all serve a diverse and changing population. Innovations in urbanism can have a positive impact on all those people and help the city roll with the changes in a sustainable way.

If a leader tells you that Atlanta is “world class” because it has attractions and offices that appeal to suburbanites, challenge that view. A great city center doesn’t exist to serve suburbs. Instead, it’s a livable place that carefully juggles the needs of residents and visitors together, while prioritizing the former rather than the latter.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transportation for America talks about where the House of Representatives got $40 billion to fund a six-year transportation bill. And Bike Portland reports on a new city survey that confirms more Portlanders are choosing to bike, and fewer are choosing to drive.

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