As published in GT Newsroom:
Students from Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning are offering their expertise this semester by working with Atlanta area communities to develop a long-term plan for their neighborhoods.
Professor Nancey Green Leigh and her class of graduate students are partnering with Georgia Conservancy and community leaders of Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) G located on the west side of Atlanta close to the intersection of Interstate 285 and Hollowell Parkway to improve the area.
“The neighborhood has many challenges,” said Leigh. “It is one of Atlanta’s neighborhoods with the least amount of development, most neglected green space and greatest socio-economic challenges. The major source of employment and business in NPU-G is the Atlanta Industrial Park, which is separated from the rest of the community by I-285. The neighborhood once housed four public housing projects, all of which have been demolished, but only one of which has been redeveloped.”
While the hilly, virtually rural terrain throughout the neighborhood gives way to some beautiful views of the city, the community has a closed landfill that poses environmental challenges and limits development opportunities for its surroundings.
Georgia Tech students met with community members, leaders and elected officials to develop a comprehensive analysis of the area and learn more about the neighborhood’s history.
“We were really pleased to hear what the community saw as its needs,” said Erin Rosintoski, a graduate student working on her master’s degree in City Planning with a specialization in land use and urban design. “Many of the items that they brought to our attention verified what our research had told us.”
“It is a food desert,” said Leigh. “There is no access within the neighborhood to a quality grocery store that would provide a range of produce options. The neighborhood also lacks pharmacies, healthcare options and banking.”
The neighborhood does have some significant natural resources and a history of community that can serve as foundations for redevelopment planning.
“The residential portion of the community borders the Chattahoochee River and it has Proctor Creek running through it,” said Leigh. “The neighborhood has proximity to the Beltline, and these amenities could help bring new life to the area.”
“The older residents who had lived there for 30, 40 and even 50 years told us how prosperous this neighborhood had once been,” said Rosintoski. “They spoke about the dairy farms that used to cover the area and how there was a tremendous sense of community. It was interesting to hear how the roots of the neighborhood started.”
For these young city and regional planners, their semester-long project will culminate with the seeds of how to repair and grow the community going forward.
The industrial park and the former housing project sites have the potential to provide significant new development and job creation. According to Leigh, the next step is to suggest to the city of Atlanta how it can make this industrial land stronger and to suggest to the Atlanta Housing Authority ideas for three different mixed-use developments on the former housing sites.
“The level of poverty surrounding Atlanta’s industrial areas is much higher than the rest of the city,” she said. “These areas have jobs and could have more jobs. You want to link those possibilities with the neighborhood. One of our primary goals is to increase the connections that this community has with Atlanta.”
The students will unveil the complete list of recommendations on December 15, but they have some other ideas of how to help. They also plan to suggest making additional recreational areas, create community gardens and address some of the transportation issues by creating a better design for the flow of traffic in and out of the neighborhood.
“We are trying to create a better understanding of the community’s challenges and innovative approaches to those challenges,” said Leigh. “We provide students with a strong city and regional planning education and the ability to apply their skill sets to a community challenge, but as an educator at a major research Institute, I also want to push the field further. This project has presented some excellent possibilities for doing that.”