Do ‘Master Planned Communities’ like Midtown’s Atlantic Station hurt our city?

Urbanistindustry insights, real estate68 Comments

master plan ~ what now atlanta

Urbanist, guest columnist, says Atlantic Station is a great example of a “destructive” development.

Atlantic Station (AS), the physical manifestation of Atlanta’s zeal for bright, new, shiny developments, has come at the expense of logic and smart economics.

Prematurely crowned with a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, the only thing that AS has managed victory over is its creditors. There are many reasons – the loitering, the crime, the free parking, but those are secondary to the fact that Master Planned Communities (MPCs) have no place in urban environments.

MPCs are loaded with features that cities should be able to recognize as highly destructive.

First, they are never small developments. At 15 million square feet, Atlantic Station is no exception. With that kind of scope, the resources that are diverted away from other areas of the city are extreme.

Peachtree Street, between Ponce and 17th,  is littered with vacant retail space, large office vacancies, empty lots and the absence of good rental residential. The same can be said for much of West Peachtree and Spring streets and Juniper.

Midtown Atlanta, the heart of Atlanta’s fashionable in-town urban neighborhood, is a fractured mess. Millions of square feet of office, retail, and residential have been constructed in Atlantic Station, while vast amounts of space on Peachtree sits vacant. This is a mis-allocation of resources, which is bad economics at its core.

Second, MPCs are commercial theme parks. They rarely represent a heterogeneous mixture of people living their urban lives, instead offering a day of “fun and activity for the whole family (term used loosely)”. People pour in from the suburbs and other areas, eager to ride the rides. When they’re done, they leave. This dynamic makes MPCs an unattractive place to live, which thereby makes them heavily reliant on inorganic demand, which rarely has staying power.

Third, because of a MPCs scope, they cannot fit directly into a city’s existing infrastructure and often sit disconnected from it, just as Atlantic Station does (something Mark Toro, Atlantic Station’s developer, says he’s working to fix). This leaves the development without any sense of communal attachment. Midtown Atlanta and Atlantic Station are two distinctively different neighborhoods with infrequent resident crossover, outside of a purpose driven trip (movie theater, Target, etc.).

Fourth, they don’t grow with the demands of the surrounding city. When the plans for Atlantic Station were drawn, there was a specific vision, which was followed. They implemented a plan, regardless of the response to that plan. Successful urban growth doesn’t take this approach. Instead, it’s a constant testing of the waters. Find a site, develop a building, and see how the community responds. If it’s favorable, there is room for more development. If there is a negative reaction, then a lesson is learned, and the next development can take that into consideration.

When you develop millions of square feet, according to a master plan, without allowing the community to respond, you lose the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, which is priceless.

Atlantic Station did, however, provide this opportunity to the city and is learning its lesson. Unfortunately, the city is squandering that opportunity, as they proceed forward on the redevelopment of the Gulch.

A lot of scientific research has shown that the inability to learn from your mistakes is likely rooted in your genetic makeup. Perhaps we’re a city that has flawed development DNA and we will continue to pursue headline-grabbing, yet economically destructive, projects despite the repetitive negative reinforcement.

For our offspring’s sake, I certainly hope that somewhere along the way, we pair up with a more intelligent strand of development DNA. If not, the bulldog might be a more appropriate mascot for our city than it is for UGA.

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UrbanistDo ‘Master Planned Communities’ like Midtown’s Atlantic Station hurt our city?

68 Comments on “Do ‘Master Planned Communities’ like Midtown’s Atlantic Station hurt our city?”

  1. tunaman

    Good Lord, man. Please edit all the “MCP’s” in this article to “MCPs”. Or go back to 5th grade. Whatever.

  2. TheDude

    While there are a lot of things wrong with Atlantic Station like it being too far removed from MARTA rail (but “only” a 10 minute walk from Arts Center Station), those god awfully ugly row houses, the Target (which is no where near as well integrated in an urban perspective perspective like the one in Buckhead off on Peachtree), I am not a hater for the following reasons:

    -Most of the problems can be fixed and the new owners seem to want to resolve them
    -The transit issue can be solved with a streetcar line along 17th Street
    -It is a billionty times better than what it replaced…A rusting, dirt, polluted hole that was the former Atlantic Steel site which was truly disconnected from Midtown and had zero residents or retail.

    I also don’t have a clue as to how Atlantic Station takes away from Midtown proper. Hell, in comparison it only makes Midtown proper look 1000% times better.

  3. frankly

    Freakin’ Urbanist again! I don’t even know where to begin?

    Its good that you are a fan of good urban development as I am also. Its just that your opinions are so factually cluster****** that you sound like a 13 year old. I’ll have more tomorrow when I have more time.

  4. JoeInAtlanta

    So what’s the “lesson learned” from this development? That we would be better off with a poisonous, highly visible, brown field of rusted warehouses than with an entertainment, residential, and business zone that is good but not perfect?

    I’m not sure I agree. In fact, I’m absolutely, 100% certain that I don’t.

  5. Chris (The Other One)

    I wouldn’t say it hurts our city, but lets say we put Atlantic Station’s amount of retail, hotel, office, and entertainment out on the Midtown Mile… Peachtree would be in a lot better shape… But hey… who cares?

  6. SteveK

    I love Urbanist and I do agree with him but the realty of contemporary Amercian real estate investing has changed from the time of finely grained urbanism. Top investors aren’t looking for a little 8-story building or a cute townhouse development. BIG real estate investors like BIG things with BIG returns. Unfortunately they forget about the fact that they can also get BIG losses (but that’s what the little taxpayers are for). Changes need to be made in the field of real estate investment regulations and zoning to get the wonderful kind of development Urbanist dreams of (good luck with that). I can’t tell what those changes would need to be – it would make a good conversation. I see the problems Urbanist sees with Atlantic Station but I must say that Mark Toro seems to have the potential to grow Atlantic Station into the community – as if what we see today is a seed and not a finished project. I read that people complained when Midtown was developed “why are they building all the way out there – disconnected from the city!”

  7. Jay

    @tunaman: It’s not “MCPs” so much as “MPCs”……just sayin’….so 5th grade is a good place to start:)….although there is one instance in the article that mistakenly uses “MCP”

  8. JT

    First thing written by Urbanist that makes sense. I’ve made this point countless times. The retailers located in Atlantic Station because they have a market in Midtown, they would have located here even if AS didn’t exist, and they most likely would be along peachtree. It also would be nice to see those high-rises at 17th and peachtree, across from the high and next door to viewpoint. Also seems less insulting than previous articles, kudos. Always love a thinly veiled UGA insult as well.

  9. ugh

    Hogwash.

    Total Hogwash. Atlantic Station is a net positive for intown Atlanta. Midtown will grow as market forces see fit. I live in intown Atlanta and go to Atlantic Station.

    The suggestion of consistent crime stinks of racial undertones. The 5000 times I have been there have been uneventful in the crime department.

    Also, AS DOES feel connected to the rest of Atlanta (via Home Park).

  10. Suburbanist

    Atlantic Station is not a bad development because it’s “destructive”, it’s a bad development because it was, well, badly developed. The author’s apparent contention that the current vacancies in Midtown might not exist if Atlantic Station was never developed is perplexing. Those vacancies have zero relationship to AS. Publix, Ikea, Regal, H&M, etc.. were not viable candidates for any of the vacant areas noted in Midtown. Those vacancies would still exist today even if AS had not been developed.

    Regarding the argument that AS is disconnected from the existing infrastructure because it is a MPC, again, I would disagree. AS is disconnected because it sits on the other side of a 10 lane highway,turns its back to the neighborhood to the north, and while there was an attempt to blend into the Home Park neighborhood to the south, it’s tenuous at best. Again, these are all failures of design, not failure of development type.

    In regard to growing with the demands of the city AS fails here, again, because of HOW it was developed, not because of its type of development. With the exception of the apartment parcels, AS is essentially a gigantic parking deck with retail & commercial space on top. Therefore, even if financially feasible, which it wasn’t, there was no way for the developer to phase any part of their development in a feasible way to allow it to grow organically.

    I think it’s agreed by most that AS is a failure. It’s important to understand why it is so that lessons can be learned. I appreciate the author’s passion for good city planning and urban design. It would certainly be beneficial if more of us were as interested. But let’s not mistake his passion for knowledge. My daughter is very passionate about all things Justin Bieber. It doesn’t qualify her to be a music critic.

  11. i heart midtown

    Well, if these retailers weren’t in Atlantic Station, you’d prefer for them to be on Peachtree Street, Spring St, and Juniper?? Stuff like Banana Republic, Express, Cold Stone’s? We’re getting cool stuff that’s not from a national chain on Peachtree now. If we wait a few years, I’m sure we’ll see more cool stuff in the Midtown Mile that you can’t find on Lenox. We don’t want a second Lenox at the Midtown Mile. And Atlantic Station is evolving now from a second Lenox.

  12. Felix

    I would like to focus specifically on your third point about residential crossover between Midtown and Atlantic Station. Could you clarify? Are you suggesting that the two are actually one neighborhood and should have more permeability? If you are suggesting that, you’re dreaming. I feel like that’s an issue more rooted in the city’s attitudes toward public transit.

    All cross-neighborhood trips are “purpose driven” whether we are going to Buckhead, Decatur, or even West Midtown. We’re visiting friends, going out to eat, and if possible, window shopping. The current options at Atlantic Station are currently subpar and little more than an outdoor mall in Middle America, but that’s not to say that it couldn’t evolve into a place with more desirable in-town restaurants and boutiques.

    I’m not saying that the planning at Atlantic Station is stellar, but there’s enough of a skeleton there that can change over time into something that we might actually be proud of. That’s the story of any neighborhood. In the grand scheme of things, Atlantic Station is very young.

    And I think your argument about learning from mistakes is weak. Community involvement during the planning/construction phases is not about learning from mistakes. It’s about learning about your users and making compromises with the client that will hopefully have natural returns based on place and not general market research. We (hopefully) learn from mistakes after the fact. And that’s where we are now.

    Overall, I think that you’re making a lot of general claims.

  13. Inman Parker

    I completely agree with Urbanist on this one. Atlanta likes to spread things out too much. No reason that the stores (and residents for that matter) couldnt be in midtown right now. After the demand for Atlanta’s core reached capacity, then they should have considered building across the interstate. Now we are stuck with two less than cool parts of town instead of one nice part. Why is it that other cities are able to build cohesive central areas, while Atlanta just cant seem to get it together? Is it local government? bad developers? What is the problem?

  14. Urbanist

    @ Tnua – You’re clearly not the intended audience. If you miss the entire point, because of a few misplaced apostrophe’s, you probably shouldn’t be wasting your time. That was on purpose, by the way.

    @ Dude – I agree with the fact that NAP seems intent on trying to fix the problems. The message was more or less, that AS really should never have been built in the first place. And to answer your question as to how it takes away from Midtown proper – every foot of retail, office, and residential that’s leased/owned in AS could have been leased/owned in midtown proper. That’s why it’s bad economics, as it’s a bad allocation of resources.

    @ Frankly – looking forward to hearing it.

    @ Joe – Yes, that is the lesson, to a degree, considering the fact that a lot of the demand that went into AS would have been shifted into Midtown/Downtown/etc. That brownfield would either (i) still be there, or (ii) have been redeveloped into something else, a park, a transportation terminal, who knows, but we’d have a much more lively and vibrant city on the other side of the highway.

    @ Steve – you’re right, re: investment approach. However, what people fail to realize, and what investors keep getting thrashed by, is that Atlanta is not a big city, capable of producing the type of investment returns that were expected out of AS. We don’t have enough of a city population to support a development like AS (or the re-development of the Gulch), yet somehow we keep roping people into investing in projects like this. The development path needs to reverse itself a little bit, and tone down the scale in the near term – 100 resi units here, 30,000 sf of new office, etc. instead of tossing 15mm sf into the pile all at once. Over time, with smaller scale developments, you’ll build the demand for the bigger ones.

    @ Ugh – AS was just sold for 78 cents on the dollar, 6 years after it was built. Does that sound like a net positive? Just because it allows you to shop at Target doesn’t make it a net positive.

    The suggestion of crime doesn’t stink of racial undertones, unless you’re one of those people who likes to discredit facts with an unfounded claim of racism.

    I’m glad that you haven’t been a victim of crime while at AS, but why don’t you try that argument out on the many people who have, and see what kind of reaction you get. And PS, you haven’t been to AS 5,000 times (that would be more than twice a day since it was built).

    @ Suburbanist – You don’t think that many of the residents, retailers (the ones that don’t have huge boxes), and office tenants in AS would have found a home in Midtown or Downtown, had AS not been built? Seriously?

    You realize that it’s dislocation from the city “because it’s on the other side of a 10-lane highway”, is because the development is far too large to incorporate into the actual city, right? I’m pretty sure I made that exact claim in the article.

    I’m not going to bother with the rest. Please (i) read the article before commenting, and (ii) think a little bit before you type.

    @ Felix – No, I’m not suggesting that the two are “one neighborhood”. I’m simply saying that fluid crossover from Midtown in AS doesn’t happen, despite the massive size and amenities of the development. Good development fits into existing neighborhoods and good planning enables residents to reach those developments with relative ease (physical and psychological). It’s easy to wander between arrondissements in Paris, or between neighborhoods in NYC, because those cities have development that fits into the city, rather than having developments that are so large that they require a parcel of land that is entirely disconnected from the city, like AS.

    Yes, in Atlanta, they currently are. In more well developed cities they aren’t. I think that if smaller, more condensed developments become the norm, you’d find a lot more cross neighborhood trips that happen on “accident”. i.e. wandering through midtown, into Downtown, or perhaps out into the highlands, etc. This obviously isn’t near term, but thinking in the near term is never very productive.

    Right, and if you learn from your mistakes after the fact, the idea is that you don’t re-make those same mistakes. Yet the city is setting out to do just that with the Gulch redevelopment.

    I make a lot of general claims, because I only have a limited amount of space to get a general point across. More than happy to discuss the details here though.

  15. John

    I’m sick of hearing from this arrogant hack Urbanist. I will also stop visiting this site. GARBAGE!

  16. JonC

    I too prefer smaller scaled development, but unfortunately a lot of real estate developers aren’t attracted to the economic realities of it. Bigger projects give you more control, more flexibility, and larger profit. I’m just glad the recession hit when it did, because there was so much buzz right after AS opened about creating “the new Atlantic Station” or “a mini Atlantic Station” all over the metro.

  17. HGrady

    This is stupid. Seriously, the argument is that they don’t fit into the city’s infrastructure? What kind of freaking infrastructure do you think the city had in that area of town before the place was built to fit in to? I’m taking this site off my bookmarks.

    Seriously, what a sloppy turd. Do you have any idea what the Atlantic Steel Mill site looked like? Peactree has ‘vacant office and retail space’? You idiot. There was a freaking Steel Mill there including almost 100 years of industrial waste that had to be cleaned up. Any idea how hard it would have been to clean up if not for the ‘mis-allocation’ of resources into a large scale development? Was some entrepreneur going to make lofts out of the slag pile, you dolt? Uhhh…there isn’t a fashion boutique b/w 10th street and 14th street, down with Atlantic Station.

    Seriously, you have no clue what you are talking about. Probably because you were in diapers in the 90s…oh well. Here’s what you should know, without Atlantic Station taking up 15 Million sq feet or whatever number you are throwing out there…there would be an absolute rat’s nest with no 17th street (the street or the bridge) sitting in the middle of Home Park, Loring Heights, Westside, and Berkley Park. No intown Target, no Ikea, no taxes from the ‘crappy’ retail and residential from your 15M sq feet, and I promise you the type of crime in those neighborhoods in the 90s is different than cars getting broken into or shoplifting.

    Atlantic Station isn’t perfect…but good gracious…

  18. Felix

    A fatal flaw here is the continued comparison with New York, Paris, etc…, cities whose original planning was restrained by geographical boundaries. They don’t serve as models to compare. The only way to base development decisions on those cities would be to accelerate global warming so the ocean reaches our elevation and then burn the city down again and start from scratch.

    The streets are laid at a completely different scale than those cities. Period. There’s no way to expect more permeability between neighborhoods unless there are more/better transit options. And before that even happens, Atlantans need to get over whatever fears/judgments they have about public transit.

    The Beltline may be the best thing for Atlanta to look forward to since air conditioning. Not that Atlantic Station will benefit much from it.

  19. ATLRez

    In all the rhetoric about free parking being part of the reason behind the crime, loitering and young kids hanging out at AS, I have yet to read or hear anyone say anything about the many low cost apartments that surround AS and perhaps…just perhaps, having these apartments (many of which house students) in such close vicinity to AS could be contributing to many of the issues many are complaining about.

  20. Bryan

    Caleb, you can do better. This used to be interesting, unfortunately you’re ruining your blog. I’ve been patient but you’re losing me quickly.

  21. Felix

    Thanks, CP! Are there proposed plans of this drawn up? The last tour I took (over a year ago) went nowhere near Atlantic Station, so I’m curious to see how this would work.

  22. Urbanist

    @ HGrady – so you’d rather see resources dumped into a failed development, rather than see them utilized in a way that creates a more vibrant, more successful city? I know you’re probably angry, just because I hinted that your mascot is an inbred animal, but in the case with AS, as well as with your mascot, you shouldn’t let your emotions get in the way of facts. Oh, and the 15mm square feet that I “threw out there”, that’s a fact too.

    @ Felix – I agree, geographic barriers is a major constraint for a place like NYC, San Francisco, Vancouver, etc. Paris doesn’t have much by way of a geographic barrier (other than the Seine, and Paris has managed to overcome that quite well). If you look at the grid in Midtown proper, the area from 14th street all the way into downtown, has a decent infrastructure with blocks that are shorter than blocks in NYC (which is a vital component to vibrant street-life). I think the area from downtown north to 14th, between Piedmont and Spring, and as far out as Monroe/Boulevard in some areas, makes for a great infrastructure for laying out some better development. Obviously as time progresses and development takes over some of those areas, you can address infrastructure, when you look at expanding outside of those.

    @ Bryan / Clicker – More commentary with no actual point, let alone value.

  23. AS Resident

    As a very happy resident of Atlantic Station since it opened, I take offense to these continued attacks on AS. Get over it, Atlantic station is here to stay, Its not going away. Instead of the constant negativity you spew toward the development, how about positive suggestions on how to make the community better over the long haul……..

  24. Suburbanist

    @Urbanist- What are the resources you believe were dumped/diverted away from other areas of the city as a result of AS?

  25. It needs to be said

    Urbanist’s continued involvement on this web site degrades it terribly. No more page hits from me. Good luck, Caleb.

  26. WestSider

    I wonder too why people continuously hate on AS. Linking the demise of commercial real estate along Peachtree in Midtown with the construction of Atlantic Station is misleading. Atlantic Station was conceived and built way before the recession, and I would dare say the bad economic times had a much bigger impact on the Midtown Mile phantasy than anything else.

    Urbanist still hasn’t addressed the alternative to what is now at AS: A polluted, industrial wasteland.

    But the biggest problem with this article is the fact that it ignores the one area where AS has had a significant impact. Have you driven down Howell Mill recently? This very blog just posted about a handful of restaurants and offices that are springing up along that street. Can you imagine this neighborhood without the draw of a hub like Atlantic Station? Actually, yes I can, it’s called Castleberry Hill and without a vibrant Downtown, that neighborhood is slowly but surely falling behind.

    Yes there are a dozen things that can improve about AS, yes it was sold for a loss (you can thank the recession for that), but it has done tremendous things for our side of the connector. In fact, I doubt I’d be living here without all the activity that is happening on this side. And Atlantic Station is a HUGE part of that.

    For the 1,000,000th time: WestSIDE is not part of MIdtown.

  27. James

    People like Urbanist crack me up. There were tons of them in law school with me. Sure, they might be, by definition, “smart,” but they simply can’t resist repeatedly insisting to other people that they’re smart (or, alternatively, that the other person is dumb). The end result, of course, is that everyone loses respect for them, and disregards anything they have to say. You see, people like this are also, by definition a-holes, and nobody likes an a-hole.

    What’s particularly funny about Urbanist, is that she genuinely wants to live/create/exist in a community where everyone comes from a wide variety of backgrounds, socioeconomic classes, and races, and then lives happily together. I want that too. But, Urbanist doesn’t have the self awareness to realize that no one would want to live in close proximity to her because she turns everyone off so much. Hard to sell a vision of utopia when the person selling it is an arrogant prick. She’s just like that annoying woman who seems to be at every HOA or neighborhood meeting with a huge list of things they insist on being changed, and is always telling others what they’re doing wrong.

    Unfortunately, Urbanist, I’m afraid that you will only find happiness if/when you live alone, on a secluded desert island (or maybe playing SimCity). Please let me know if I can contribute to a one-way ticket. I imagine some others would also being willing to contribute…

  28. Urbanist

    @ AS – that wa kind of the point, i.e. Make the community of Atlanta better over the long haul by not building developments like Atlanta in the future.

  29. Average Commenter

    While I like Atlantic Station (I don’t understand the hatred directed towards it), I do agree that Atlanta would probably be better off if all of that development was instead incorporated into downtown/midtown. Peachtree St could absolutely support a Gap, Banana Republic, H&M, etc… I was hoping that CB2 would start a trend of more shops opening on the midtown mile, but it just hasn’t happened yet. The way developement occurs in this city, it is improbable to think that all of the development in AS would have instead just popped up in midtown-proper.

    So, ideally, AS never would have happened and instead all of the retail, offices, and apartments would have been incorporated into the existing urban fabric and we’d have a much more vibrant midtown. Realistically, a huge MPC like AS was the only possible route.

  30. Name Required

    Urbanist – you may or may not be correct in measuring the success of AS. But I would like to know about this: you are saying that the Gulch should not be built? You like a big hole in the ground in the middle of your downtown? You think this adds to our urban ambiance? You’d rather have it just sit there, than let a public/private partnership take a shot at putting something viable there? Are you interested at in: 1. reality? 2. the betterment of the city? Don’t forget, with the gulch development comes a multi-modal transit station. I’m sure that, too, sounds like a bad idea?

  31. Ericson

    AS Resident is right. No matter what should or shouldn’t have been built, Atlantic Station is here now. Instead of throwing out pointless negativity, let’s move on with the knowledge of our past mistakes. What can we all do to make it a better place?

    Also, Urbanist, I really don’t understand your complete aversion to the redevelopment of the gulch. The plans call for parks, major transit upgrades, and a reconnection of a lost street grid in the area. Also, a large part of the redevelopment are focused on Georgia State and student housing. How exactly is bringing more people with free cash into an area a problem??

  32. HGrady

    Are you kidding? You’re not just swimming in your own ignorance, you’re drowning in it. I really pity you.

    #1- Let’s just talk about your definition of failure. What once was a steaming pile of industrial waste is now a massive retail and residential area including a projected* 11 acres of public parks that somehow still has residents, offices, and retail businesses making profits and paying taxes despite the fact that one of the worst economic downturns in the history of our country hit within 5 years of its opening… Seriously, do you even know what a brownfield is? I’m serious. Do you know what a brownfield is?

    #2- Facts, eh? Let’s talk about those.The 15M square feet you cite as a ‘fact’ is actually the original projected amount upon completion of the project. (even Wikipedia has that right!) Considering that all the projected redevelopment is not complete, I would assume you are dead wrong. But…your point about sq feet is nonsensical because it assumes that somehow the opportunity cost of having 1 sq ft of new retail, residential, office at Atlantic Station is not filling 1 sq ft of already existing retail, residential, office…which boggles the mind. (Not to mention your faulty premise that money spent developing Atlantic Station would have actually been spent somewhere else)

    #3- Here is a fact. What was a 138 brownfield (I’m hoping by now you’ve looked it up) is now a 138 acre piece of retail, residential, and office space in the heart of the city. Did Atlantic Station ‘hurt’ our city? Only a complete moron would say that having the brownfield there is better than having Atlantic Station.

  33. Urbanist

    @ Name – Yes, I’d rather a hole in the ground, than to see resources wasted. What I’d like to see is that hole in the ground stay there, just like AS should have, and instead see smaller scale projects (that coincide with the demand) come to fruition in the areas of our city that can support them. For example, there is an awful lot of empty lot space all over downtown & midtown; perhaps developing some smaller projects that the city can absorb and help flourish, rather than dumping millions of square feet into a hole in the ground, that winds up becoming a failed project, would be a better option. Atlanta has a love affair with building new buildings, regardless of the fact that current levels of demand can’t support them – there are Croker Concourses all over this city.

    So, what I’m interested in is a city that’s actually a viable and enjoyable home and destination. One that people actually want to come to for more than a Braves game. Bright shiny buildings that are vacant don’t do that. Gradual successful development does.

    @ Ericson – my aversion to the Gulch is the fact that it’s not just a transportation hub proposal. Only one small portion of the project is a multi-modal transportation hub, the rest is retail, office, etc. It’s a proposal to add a slew of additional office space into a market that can’t handle it, and a slew of additional retail space into a market where there’s no demand. Only a small portion of the overall re-development plan is marked for GSU. This isn’t the f’ing field of dreams. You have to start small, until there is enough organic demand for larger scale projects to be viable. We’re not there, we’re not even close to there.

  34. Clicker

    Do mind-numbing, pointless, redundant, elementary-level critiques of Atlanta by Urbanist hurt our city?

  35. Urbanist

    @ JT – Why do you even bother? My comment about Charlotte, under another topic, was based solely on the impression I got about the city, and it’s population.

    And this “walk score” – we’re #20 out of #50, and did you see who was behind us? Cities that don’t have near the resources that we do. Not to mention the fact that there’s this website, and there’s reality. The reality is that outside of small pockets of a few neighborhoods, people don’t walk in this city. They may walk a few blocks in midtown, or a block or two in the highlands. Outside of that, people drive.

    If I had to guess, I’d bet you were a realtor…

    @ HGrady – Do you consider losing millions of dollars a success? I don’t. I consider that a failure. Atlantic Station has lost a lot of people a lot of money, and diverted a lot of much needed resources. That’s a failure no matter how you cut it. I never said having a brownfield where AS is, is a great thing. However, without AS there’s the opportunity to do something else with that space, that doesn’t lose investors millions of dollars, become a hub for crime, and divert resources to the city. Perhaps you should open an Econ 101 book…

    15mm square feet is what is marked and developed or planned, 15mm square feet is what I said. I’m not sure where the disconnect is. I also never said that the misallocation was a 1:1 ratio. I don’t think that by any means. However, there would be some allocation from AS to midtown proper, and Midtown proper needs it badly.

    Yes, AS hurt our city, for the reasons I continue to mention but you can’t seem to grasp. Just because it used to be a brownfield, doesn’t mean replacing it for a failed development is a good idea. Simple mind, simple pleasures…

  36. JT

    Caleb,
    This used to be a fun website with an entertaining and fun slant, where people who love and enjoy where they live could come read news about new places and developments in their city and take part in a dialouge about those places.It wasn’t opinion based, it wasn’t controversial, it was informative and fun and it’s the format that got you the recognition you have received in this city, the recognition you have so obviously let go to your head. Now in the name of page hits and comment counts you let this sad, pessimistic, lonely, hater of our community come on here and infuriate your readers and work them into a frenzy while you sit back and watch your hit counter. I would encourage you to count how many comments on Urbanist’s posts are not in any way a dialouge about the content but instead are just begging you to no longer allow this condesnding fool to insult us and our city and just return to the format that got us all here to begin with.

  37. Urbanist

    @ Clicker – You haven’t added one valuable thing, in a single one of your posts. At least the people here with criticism, whether it’s agreed upon or not, have an opinion and are inciting discussion.

    @ WestSider – I’m not linking the demise of midtown to AS, I’m simply saying that things could be better. There is a certain variable of demand out there at any given time, and there is a certain variable of supply. During the years when AS was being built, and when it had first opened, there was an increased level of demand from retailers, businesses, and residents to lease space, buy condos, and rent apartments. Without AS, I think it’s pretty safe to say that some, maybe a lot of, those retailers, businesses, and residents would have selected space in Midtown or Downtown, rather than AS. More condo units would have sold, more storefronts would have leased, more office space would have been occupied. This would have created a more dynamic environment in what people see as the “core” of Atlanta. It’s entirely conceivable that this would have fueled further demand, and better development. It is my opinion that having a vibrant city is far more important than having a large metro area build out in a number of highly disconnected neighborhoods.

    As far as the “what about the brownfield, if AS was never developed” – Perhaps it could be the new spot for a multi-mode transportation hub. Perhaps it could have been cleaned up and turned into green space. Perhaps it could have been used for any number of other development possibilities, that wouldn’t have resulted in such a large loss to investors. The fact is, that that opportunity no longer exists, and instead we’re left with a massive development that the vast majority of this city doesn’t embrace at all.

    @ Suburbanist – Read the article, and the posts.

  38. Kate Lee

    Urbanist makes some valid points. I am tired of seeing restaurant after store after restaurant opening in Midtown, Buckhead, West Side, Brookhaven, etc. while Atlantic Station can’t capture one (the dog place doesn’t count). NO ONE seems to want to take up the growing available space in the station. Would love more local flare there, but it wasn’t designed that way, and no local businesses seem to want to be the first. Though I live in the station, we walk over the 14th street bridge for shopping and dining almost exclusively now.

  39. Johnny Simmons

    I agree with many of Urbanist’s points in this article. I only have a couple of thoughts.

    Perhaps Atlantic Station would have been better suited as intown Atlanta’s big box destination, similar to The District at Howell Mill. Sprinkle in a park (a nice one), higher quality multifamily, and some retail to serve the immediate area (a couple restaurants, grocery, pharmacy, nail salon, bar, etc etc), and perhaps it would have been a more altruistic development.

    There is no way of knowing for sure that those retailers and that office space would have been built in Midtown. Atlanta in the early 2000s was still a barren wasteland. I don’t know that those retailers would have tested out urban store formats in Atlanta, considering the circumstances. They need a parking ratio, certain demographics, and most likely a named development to go into if they are not going right on some walking street in a big market. Atlanta had no walking streets at the time.

    On the flip side, now that there is more life in Midtown, better demographics, more residents, and more momentum, perhaps they would have considered looking here now (well not “now” in this economy, but as soon as things picked up). There are still plenty of other retailers out there, but if every new store that opened in Midtown were to the quality of Drew Ellis (with various products) but local to the market, then I would be even happier than if Banana Republic relocated from AS to Midtown.

    12th and Midtown is a master planned development. It is about as high quality as a development can be. There is nothing wrong with a PUD (Planned Unit Development), so long as the area and market are taken into context. Coincidentally, Selig is involved in both 12th and Midtown and the District at Howell Mill mentioned earlier, and both are the right projects for their respective areas (District is far more successful on a relative basis, but 12th and M will get there eventually).

  40. Rick

    Yet another mediocre pamphlet read from Urbanist. And btw, Im starting to believe that he has two usernames – Urbanist and SteveK.

  41. SteveK

    And another thing … hiring the company that runs Underground Atlanta to manage your property is ALWAYS a bad idea. AS went form a brand new shopping center to run-down inner-city blight in about 4 months. That was AS’s biggest mistake in my opinion – they ruined the property. I hope Mark is successful but it’s going to be difficult.

  42. SteveK

    @Rick – I’m not Urbanist – but I really do take that as a huge compliment!! THANKS. You made my day :)

  43. Harry

    Caleb, I agree with NailnCoffin, John, Redundant, Bryan, It Needs to be Said, JT and anybody else I missed. Urbanist doesn’t do your blog or your brand any service and should be relegated to just comments not features. If you’ve got something a point of quality news I’ll now rely on CL, Eater, AJC, ABC, and other publications to link me to your site.

  44. JustStop

    Atlanta will never be New York, Chicago or LA. I’m not a real estate genius, nor am I an urban developer, but really? Atlantic Station a failure?…..I think not. Neither is the Midtown Mile. Maybe you all have heard that there’s a recession going on and the housing market is in the toilet? Hmmm…I wonder if that might have a little something to do with the vacancies in both places.
    All of this dialog is an exercise in futility. I can’t believe i’m contributing to it, but I’m sick to ****ing death of hearing about how Atlantic Station sucks. NAP bought a turd with a lot of issues. Instead of just polishing it up and marketing it as a new and prettier turd, it seems like they are actually trying to make it what is should have been. Can’t we give them a little time to do that? I think they’ve made it obvious that they want to make it right by frequently commenting on posts on this very blog.

    Just Stop!

  45. MarkToro

    One of the great things about acquiring Atlantic Station has been the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with our community. It is not always pretty, but Atlanta is truly blessed to have a passionate, even agitated, community of people who want our city to be better. I’m certain that there are cities around the world that would kill for that.

    Without speaking to any single encouragement, criticism or comment, I will say that  Atlantic Station is unequivocally a better partner in the community than it was a year ago, six months or even three months ago. It will be even better three months, and three years, from today because of our intent to respond to the community we serve. In coming weeks, we’re putting out an actual report card on our progress since we acquired Atlantic Station in January and we hope our residents and guests will take a look at it, comment, and judge us by the actual progress we’ve made.

    Like the city we’re a part of, we’re a work in progress. We didn’t build Atlantic Station, but we are responsible for making it all that it can be, responding to the marketplace, We’re not there yet, but like you guys, we’re committed to making things better.

    Thanks for the comments pro and con.

    Stay tuned.

  46. Michael Hadden

    This is a pretty ridiculous post but I love Monday morning QB’ing as much as the next guy. Had the same development occurred along Peachtree in Midtown & DT, it would be a lovely place no doubt. That development just wouldn’t have happened as Urbanist dreams. Midtown/DT may have received 10% of the development that occurred in AS had it not occurred there. They may have received 50% but who knows? The concentration and concept of the project with the ability to provide new buildings and parking is what lured businesses. That would not have occurred without the vision, promise and concept that was marketed at the time. There would almost certainly not be a Target, H&M, Publix, Dillards & movie theater in Midtown.

    Urbanist argues that MPCs have no business being in an urban area but I disagree. Glenwood Park is incredible. It’s not the same scale but it certainly is master planned and it certainly does work and will work over time. Washington DC was a Master Planned Community a long time ago :) Give AS some time to age. It’s only been here 6 years. No one’s about to demolish it so accept that it’s there. It will grow with the city and mature over time. NAP will make some changes and it will improve but it will always have its virtues and faults just like every other non-master planned section of every city in the world.

    One last point, the Millennium Gate Arch is NOT A REPLICA of the Arc de Triumph in Paris. It is an original design in the style of triumphal arches that originated in the Roman Era and have been built in cities across the world for the past 2500 years.

  47. Urbanist

    @ Mark. It should be clear that my criticism of Atlantic Station is directed towards the initial development in the space, and the effect it’s had on the city; not investors that come in to buy an asset below replacement cost, who also bring the management and control that AS so desperately needs.

  48. Heartbreaksoup

    I’m going to have to agree with the other commenters, Caleb. It’s not that Urbanist is espousing controversial or unpopular opinions, it’s that he defends them in such an aggressive, immature and condescending way, and that you seem to turn a blind eye to it, probably to keep the page views up, as readers return to the page to see what will happen next. This has happened far too many times for it to be anything other than cynical on your part; you don’t object to the way that he’s dragged down the value of your site, and while there may be dozens of right ways to run a web site, there are also wrong ones. I’d rather not reward your site with the additional page view, and will get my real estate and restaurant news from Tomorrow’s News instead. I’ll return should I hear that Urbanist has been sacked. Might even click your careerbuilder.com ad to give you twenty cents’ revenue as thanks for getting rid of the offensive kid.

  49. Mike

    One thing I’ve noticed is that, at least in Midtown, there isn’t a lot of street parking (for example, parallel parking). If they took Juniper, West Peachtree, and Spring Streets and either added parallel on-street parking or converted them to two-way streets with parallel parking I think it would do a lot to help with the retail situation.

    People complain about not finding easy parking (most of it is in decks and for some reaosn that confuses people)… well add some parking meters and there will be plenty of parking… Juniper, W. Peachtree and Spring are all wide enough to accommodate on-street parking and it doesn’t cost that much to put change in a meter. Make it extra easy and less scary for all the retarded Atlanta people and use the meters that accept credit/debit cards.

    There is no reason Juniper, W. Peachtree and Spring need to be that wide anyways. There is usually not a lot of traffic on those streets. They have enough room to make wider sidewalks, add on street parking, and have lanes for cars.

    I appreciate the Midtown Alliance trying to fix the aesthetics of the sidewalks but they are doing a half-ass job. Take a lane of traffic and make the sidewalks wider!

  50. JonC

    @Mike – I totally agree with you. Turning Juniper, W Peachtree, and Spring into two ways, at least for large sections, would do wonders for injecting life into those streets. Currently they’re nothing but high speed express routes.

  51. 396

    @ Steve K – “run down urban blight?” Come on. I’m not sure you understand what blight is. I’m no fan of AS, but the definition of blight is not “the presence of one brown kid too many.” And it’s shoddily built in some places, and therefore showing more wear than it should at its age, but that’s not the same as “run down.”

    What I would have liked to see:

    Atlantic Station being built as an actual STATION – a multimodal transit terminal connected to Arts Center via light rail, with transit-oriented development consisting of about half of the retail, restaurant, office and residential development it currently has. The other half of the development would be dispersed throughout midtown. That could make Atlanta a very, different, much better city.

    @ Mike – Add Piedmont to that list. There’s no reason for there to be a five-lane, one-way street in the middle of a city. It looks like an expressway and that’s why people drive on it as if it is.

  52. Urbanist

    @ Mike – Agree, but disagree, re: street situation. I would love to see the block of Midtown from 14th down to North, btw Spring & Piedmont, turned into a model for urban transit in this city (this specific area has the best infrastructure for it). One way streets only, on-street parking, turn all the little alleyway streets (like Armstead) into pedestrian only green spaces, widen streets, etc. South of 10th St, you could conceivably extend this out to Monroe.

    Thinking forward (with the hope that Midtown will become a more densely populated place), one way streets will be needed to ease the flow of traffic. I think much of Midtown’s traffic problem exists because there are too few lanes on the busiest roads (like Peachtree, 14th, 10th, etc.). The recent overhaul of 14th St., only makes matters worse. They failed to address the issue of the “no left turn” from 14th onto Peachtree, they added medians – which cut the flow of traffic, the light situation is horrendous, etc.

  53. max

    too bad urbanist doesn’t have the slightest clue about what makes a good URBAN city. one way streets? come on man. you do know that most cities are removing one-way streets because they were usually made to be thoroughfares and are not conducive to bringing the streetscape together (see W.Peachtree and Juniper). use a lane from WP and J for BRT bus-only or the future streetcar (year right) and we might be getting somewhere.

  54. Urbanist

    Max, look around the world at cities that are considered great cities and you’ll see an abundance of one-way streets. Nice try

  55. Curtis

    First time poster…but I kind of agree here. As much as I love the stores that AS has…it seems to me like a failure. Crime rates are quite high as evidenced by the number of promos they have to run to say “we are adding more cameras! more security! hooray!” To my knowledge the finances on the project were a huge drain at the wrong time and we are scraping to see a return on that money. Not to mention it seems like AS is just out of place…

    I disagree that MPCs CAN’T work, but I dont think AS was the resounding success they hoped it would be.

  56. SteveK

    @396 – Yes, I use hyperbole. And it seems that you assume that I’m white. Problems I saw were: the cheap chain retailers, inability to keep a good local retailer alive like Maddix Deluxe, the higher-than-usual crime, parking deck gates that ofen broke, cheap construction, bawdy Friday/Saturday parties that drove away more people than they attracted, cheesy movie theater, etc…

  57. KenBud

    A tree is only a strong as its roots, and a city and its metropolitan area are the same. Atlanta’s roots should start from the center. If a city has a weak downtown (and I’m not talking Midtown!), then its branches will also be weakened. Efforts should be made to concentrate on revitalizing downtown and then watch Midtown and parts of West Midtown flourish even more.

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