Decade in Review - THEN AND NOW: Smart(-ish) growth

THEN: Picture this: Driving to another county for home improvement supplies. Spending hours in Buckhead congestion to shop for a pair of jeans. Heading across town for a decent grocery store. These were predicaments facing intowners in 2000. There were glimmers of hope, however. Sembler, the Florida-based developer whose Whole Foods- and Home Depot-anchored shopping complex across from City Hall East opened at the end of 2000, announced plans for a Publix and nearby apartments at Piedmont Road and North Avenue. Castleberry Hill and its posh $155,000 lofts had caught on with the bohemians, but was still a place where, according to one carpenter interviewed by the AJC that year, the “Rasta men” next to his warehouse residence “smoke pot and host rave parties that never seem to stop.” Lindbergh City Center, the first of MARTA’s public-private ventures that located mixed-use developments near transit stops, slowly rose from the ground.

NOW: Oh, hi there, IKEA, Whole Foods, H&M, Target, Home Depot, blah, blah, blah! Should you need flat-screens to compete with your Castleberry Hill neighbors (or plywood to board up the abandoned home next door), you now miraculously have options. The Westside, with its flagship Atlantic Station, has successfully leveraged its industrial charm into one of the city’s most creative experiments in redevelopment. Across town, the Glenwood Park mixed-use development just south of I-20 now makes the greenies swoon, and the Edgewood Retail District has come to the rescue of amenities-starved intowners. Yet while these new complexes are relatively walkable, only a handful are well-served by public transit, and only Glenwood Park fully embraces the smart-growth model. And thanks to the global financial meltdown, entire projects — such as Ben Carter’s $800 million Streets of Buckhead and Midtown’s Trump Tower — have been placed on the backburner until the economy recovers. Even then, some experts say it might take at least four years to absorb the glut of condo and office space that spots the city.

PROGNOSIS: Cookie-cutter condos and spotty smart growth do not a vibrant city make. When the dust settles, let’s try to do it right.

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