Welcome to the first DRAFT of the Westside Future Fund’s Land-Use Action Plan for English Avenue. After months of research and review, and an intensive week of stakeholder and public meetings – we’re presenting a list of recommendations and concepts for your review. We’ll be continually updating the site with more information and input over the next five months. These are the initial drafts for the second of five target areas on Atlanta’s Westside that will be combined to create a comprehensive Land-Use Action Plan in partnership with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Planning and Community Development. Please look over our list of actionable projects (many already in the works) and give us your feedback in the comments section at the bottom of this page. We’ll be taking input throughout the process on all our target areas as we create a land-use action plan that you and the city of Atlanta can be proud of.
1. Social Capital
Heading up the Land-Use Action Team is Architect & Urbanist Dhiru Thadani and his team of local and national experts who met with stakeholders from English Avenue to get their input. “The meetings are getting more intense and more informative,” said Thadani. The members of the English Avenue Neighborhood Association (EANA) gave a list of five things they wanted to see incorporated into the Action Plan.
- Start with the EANA Visioning Report
- Show 2006 & 2014 Plans
- Discuss Watershed Issues
- Identify & Celebrate Community Treasures
- Make sure audience understands that it is a DRAFT
“We met with community leaders, and they told us to make sure that everyone understands that what we’re showing is a draft. So all these plans are in a state of flux, and improving as we get more input.” Thadani followed up his Friday morning Summit presentation with a Saturday morning repeat to the English Avenue Neighborhood Association (EANA) where more than 50 people showed up to give their comments on the draft plan. Here’s the handout from that presentation.
2. Building Inventory
Two comments that came up in Stakeholder meetings were Need to use vacant properties to rebuild affordable housing in the area and Redevelop vacant multi-family. With that in mind, the first thing the Land-Use Action Team did was inventory the neighborhood’s buildings. The first map shows the 1,276 existing buildings and lots in the neighborhood. The next map highlights in white the 613 structures that are good candidates for preservation. “The first step is to look at those structures, evaluate them, see if they can be restored and what the cost would be. In most cases I think that these structures can be adaptively reused,” said Thadani. The next map highlights in yellow those 306 structures that need some type of enhancement. “We need to evaluate whether it’s worth tearing those buildings down or fixing them up,” he said. “If they are torn down, the ideal thing would be to use the foundations to minimally make changes to those sites.”
The last building inventory map shows in red the 357 vacant sites in English Avenue that Thadani says create an opportunity to add new construction. The team’s four recommended types for these sites include single family, condominium flats (small scale condo buildings), townhouses (duplex and four-plex) and multifamily. To help guide what would be the right mix of new construction, Laurie Volk with Zimmerman/Volk Associates is conducting a Westside housing market study. She presented her initial findings earlier in the week.
A request that came up during the Stakeholder meetings was Increase connectivity between nodes, by increasing lighting, improving sidewalks, and installing cameras. The Action Team used the historic model created by the Romans for town building. “You had what they called a cardo which is a north/south street and the decumanus which is the East/West street. The English Avenue Neighborhood Association identified that center for us (in its Visioning Report),” said Thadani. The first map shows the intersection of James P. Brawley Dr. and Cameron Madison Alexander Blvd. as the primary crossroad of English Avenue. The second drops in the other districts that the Visioning Study focused on: English Avenue Campus District, Mattie Freeland District and Lindsay/Oliver Ecological District. “Our first goal was connecting those four districts,” he said. “We’ve drawn a box that puts a priority on where to direct money to improve specific roads and streets.” The red lines that make up the box are the secondary streets that create an internal layer of connection inside English Ave – including those such as Pelham St. and Neal St. that have dead ends. While topography or existing buildings may prevent opening those dead ends up to cars, Thadani suggested it could work for bicycles and pedestrians (the red dotted lines). The last map below shows how greenways create another opportunity to making connections in the English Avenue. “There’s a railroad track that cuts diagonally that can be converted into a trail to lead to Maddox Park and Bankhead, then keep going to the Chattahoochee River.”
4. Urban Agriculture
“We want to make a link in terms of food security in English Avenue,” Thadani said. “We created a second route which is the agricultural route, or the canopy route, that connects all these community gardens and hopefully will encourage more community gardens along this route.” The dotted green line shows where a secondary urban agriculture route could be, and how it lines up with the Proctor Creek tributaries. “You’ve got water and urban agriculture working together.”
5. Parks & Playgrounds
Adding more parks and playgrounds was another recommendation by the Land-Use Action Team to give easier access to every resident in English Avenue. “Not just one big park,” said Thadani. “You need to scatter these parks all around the neighborhood so everyone is within one or two blocks from a main public space.” One tactical urbanism solution would be to use some of the church parking lots as basketball courts when the churches didn’t need the space. It would create a network of parks and playgrounds that are within a 2.5 minute walk of every resident in English Avenue.
When the Action Team focused on the Alexander/Brawley intersection, revitalizing St. Mark was a top priority for the Stakeholders. “There was a lot of talk about converting St. Mark into a library,” said Thadani. “But there’s a fabulous old library building on the edge of Hollowell Pkwy. that is one of the historic Carnegie Libraries. We suggest that it should be converted back to its original use.” The Action Team still feels that St. Mark can be a central gathering place, but with another approach. Guest architect Eric Moser of Moser Design Group in Beaufort, SC drafted a design to preserve and enhance the exposed shell of the old First Saint Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church. A metal roof floating above protects the building. Inside would be two stories of retail stalls to serve as a craft industry – artisans incubator. It includes a display space in the center, and a mezzanine above. The principal notion is that this interior work can be installed inexpensively, and removed when the time is right to do a full restoration of the building.
7. English Avenue Campus
The historic English Avenue School and its surroundings was the next focus for the Land-Use Action Team. The Action Team agreed with the Visioning Session’s recommendation that the main building serve multiple uses such as Education Youth Development Center, Recreation and Arts Center, Technology Center, Medical Facility Clinic and Child Care Facility. “As those institutions go online, they should start to occupy, and begin to renovate the English Avenue school building to turn it into a central hub.” Other improvements to the campus would be a community garden that backs up to the old Carnegie Library and an updated playground. The Action Team also suggests building new student housing on the Northeast corner that would create a connection between the school and the Boys & Girls Club across the street.
What Thadani didn’t like in the previous 2006 Redevelopment Plan was a proposed commercial and mixed-use district on both sides of the Donald Lee Hollowell Pkwy. “We think that it might take away retail opportunities from the actual English Avenue neighborhood, so it’s our feeling that it’s better to keep that within the neighborhood.”
8. Mattie Freeland
While recommendations for the first two districts called for significant improvements, the Action Team suggests only a light touch for Mattie Freeland because of its higher density of homeowners.