Welcome to the first DRAFT of the Westside Future Fund’s Land-Use Action Plan for Vine City. 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 four months. These are the initial drafts for the third 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. Previous Plans
For Vine City, as well as English Avenue and Mims Park, the Land-Use Action Team pulled information and community input from more than 18 previous plans in the last 15 years. These included the 2001 Proctor Creek-North Avenue Watershed Basic Study, 2004 Vine City Redevelopment Plan, 2009 Vine City and Washington Park LCI, 2013 Westside TADs:Vine City and English Avenue. “A lot of common themes show up in all these plans,” Action Team Leader Dhiru Thadani said. “These are things that people have already thought about, and neighborhoods have already commented – so let’s just pick up on that and continue to move forward. We’ve taken the greatest hits, the common things that are still relevant and reapplied them to the new Land-Use Action Plan.”
2. Building Inventory
Before incorporating some of the community’s idea into the Action Plan, the team did a detailed assessment of those existing buildings and vacant lots. It also took stock of the architectural fabric and civic institutions in the neighborhood.
The team found 671 structures in Vine City. Of those, Thadani recommended only 51 of those be demolished. The remaining 620 should be preserved. Ninety-two are in good shape, but the remaining 528 need work. As far as lots that are currently vacant, Thadani said there’s enough land to almost double the number of structures in the neighborhood. The last map below has 321 new buildings highlighted in red. “There isn’t a demand for that much building,” he said. “But these are the available sites, and we’ll be very judicious in our recommendation of which of those sites should be developed short term, and long term.”
3. Street Strategy
The next series of slides outline Vine City’s boundaries, then drop in two of the main North/South interior streets of Brawley and Vine that divide up the neighborhood into three zones that are around 1,500 feet across (a five to ten minute walk). The most significant landmarks currently in the neighborhood are Mims Park, Vine City Park and Kennedy School. The last map shows Magnolia being extended. “There’s no real horizontal East/West street that goes through in Vine City,” said Thadani. “We talked a lot about connectivity and how you can move through the neighborhood. It’s really crucial because you can see that MLK is blocked by the new stadium, so we need alternative ways to get downtown. Magnolia is one – the previous studies looked at this, so we just picked up on their studies about the feasibility of extending Magnolia.”
Another recommendation was highlighting and preserving Sunset Avenue and its historic homes. Thadani said they suggested adding another park at the Southern end of the street that Park Pride already has in the works. Cutting through the park and just north of both MARTA stations is the new routing of the Lionel Hampton Trail PATH that’s for bicycle and pedestrians. The Action Team is recommended a similar East/West trail cutting through the Northern part of Vine City, but would just be for pedestrians because of the extreme topography. “These secondary ways are extremely important to create networks in the neighborhood,” said Thadani. “It’s connected as opposed to split up by dead ends.”
Additional maps highlight the neighborhoods schools, public services and faith-based facilities. “There are a lot of civic institutions already in this area, so we need to support these institutions first and foremost, and then add in the residential,” said Thadani.
4. Transit-Oriented Development
To help design around the MARTA stations, Thadani brought in architects Daniel Ashtary and Michael Mabaquiao with Torti Gallas who specialize in Transit-Oriented Developments. The circles on the map below around both stations represent a five-minute walk. “When we do transit-oriented development, we like to get as much density around those transit stops as possible,” said Thadani. “It’s not only residential, so that people can use transit to go to work, but also offices where people can use transit to come to work.” He described TODs as a marriage between transit and land use. And that it’s pedestrian friendly where every transit trip starts and ends with walking.
“One of the issues we’re dealing with here is a lot of pent up demand for Transit-Oriented Development,” said Thadani. Demographers estimate the demand for housing in denser, walkable, mixed-use communities is as much as 30 percent; but new housing starts in TODs is less than two percent. TODs can also be cheaper to live in because you’re reducing or eliminating the need for a car. “We don’t want to burden people with buying a car, or having to move all the time in an automobile,” he said. Some banks offer a transit-oriented mortgage where the calculated savings from the elimination or reduction of auto use is applied to how much a homebuyer can afford as well as a reduced rate.
Michael Mabaquiao with Torti Gallas described how their plans embrace TOD ideas. “Our proposal at Ashby Station is smaller in scale, responding to the smaller scale neighborhood, which is mostly comprised of two-story single family homes, an old school going through adaptive reuse, and a new five-story condo building,” he said. “The existing MARTA station buildings are also on the list of ones needing upgrade/renovation. On the corner of Lowery and Carter (where there is now parking and drop-off), we propose a small paved square where the stairs/escalators exit from the subway, where sculpture or a monument greets their arrival. Fronting the western side of the square, we propose a mixed-use building with space for a café in the ground floor. On the western side of the square, across Lowery Street, would be a five-story office building running south for the length of the block. To fill out the rest of our proposed intervention are two three-story multifamily buildings at the corner of Turner and Carter (one north of Carter, one across the street to the south, completing the volume of buildings that give shape to Harper Memorial Park), townhouses and duplexes to the west of our proposed office building on Carter Street, and finally a five-story mixed use building at the corner of Lowery and MLK.”
5. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Because the Martin Luther King Jr Blvd now dead ends at the new stadium, the Action Team suggested curving Mitchell St. into MLK with a roundabout. “The proposal is to make that a gateway,” said Thadani. “We can connect Mitchell as you come from downtown, that will be the street that brings you into Vine City at Vine Street.” He suggested MLK east of there could be turned into an event space. “You really don’t need six lanes there because the main traffic will be on Mitchell, so that section of MLK can become a farmer’s market, that space can become a celebratory space where you can have food trucks during events and games.”
The Action Team drafted plans for the entire length of MLK along Vine City. It builds on the city of Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Streetscape Improvement Plan, which involves tens of millions in upgrades throughout the seven-mile street, including synchronized traffic lights, a multi-use trail, historic signage, street furniture, distinctive paving, public art displays and more. “The Mayor talked about making Atlanta’s MLK the greatest MLK in the country,” said Thadani. “One way to do that is with the buildings that line both sides of the street. We really need to think about MLK as a space framed by buildings on each side with activity and life on that corridor.”
6. James P Brawley
The Land-Use Action Team also targeted James P Brawley which has one of the highest rates of empty lots in the Vine City, but serves as a central North/South corridor on the Westside.“It’s the only street that goes from the AUC all the way to Georgia Tech,” said Thadani. “It’s the one street that will connect all three neighborhoods – so you take Brawley Street and redevelop that as a housing corridor.” Architect Bill Dennis of B Dennis Town Design focused exclusively on Brawley and inserting architecturally appropriate homes within the existing buildings. “We heard over and over again that folks wanted to maintain the character of the neighborhood,” said Thadani.
7. Vine & Magnolia
The final recommendation is focused on Vine City’s historic center at the intersection of Vine and Magnolia. Three of the four corners have existing buildings – two of them commercial and one a church. Architect and Urban Planner Sarah Lewis designed a draft recommendation for the site that would have special paving (brick or stamped concrete) to slow traffic and indicate that this is a place. It would also make it easy to close streets for larger events or gatherings. Possible “woonerf” – a sidewalk and street at the same level to create a public space for festivals and neighborhood events (maybe outdoor Movies on Magnolia?). She suggests street trees and upgraded (and maintained) sidewalks to improve walkability.