This is the first post in a series related to the best and worst developments in Atlanta. I love the diverse, vibrant neighborhoods we have and nothing irritates me more than seeing a development fail miserably at contributing to these types of neighborhoods. I am not including developments that are not located in urban areas. Though suburbia needs to provide more walkability and be less auto-dependent, a development that caters to these needs is simply upholding the status-quo for that area and the fault really lies with the area in general and not with the particular development. I’m going to attach a numerical score to each development with 10.0 representing the highest possible score. Hopefully I can maintain some consistency in applying these numbers, but that’s probably impossible. So, with that said….
Trader Joe’s at Monroe and 8th: 5.0
Oh Trader Joe’s. Beyond the fact that you offer affordable, mostly quality food, but refuse to operate in any neighborhood that doesn’t consist of middle to upper income residents, you pull stunts like this. Your entire premise is that you support a lifestyle of eating organic and sustainably-produced foods because you like the environment, yet you locate in auto-oriented, suburban-style shopping centers. Last I checked, burning oil for energy isn’t so great for the environment. This is just another example of Trader Joe’s masquerading as an environmentally-friendly store.
The problem with this development, and most developments on this list, is that it caters to the car and not to the human. It’s located a stone’s throw away from Piedmont Park, a place designed for the walking human. It’s down the street from midtown, a place where residents can actually walk around to do many things. It’s across the street from Grady High School, a place consisting of a number of people who arrive there by walking. The Grady stadium nicely fits into the street network and offers a large sidewalk that allows smooth pedestrian interaction. This area looks like a beautiful urban neighborhood with the midtown skyline in the background, tree-lined streets, sidewalks, and a giant park. Then the development goes and destroys this by making a gigantic parking lot the predominant attraction. You no longer feel welcome as a pedestrian on one side of the street because you’re sandwiched between lanes of traffic and a parking lot.
The immediate area surrounding the center does consist of single-family homes with residents that rely on cars, but that is a lame excuse for developing the center around the car. The zone has minimum parking requirements, so the development can’t be blamed for the amount of parking, but it doesn’t mean parking lots have to be so prominently displayed. A parking lot is not aesthetically pleasing and it only acts as a barrier to pedestrian interaction. Sure you can walk through the parking lot to get to the stores, but we all know this is a hassle. Drivers are so busy trying to deal with parking and avoiding cars, not to mention their constant rage just from driving in Atlanta, that they barely notice pedestrians. There is a way to circumvent the lot, but it’s an inconvenient and boring replacement to street-front retail.
The development could be restructured to create street-front retail with parking in the back. This is kind of an awkward piece of land that doesn’t lend itself to street extensions and formations, but a few stores could have fronted Monroe and 8th Street could have been properly extended with sidewalks running the entire length and the rest of the stores could front this street. Parking could be in the form of a garage behind the stores. This satisfies the demands of both the pedestrian and the car. For ruining an otherwise walkable area, but still maintaining compactness and providing somewhat easy pedestrian access it gets a 5.0.