Weekly Links

Atlanta’s Zero Mile Post Has Been Downtown for 150 Years. Not Anymore.

Weekly Links: brief commentary on local, state, and national stories from (roughly) the past week


Urban Planning/Atlanta

Atlanta’s Zero Mile Post Has Been Downtown for 150 Years. Not Anymore.

From The AJC. The 800-pound piece of marble that was installed in the 1850’s to mark the southern terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroads will be moved. For the past 20 years it’s sat under the Central Avenue Viaduct in a locked building , but thanks to renovations to the Central Avenue and Courtland Street bridges it will be moved to the Atlanta Historical Society in Buckhead.

Back in the 1840’s the Georgia Legislature commissioned rail lines to come into Georgia from Chattanooga. Soon afterwards a city, let’s call it Atlanta, developed around the terminus of those rail lines. The zero mile post has been in this terminus location for more than 150 years. While we’ll still know the exact coordinates of it location and we’ll have access to it at the Atlanta Historical Society, it’s not the same as viewing it in person in its original location. While the zero mile post probably isn’t comparable to something like the Roman Coliseum in terms of historical significance, imagine how dissatisfying it would be to view the Coliseum in a reconstructed fashion miles outside the center of Rome.

Atlanta’s Zero Mile Marker. Photo Credit: Jim Hodgson via Wikipedia

Urban Planning/Atlanta

In Twist, City Council Approves Gulch Deal While Amazon Chooses Two Other Cities

From The AJC and New York Times. Monday was a big day for two high-profile Atlanta development projectsLate on Monday night, the Atlanta City Council approved $1.9 billion in public subsidies for re-development of the downtown Gulch site. The nearly $2 billion in public financing made the re-development an unpopular project that many local politicians had touted as a potential home for Amazon’s future second headquarters in Atlanta, a move that is also unpopular.

Meanwhile, throughout the day on Monday, reports were circulating that Amazon was close to choosing Crystal City/Arlington/Northern Virginia as the site of its second headquarters. Amazon then said that instead of one site for its HQ2 campus, it was splitting it between two cities. Because why not? The New York Times reported that Queens would be that second location.

At this point we don’t know why Amazon is apparently not choosing Atlanta for its second location. However, New York City and Washington, DC are obvious choices given that New York is the most economically influential city in the world and DC is the most politically influential city in the world. Perhaps Amazon also isn’t interested in wading into a state that produces controversial political figures who’s statements and actions generally don’t align with the interests of the company or its employees. But, again, New York and DC are obvious choices. Like the Gulch development project, Amazon’s potential relocation to Atlanta was controversial among residents and city politicians, though relocation had the strong endorsement of Governor Deal.



Tornado Alley is Moving Closer to Georgia

From Kottke.org. Since 1954 the area of the United States that sees the most tornadoes has gradually shifted further south and east. Between 1954 and 1983, eastern Oklahoma saw the most tornadoes each year, but between 1984 and 2014 that title now goes to areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. So the areas with the most tornadic activity are knocking on the doorstep of Georgia.

That’s just one shift in the climate we’ve seen over the past several decades. Plant hardiness zones are moving north at 13 miles per decade while the wheat belt is moving 150 miles north each decade. Since the 1970’s, the tropical areas of the world have shifted about .2 to .3 degrees north per decade (1 degree is about 70 miles). Contrary to what most people think, tropical areas are generally hot and dry, not necessarily wet.

Urban Planning

Why Do We Keep Trying to Build Cities From Scratch?

From Bloomberg. Out-of-the-box cities are all the rage right now in developing countries. In places from Nigeria to China, governments are heavily financing cities that are being built and planned from the ground up. The main impetus for this is overcrowding. Huge projects like this also raise international attention, which attracts additional financing. Decades ago we experienced a similar movement here in the US where starchitects, urban planners, and cities became interested in “beautifying” the city, which essentially meant moving wealthy people to nicer places. Unsurprisingly, the current movement in developing countries means the same thing.

Perhaps the quote that best sums up the entire idea of building cities from scratch is about Brazil’s planned capital, Brasilia, which was conceived of and built in the 1960s. Author Monte Reel states:

“Cities are organisms that undergo constant evolutions, inevitably responding to stresses in ways planners can’t predict. The most vibrant part of Brasília today isn’t the faux-futuristic corridor of government buildings that dominated the city plans; it’s all the neighborhoods and restaurants and clubs that occupy the spaces left blank.”


Cover Photo: ‘Atlanta, Georgia — the Commercial Centre’, a wood engraving drawn by Horace Bradley and published in Harper’s Weekly, February 12, 1887 via Wikipedia



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