Today marks the five-year anniversary of our very first blog post. To mark the occasion, we took a look back at over 100 posts to select the ten(ish) posts that we think everyone should read. The posts cover a wide range of topics, including design, mobility, housing choice, and redevelopment. We think of the blog as our laboratory – a place to post things that we are working on, learning about, and debating in the office. A lot of these posts started that way – as conversations in the office. Our knowledge and thinking on these topics has grown and evolved over time, but these selected posts capture the highlights and topics we get asked about the most.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how important getting parking right is to creating walkable, affordable, and enjoyable places. Strategic zoning code reforms have helped Atlanta make some headway towards reducing the ill effects of parking requirements on our city, but we still have a long way to go. This two-part post and video explain why parking requirements are so detrimental to our cities.
A TALE OF TWO BRIDGES
Atlanta, like a lot of cities, struggles to align the expenditure of public funding with the goals stated in documents like the Atlanta City Design. It’s critical to back up those statements with action and investment in order to achieve progress. In our most-read post to date, we explored one of the most egregious examples of this in the comparison of the Northside Drive pedestrian bridge at Mercedes-Benz Stadium – the exact cost of which is still being debated – to the much more people-friendly and less costly Fifth Street Bridge.
ZONING CODES 101: THE TRANSECT
Sometimes we need a quick refresher on urbanism fundamentals. Judging by the number of clicks these posts have gotten over the last few years, I’m guessing we’re not the only ones. In this brief series from 2016, we took a look at two concepts promoted (and in large part created) by groups like the Congress for the New Urbanism, whose mission is to promote the development of walkable urbanism around the world.
A TACTICAL SOLUTION FOR DEKALB AVE
We were excited to see Complete Streets become the subject of much discussion this year in Atlanta. In late 2018, we teamed up with our neighbors at the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to take a critical eye towards one of Atlanta’s busiest and most dangerous corridors: Dekalb Avenue. Our pilot project concept for a Complete Dekalb Ave resulted in a 2019 Community Design Award from the Atlanta Urban Design Commission.
THOUGHTS ON OUR CURRENT STORMWATER MANAGEMENT POLICY
Do you ever think about where all the water goes when it rains? In a city like Atlanta, where much of the land is covered with impervious concrete or asphalt, it becomes a real problem. Much like parking, Atlanta’s zoning code (like most others) requires that property owners accommodate their stormwater on site. This introduces an often-insurmountable cost burden to redevelopment projects working with a tight budget. In this post from February 2016, we offer an alternative: collective stormwater systems like Historic Fourth Ward Park.
UNDERSTANDING ADA: A GUIDE FOR SMALL DEVELOPERS
Small developers are some of our favorite people to work with for a reason: they’re willing to take on an overwhelming amount of work and risk to build or redevelop a building that will benefit the community. We act as guides, helping small developers navigate the jungle of finance, design, zoning, and code compliance. The best path through the jungle requires a nuanced understanding of codes like the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has requirements and exceptions that can make or break a redevelopment project. We dive into the details in this post from May 2017.
THE GOOD AND BAD NEWS ABOUT WALKABILITY
The world’s most desirable places to live and visit all share one thing: they are a pleasure to experience on foot. A property’s Walk Score has become a central consideration for many home buyers. That overwhelming preference for walkability would lead you to think that our zoning codes would encourage the development of walkable places, right? Wrong. This post from August 2016 explains why – and why it’s critical that we reform our zoning code to make it easier to build the kinds of places we want to live in.
8 FEATURES THAT MAKE PARSONS ALLEY WORK
We spend so much time on the blog talking about the technical side of things that it might be easy to forget that we’re designers first and foremost. At Parson’s Alley we got to really flex our design muscles, crafting seven buildings around a public square to create a walkable, vibrant place for downtown Duluth. From storefront glass to parking lots, this post breaks down the key features that contribute to the success of Parson’s Alley, which has earned numerous awards since its completion in 2017, including a CNU Charter Award and Development of Excellence Awards from ULI and ARC.
THOUGHTS ON INCREMENTAL INFILL: HOW TO GET MORE OF WHAT WE LOVE
The topic of Housing Choice has become one of our primary areas of focus in the last couple years. Our work in Placemaking has led us to visit and study walkable, lively places – places with the type of inclusive, vibrant urbanism that can only be supported by a critical mass of diverse residents living and working in and around that place. That population size and social and economic diversity can only be supported by a wide variety of housing types; predominantly single-family neighborhoods – supported by restrictive zoning codes – simply cannot get the job done alone. This post, and the attached presentation, are a good encapsulation of our thoughts on a topic that we’re learning more about every day.
Accessory Dwelling Units, Tiny Homes, Guest Houses – whatever you call them, ADU’s are an integral component of expanding housing choice in our cities and combating the growing housing crisis in Atlanta and elsewhere. And even if we didn’t desperately need them to increase the housing supply, we’d still love them, because they’re just plain cute. We’ve written a ton about ADU’s, from finance, to design, to housing equity and affordability.