When the Braves leave Atlanta next year for their new home in Cobb County, the “true Braves Country,” the Summerhill neighborhood that has fostered the team since the Braves moved in after the ’96 Olympics will be faced with a pretty ominous question: “What next?”
Unfortunately for this historic neighborhood, and countless other host cities around the world, Olympic infrastructure (or large sports venues for singular events in general, as Brazil’s World Cup stadium woes show) seldom benefits the community in which it sits. At present, the fate of Turner Field has not yet been decided. Fortunately for Summerhill, PEDS recently held one of their walks along Georgia Avenue to look at the potential and problems of the area. Naturally, I was there to take a look, too.
The first thing that surprised me was how many people showed up. Don’t get me wrong, PEDS is doing a great job getting professors, students, ARC representatives, local government officials, and development nerds like myself out in force for their walks, but I haven’t seen this many ordinary community members in attendance at any walk I’ve been to so far. Afterwards I checked with PEDS’ Ian Sansom to see exactly how many people showed up; at his count, 61.
Walking with that many people, some of them are bound to lag behind. Even still, the group stayed together as we examined dead streetlights, newly planted street trees, and curb cuts. We talked together about what the area needs to be more appealing, such as businesses instead of empty parking lots before Braves games or denser development in any of the many abandoned lots along the way to Turner Field. We also checked out the amazing murals on the way.
Afterwards we returned to the Georgia Hill Neighborhood Center and broke into small groups to discuss and write down our ideas. Every table came up with different, great ideas for how to improve the neighborhood, but nearly every table came to the same conclusion: Bring Atlanta Streets Alive to Summerhill.
From the West End to Poncey-Highlands, Atlanta Streets Alive has been a positive force when it comes to attracting and educating Atlantans about different areas of this city. More importantly, Atlanta Streets Alive exposes Atlantans to a better way, the way things could be, with less dependency on cars; safer streets, more robust businesses, more local food, healthier lifestyles, more people doing that “Southern Thing” and saying “Hi” to one another on the sidewalks.
For an area of Atlanta that has so long suffered from that car culture, of seemingly endless yet expanding parking lots, there’s no more powerful a sign of change for Summer Hill than to have its very own Atlanta Streets Alive. It’d be something new to the neighborhood, kind of like how it was before the stadium was even there.
The potential is apparent, the building blocks already there. Bring Atlanta Streets Alive to Georgia Ave and let Summerhill shine.