What will Downtown Atlanta look like in a decade? 

10 Atlantans share their visions for the city center in 2024

Downtown is currently undergoing a series of massive changes. There are a wide variety of high-profile projects being built including a new stadium, museums, streetcar, academic buildings, and residential units. Those kinds of developments could have a positive impact. But it's unclear how all of them together will impact the neighborhood 10 years down the road. Several Atlantans from different backgrounds including residents, politicians, and civic leaders described what they think Downtown will be like a decade from now.

Photos by Joeff Davis, Illustration by Jason Kofke

National Center for Civil and Human Rights CEO Doug Shipman: You'll see more residents in Downtown, both student and non-student residents. I think you'll see the food scene continue to grow Downtown in the way that it has in other places in Atlanta, so that Downtown becomes even more of a destination for food. I think you'll see Downtown getting a reputation nationally as a place to visit. ... I think Downtown Atlanta is going to get its own positive reputation where people say: 'Yep, I'm going to Atlanta and I'm going to Downtown.' It's going to have that kind of feel.

Mayor Kasim Reed: Ten years from now, Downtown is going to be one of the most vibrant and sexiest parts of the city to be in because of affordability. You're already seeing residential coming in where there never was residential. There are two apartment towers right south of the Georgia Pacific building that are partially designed for housing for GSU students and partially designed for young people. Then you're going to have another one on Auburn [Avenue]. It's where the energy is going to be. Atlanta, over the next 10 to 15 years, is going to be on its way to a population of 500,00 versus 440,000. You're going to have some Washington D.C.-like growth. The city is ascending and is going to be the center of action for the state. I think it's going to be truly diverse for the first time in our lives.

Georgia State University President Mark Becker: The Downtown residential population will increase significantly. That's not just with more students because of our continued development. I think [there's] more private citizens living in condos and apartments. We don't have the density of a New York City. But I think Atlanta's going to continue to grow and trend toward young professionals wanting to live in cities and neighborhoods like Midtown. Downtown is coming along in that direction as well.

Wendy Darling, Downtown resident: A lot of present barriers will be broken down, led chiefly by millennials and others feeling hemmed in by other "established" Atlanta neighborhoods that are more homogenized, upscale, expensive, and less urban than what they're looking for. Old Downtown buildings will be converted to residential; investors will buy up some lots and build new buildings - either matching 1920s type buildings or edgy industrial like near 4th Ward Park. There will probably be a transit-oriented development around Garnett MARTA station, as station is currently surrounded by parking lots. Meanwhile, there's huge potential for GSU students, government workers, airport workers, all kinds of people to live there. I would expect that in 10 years, hopefully much sooner, Downtown will have a real grocery store, which is an amenity lots of folks are waiting on.

Amid this optimism, I do not expect a lot to change as far as the neighborhood's seemingly intractable homeless and panhandling situation. It's endemic. There's hope as far as working on public feedings and expanding services while integrating populations in that area. As long as conventions keep coming and some area, currently Hurt Park, is left as an area to be taken over, then a lot of things will be the same.

Mammal Gallery Co-Founder Brian Egan: What EAV has become, a tight-knit community with a daytime grocer, reading room, and coffee shop. Local vibes and no Taco Bell. It'd be nice to have people living down here and a place where artists can live and work.

Rosa's Pizza Owner John Rosa: I think it's going to be about the same. Everything's full. What they're trying to do, and I've seen pictures and architectural designs, is that they're trying to close Broad Street down. That would be the best. We could put tables out there, no cars, and no nothing. Make it like a park area. People could come down here, eat on a Saturday, and relax.

Atlanta Streetcar Director Tim Borchers I see both families and single people living Downtown in a walkable community. I see them getting on the Streetcar at one shop and getting off at the Sweet Auburn [Curb] Market to do their shopping at another stop. I see visitors, tourists, and conventioneers coming and at one moment being in a very modern city with convention centers and in a few minutes being whisked into something that's back in the '40s with local music and food. I see the city being more European in style.

Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson: You've got a hodgepodge over government buildings, some neat authentic buildings on South Broad Street [in South Downtown]. You've got a couple of assets like the Bank of America building, which is really cool and on the market, and the Norfolk Southern building. If the barrier has been the MARTA station, Underground, and government facades, if we can get a couple of these things going, particularly Underground, I think you'll see a lot of activity down there. Aside a few parcels on Centennial Hill, that's the last place where you can do something of scale. You'll see some interesting things going on down there.

Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association President Kyle Kessler: Hopefully we're not talking about the big projects. It's not some addition to the skyline, some new museum, some new sports team that's defining Downtown. That at our core, what we try to say about Atlanta is what you'd like to say about any city: it's a good place to live, a good place to work, it's fun, and that anybody could see themselves there. Somebody else could build a bigger aquarium. Cobb County can take the Braves away. If folks live here, then tourists will come, not tourist that will spend a bunch of money at Hard Rock Café, but tourists that are coming here because it's a holiday weekend and they want to be with their friends and relatives. It can happen here.

Patrick Myers, longtime Atlanta resident and the self-proclaimed "Mayor of Broad Street:" It's going to be unbelievable. It's going to be like Little Five Points. The changeover is going to be like Kirkwood and places like that. You just have to start a little at a time. I'd like to be here, running one of these places, or working full-time for one of these folks. That's my vision: businesses, lofts, apartments, and stuff like that. That's basically it. It's very simple for me. I want to be a part of it.

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