Right livelihood, continued: I'm back in the office after my day in Alabama, and got to have lunch with my friend and former co-worker Andrea. We hadn't gotten together since the evening she and her husband came over and my television died.
We caught up on some old times and new, and I got to tell her about some of the changes going on in Atlanta (they live in the suburbs). According to a recent article in the New York Times, and my own observations, after 20 or 25 years of the City's losing population to the suburbs, the trend is starting to reverse, and the suburbanites are starting to move back into the City. The traffic, the cost of gasoline and the lack of diversity in the suburbs are all cited as reasons for the reverse migration.
It's a more interesting town than it was a few years ago - the new Georgia Aquarium (biggest in the world - they have whale sharks in there), the new Atlantic Station development, and the proposed Beltline are all exciting quality-of-living changes. This evening, I attended a grass-roots community group seeking greater neighborhood participation in the Beltline planning process.
The Beltline is a proposal based around the presence of old abandoned railroad tracks around the city - by connecting various segments, one can create a loop around the inner city connecting several of the more unique neighborhoods, including Collier Hills, my neighborhood. It also connects the few parks that the city has. Putting some sort of mass transit along the tracks, along with a hiking tail/greenway, would create a neighborhood-to-neighborhood alternative to the downtown-to-suburbs mass transit currently provided by MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and create what civic boosters call "an emerald necklace of parks" around the city. Together with planned mixed-use, new-urbanism, live-work-and-play "development nodes" strategically placed around the Beltline, the plan is a whole new lifestyle concept for the city that almost sounds too good to be true.
Because it is. Too good to be true. The reality is that developers have already rushed in and bought up the choice portions, and are planning outlandish, gargantuan, high-density, high-rise developments to maximize the return on their investment. And the transit planning - the way to tie the whole thing together - has gotten caught up in bureaucratic red tape and at times almost seems to be the forgotten part of the Beltline concept. And because the developers are guiding the plan, the already congested northern portions of the Beltline, where a profitable return on investment is pretty much tried and true, are being proposed for yet even more development, and the underdeveloped southern portion of the Beltline, which could really use some new infrastructure, is generally being ignored.
So the northern Beltline neighborhoods, already reeling from rampant development, are calling for a building moratorium and wondering what happened to all of the promised parks and transit, while the southern Beltline neighborhoods, economically distressed and tragically underutilized, are calling for some of the development dollars to come down there way.
Hence, the Beltline Neighborhood Coalition, an amalgam of civic associations and activist groups (i.e., Sierra Club). The city planners are saying that they want "community involvement" in the Beltline plan, and the BNC intends to deliver exactly that.
This Saturday is the big day - there are no less than five different forums for the "community" to provide input on the Beltline plans, and tonight we planned on how we will be heard at all of the competing venues. Saturday morning, I will attend a tour of the Beltline being put on by Parks Pride, a group representing the City Dept. of Parks and other greenspace stakeholders. In the afternoon, I will attend the "Community Engagement Framework" kick-off meeting being put on by the Atlanta Development Authority, the designated agency for realizing the Beltline.
So, of course, the weather forecast is for a mixture of rain and snow that day. In 25 years, I have not seen snow in Atlanta in March, but once I have a full day out-and-about planned. . .