The annual EcoDistricts Summit is an opportunity to explore our host city’s culture and place. This October, the Summit is coming to Atlanta, Georgia — a city working to re-imagine itself after decades of sprawl and uneven investment that has led to some of the nation’s worst economic and racial inequalities. Today, the city that helped birth the U.S. Civil Rights movement is on the cusp of a significant breakthrough in urban regeneration fueled by a new generation of leaders that are harnessing the city’s civic entrepreneurism, thriving arts and culture community, and dedication to community-based placemaking.
Whether you’re visiting Atlanta for the first time or a long-standing resident, here are some dynamic places and spaces you can explore if you attend the 2017 EcoDistricts Summit.
Visit the Center for Civil and Human Rights and Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site –As the home of many great African American leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mayors Andrew Young and Maynard Jackson, and Congressman John Lewis, the events and people of the 1960’s U.S. Civil Rights movement shaped Atlanta’s history and has made it one of the most progressive cities in the South. At the 2017 Summit, you will be hearing from speakers and learning with organizations that are continuing the conversation of what true diversity, equity, and inclusion in cities and neighborhoods looks like.
To up your knowledge on the history of Civil Rights in the U.S. South and around the world, visit the Center for Civil and Human Rights – one of the few places in the world that educates visitors on the bridge between the U.S Civil Rights Movement and today’s Global Human Rights Movement. Through stories of struggle and courage around the world, you’ll explore the fundamental rights of all human beings and leave empowered further the conversation in your own community after the Summit ends. At the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, you will find the places where Dr. King was born, lived, worked, worshipped, and is buried. Walk in his footsteps and marvel at how he was an instrument for social change and conversations about race, equity, and rights that we ever important today.
Explore food and local economy at Ponce City Market – In 2014, Ponce City Market opened in a fully renovated historic Atlanta building, restoring its prominence as a vital landmark in Atlanta’s burgeoning Old Fourth Ward. Situated across from Historic Fourth Ward Park, the market is a major part of the redevelopment movement at the crossroads of Atlanta’s most established neighborhoods. The market incorporates a pedestrian network, public green spaces, and access to the Atlanta Beltline—all within the revitalized historic property. The market also houses dozens of small businesses and startups, and local restaurants and food stalls. As with other development projects along the Atlanta Beltline and near Fourth Ward Park, the area around Ponce City Market is experiencing rapid gentrification.
Test the (storm)water at Historic Fourth Ward Park – Beginning in 2003, the Historic Fourth Ward Park has been a vision that evolved from a singular solution focused on storm water detention to a catalyst for transforming an area to a higher density, higher quality, sustainable urban environment. When the City of Atlanta established the Atlanta BeltLine in 2006, the 35 acres of blighted industrial lowland was declared the first park to be included in the emerald necklace of parks. A year-long design process brought residents, stormwater engineers, and landscape architects together as equals around a common table. The process respected the core values of the Old Fourth Ward – diversity, innovation, and a commitment to social justice. Though the redevelopment of the park has been an immense success, issues of gentrification in the neighborhood have become an issue, which EcoDistricts Summit attendees will explore in depth in the Studio session, “Using Green Infrastructure and Parks to Improve Equity on Atlanta’s Westside.
Walk and talk the renowned Atlanta Beltline – As the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort by the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Beltline will connect 45 neighborhoods via a 22-mile loop of multi-use trails, modern streetcar, and parks – all based on railroad corridors that formerly encircled Atlanta. However, development along the Beltline has increased demand and cost of housing, leading to an influx of new residents and displacement of long-term residents. EcoDistricts is working with the Partnership for Southern Equity, Atlanta Beltline Partnership, Ryan Gravel and others on our Summit Studio session, “Loosening the Belt: Bringing Affordability Back to the Atlanta Beltline,” where we’ll hold productive conversations on how to advance low-income, affordable, and workforce housing for the most vulnerable communities along the Beltline.
Beat the sprawl with Relay Bike Share – In June 2016, the Relay Bike Share program launched with just 100 bikes at 10 stations around downtown; by April, officials were celebrating the arrival of 400 more “Big Blue” eight-speeds bikes, which have been positioned at 60 stations around the city, from West End and Vine City to the Old Fourth Ward and Midtown’s Colony Square. Historically, Atlanta is a car-oriented city, but with the new Relay Bike Share, residents and visitors can take advantage of a new mode of public transit. It has become an important part of Atlanta’s communing options, and offers last mile mobility for residents in underserved communities. EcoDistricts will be partnering with Relay to offer discounted rides to Summit participants during the week of the 2017 EcoDistricts Summit.
Discover a revitalized neighborhood in Little Five Points – Located on the east side of Atlanta is the Little Five Points district. Atlanta’s first street cars were constructed just south of Little Five Points in the late 1800s, and it remained a thriving neighborhood until the 1960s when a proposed freeway displaced many residents. However, urban pioneers moved into the Little Five Points in the early 80s to restore the houses and revitalize the neighborhood. Now, Little Five Points is known for its eclectic culture, including vintage shops and clothing bazaars, tattoo parlors, a natural food co-op, an indie radio station, public art, independent bookstores, and a vibrant nightlife. Visiting Little Five Points is also a great way to see the Atlanta’s famous tree canopy. Lush with magnolias, dogwoods, Southern pines and magnificent oaks, the tree canopy connects residents to nature and gives them a stake in the natural capital of their city.
Peruse public space at Piedmont Park in Midtown – Public and open spaces improve our physical and psychological health, strengthen our communities, and make our cities and neighborhoods more attractive places to live and work. To explore a historic and beloved public space in Midtown Atlanta, visit Piedmont Park, which has a rich history spanning over the course of nearly two centuries. What first began as a forest evolved into a farm, fairground, suburban park, and finally to the urban park that it is today. Every Saturday there are free tours of the park that includes an introduction to the park’s vibrant past and present. Piedmont Park is a good opportunity to explore the nearby Midtown neighborhood, which is a robust blend of businesses and residences, hotels, restaurants, cultural and retail destinations, green spaces, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and safe streets.