New Group Wants Atlanta To Prioritize ‘Good Urbanism’

Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE
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Walkable neighborhoods. Better transit. And city leaders who’ll make these a priority. These are the goals of a new group organizing in Atlanta.

Thread ATL organizer Darin Givens is familiar with the charge that bike lanes and walkable streets are the pet issues of the elite: weekend cyclists sipping their artisanal lattes.

But, along with co-organizer Matt Garbett, Givens argues that good urbanism should matter to everyone, especially now that Atlanta is seeing such rapid growth.

“It puts everybody on a level playing field if we’re all able to have that same mobility access through transit or walking or bicycling to all of the great places that we need to go,” Givens says.

And the issue’s a lot broader than bike lanes and walking paths.

Take parking lots.

“All those parking facilities in this city, all of those massive wasted spaces in south downtown,” says Givens, “those spaces are not producing the kind of tax revenue that you expect the city center to produce.”

This is because parking lots are taxed at a lower rate than property with buildings on it. Givens says increased tax revenue would mean better city services.

“And when you ask people all across Atlanta, ‘Are you getting good city services?’ the answer is usually ‘No.’”

Thread ATL wants to influence Atlanta’s growth for the long haul. To begin with, the group means to affect 2017’s mayor and city council races.

Last year, the city hired new planning commissioner Tim Keane, who many view as an urbanism guru, as well as bicycle infrastructure chief Becky Katz. But Givens says that’s not enough, pointing to a number of recent housing developments that have sprung up adjacent to transit — but which have come preloaded with parking decks, which urbanists argue cause people to grab their car keys rather than their Breeze cards.

“You’ve also got to have good leadership on City Council [and] the person who’s sitting in the mayor’s office. They have to understand what good urbanism is, they have to follow through with it, and they have to really demand it of all the development that happens in the city.”

Thread ATL held its first meet-up on Tuesday, and plans to hold at least one more, as it decides whether to become a nonprofit or a political action committee.