Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cities within cities

The article linked in my last post mentions a number of large redevelopment projects, such as the Hapeville Ford facotry and the Doraville GM factory. Thinking about these projects leads me to a minor rant - the "city within a city" idea. When Metropolitan Center was first announced, the project manager said, "We're trying to create a city within a city." The language is often used to describe Atlantic Station. I think the same mentality exists among large-scale urban developers.

I think both of these developments have lots of commendable aspects, and while Atlantic Station is in many ways a huge disappointment it also did a lot of things right. But whenever I hear the "city within a city" language, I want to scream. Especially something like Metropolitan Center, which is in the heart of Midtown. These developments are part of the city, not separate.

To be fair, they see their place in the city in a more integrated fashion than John Portman ever did with that bomb shelter he calls America'sMart. But the mentality is still there among too many developers, because they want to control as many aspects of the environment as possible. In the end, these developments are all fairly insular, looking in on themselves.

I think you can say this about Atlantic Station, as well as developments like Lindbergh City Center, Glenwood Park, or the old Mead plant in Inman Park. The "hearts" of these developments are on the interior, they aren't fully integrated into the fabric of the city. Don't get me wrong, I think all those developments are great, but I'm trying to identify why certain aspects of them still bother me. All of these developments interact with the surrounding neighborhood fairly well, but they still feel a bit separate, which I think detracts from the authentic urban environment they seek to offer.

1 comment:

  1. i think a lot of that mentality has to do with marketing. for the massive developments to be successful (like atlantic station), a good number of outsiders have to be lured into the city. for many people still skeptical of atlanta, a "city within a city" sounds pretty appealing. it reassures fears of having to venture into run down neighborhoods or being forced to drive 5 miles to the nearest grocery store.


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