Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cloverdale v. Atlanta Highway

Cloverdale was developed as a destination while Atlanta Highway was developed as a stop on the way (I guess on the way to Atlanta... or maybe Shorter). The difference in the original purpose of the development has created two very different sections of Montgomery. The automobile affected the way planners developed each of these sections of town. Cloverdale was planned for the walker while the sprawl of Atlanta Highway was planned for the driver.

Before looking at the difference, let's mention the similarities. Both sections: 1) are only minutes from downtown, 2) have restaurants, 3) have homes, 4) have retail stores, and 5) have a college nearby. But the similarities stop there.

Development of the Cloverdale area begin at the turn of the century (20th Century). Rumor has it that a famous developer planned the winding streets and parks just south of downtown (maybe the same developer as some of the nicer neighborhoods in Atlanta). Two commercial sections are woven into Cloverdale. A resident can stroll to a coffee shop, a handfull of sit-down restaurants, or a movie theater without having to cross a giant parking lot. Cloverdale has green spaces, narrow streets, sidewalks, live oaks, and a few brick streets. Huntingdon College is framed by large trees at the end of College Street and churches are scattered pleasently throughout the neighborhood.

Development of Atlanta Highway began a little later, probably in the 1940s. There are no rumors about famous developers (maybe it was the Department of Transportation). The commercial sections line Atlanta Highway, protecting the little neighborhoods from the angry traffic. Every store has a parking lots and many have giant parking lots. There are very few green spaces, even the churches are surrounded by lots of asphalt. There is a coffee hut in the middle of a parking lot, but no one strolls to it. The strip is lined with pawn shops and fast food joints.

Most people would prefer Cloverdale to Atlanta Highway, although my son does like the many fast food options on the highway. A property value comparison reflects the desirability of Cloverdale to most people.

Land planning could have prevented the mess on Atlanta Highway. Government zoning could have reduced the number of strip malls, increased the number of sidewalks, and introduced green spaces. Maybe planners learned a lesson from places like Atlanta highway because when they created interestates a few years later they segregated the transportation from the commerce by using exits. I've often wanted an exit from the Atlanta Highway. Maybe Atlanta Highway can teach planners about how to develop (or not develop). There are other places around the city (Chantilly Parkway) that still have a choice about what they want to be.

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