The wooden plaza on Atlanta’s Broad Street is an example of placemaking done badly.

Darin Givens

I was royally pissed when Streetsblog USA recently nominated Atlanta’s Broad Street plaza for an award. There was *zero* public engagement on this wooden deck prior to its construction. That lack of engagement is the exact opposite of good placemaking and good urban design practices.

The tables are only out for weekday lunch for office workers, and then they’re packed up.The 9–5 weekday focus means there’s no benefit for residents (yes, people live here). And it’s no secret that part of the reason that the tables started getting packed up after lunch was because of complaints from businesses about homeless people sitting on them. With the downtown library being closed long term, there are already fewer-than-usual places for the homeless to sit.

To the left of the photo above you’ll see a ‘no skateboarding’ sign, and to the right you’ll see a skateboarder. At least they’re using it — and you can find them skating here often on weekends and at night. Police sometimes shoo them away but they always return (blessedly so, since I like that they are getting use out of it).

Yes, the design of the deck is nice. I like the design. Give this thing all the awards for aesthetics and construction you want — people did good work there. Kudos on that.

But I still say: let the skateboarders use it until they tear it down so that Atlanta can start over and do *actual* placemaking involving actual front-end engagement with the neighborhood, so we’re not stuck with trying to retrofit goodness into the fruit of a bad process.

As it is, this deck looks to me like little more than a failed vanity project from former-mayor Kasim Reed (multiple insiders have told me that this is the origin of it). Downtown deserves better.

Darin Givens

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ThreadATL co-founder: || Advocacy for good urbanism in Atlanta || atlurbanist -at-

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