The city’s Department of City Planning released a book Sept. 6 that will guide future development in Atlanta, and it calls for increasing development in areas that can support it while limiting development and protecting the tree canopy in the rest of the city.

The project, an almost 400-page book, is meant to guide Atlanta through projected population growth in the coming decades. It can be read in full at

Four Bus Rapid Transit routes could be added to the city, including two in Buckhead. (Atlanta City Design)

“The Atlanta City Design is the framework for inclusive growth that Atlanta has been missing,” Tim Keane, the Department of City Planning commissioner says in the introduction to the book.

Ryan Gravel, the lead designer for the design and best known for creating the Atlanta BeltLine, notes in the beginning of the book that the design is not a plan, but a vision for what the future city should look like. There are no specific timelines for projects laid out in the book.

“Instead, it’s a strategic realignment of plans, projects, policies and priorities,” Gravel says in the book.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed attended the Sept. 6 unveiling and said in a press release the design will ensure Atlanta continues to grow and grow in a sustainable way.

“We are in a unique position to plan for this growth in a smart, efficient and intentional manner. By planning for our future, Atlanta will remain a global center for business, continue to draw the best and brightest talent and secure our status as a center for culture and innovation,” Reed said in the release.

The design calls for the intersection of major roads and waterways to be developed into public spaces, including Peachtree Creek where it runs under Northside Parkway in Buckhead. (Atlanta City Design)

The book begins by reflecting on Atlanta’s history and on the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., who inspired the title of the book, “Aspiring to the Beloved Community.” The design identifies Atlanta’s core values, explains how the city will change in the coming decades and then describes how to uphold those values during the changes.

For Buckhead, that includes a few specific ideas. As part of providing access to nature for everyone, the design calls for the intersections between waterways and roadways to be improved and made into public spaces, which would include the intersections of Peachtree Creek and Nancy Creek with major corridors in Buckhead like Northside Parkway and Roswell Road.

“Most of these places are invisible today, but through design and investment, they’ll become some of the most special and memorable public spaces in Atlanta,” the book says.

The design also recommends organizing development around transit routes and adding different levels of transit to areas with different levels of development. Developments near MARTA lines would have to be high density and have limited parking. Developments near only bus stops could have less density and more parking.

“Transit investments will align with areas of the city that have untapped capacity for growth,” the design says.

The design calls for areas already developed to grow more, while protecting other areas of the city and the tree canopy from development. (Atlanta City Design)

Another idea that could affect Buckhead would be the “Hashtag BRT” routes. These Bus Rapid Transit lines would be paired with major corridors in the city to create a giant “hashtag” and help provide directional orientation to riders. Each line would have dedicated lanes to keep transit separate from traffic and would have recognizable end-point destinations. Two routes would run through Buckhead: West Paces Ferry to the airport and Buckhead to Lakewood.

The design also calls for designated growth and conservation areas. Growth would be organized into areas that are already developed and suitable for taking on more development. The rest of the city would be protected from overwhelming growth and development, supporting the city’s stated goal of protecting the tree canopy.

“Denser development may be making city life better, but we fear it’s coming at the expense of our natural assets,” the book says.
Peachtree Road in Buckhead is used as the “best example” of the relationship between growth and conservation areas because it has tall buildings combined with smaller developments surrounded by the tree canopy.

The design would have more transit be added to development areas and new development to be focused near areas with rail lines. (Atlanta City Design)

Restoring the Neighborhood Planning Units’ power is also listed as a specific goal. The design calls for “rejuvenated staffing and resources,” saying that they could be used for more government transparency and civic participation. NPUs would also harness digital technology to report issues like code violations and provide better online access to information and meetings.

To support the Atlanta City Design, the Department of City Planning is creating a new transportation plan and an affordable housing competition.

The competition, called the “domestiCITY” competition, was announced Aug. 30 and calls for organizations to propose feasible models for designing and constructing multi-family affordable housing units. Santa Fe Villas, a four-acre 147-unit supportive housing development in Southwest Atlanta, will serve as the pilot project site for the competition. The registration deadline for the competition is Oct. 30.

“The domestiCITY design competition is an extension of Atlanta City Design that will examine innovative strategies for the planning, design, construction and operation of affordable and sustainable developments in increasingly urbanized areas,” Keane said in the release.