This map depicts changes I’d like to see in Boulevard, the Athens, Ga. neighborhood I live in. (Click here to view larger version of the map on screen. Or click on the map to download a copy.)
The changes I propose—which are tagged with numbers in the map above and described in this post below—aim at making Boulevard an even more walkable neighborhood than it is now. (Because I haven't figured out how to embed links to text in the map, the best way to read this post is to either: (1) download and print the map above and then refer to the numbered descriptions below; or (2) print this post and then click on the map above to enlarge it and consult the printed post for the descriptions.)
Mainly, I propose making Boulevard more walkable by increasing residential and commercial densities. More people living in new infill homes and new apartments will support more grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, convenience stores and pharmacies. In turn, these new commercial destinations—combined with a few other amenities like a dog park, new pedestrian paths, better bus service—will make the neighborhood even more attractive to people looking for a walkable place to live. As Christopher Leinberger puts it in his book The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream: "In walkable urban places, more is better. Adding more density and uses makes life better and real estate values climb higher. It is an upward spiral of value creation."
Over time, if my proposals—or better ones with the same aim—are implemented, Boulevard will become the kind of neighborhood where you don’t need to get into a car more than once every other week. Anyway, that’s my dream for Boulevard.
Boulevard is good as is, but…
Don’t get me wrong: I really like my neighborhood as it is right now. It’s close to downtown and campus. It’s practically bursting with trees and flowers. It’s infested with good neighbors and their dogs, sprinkled with wonderful old and new houses and favored by some really good spots to eat. But even so, there’s room—plenty of room, really—for improvement and especially for more neighbors.
These are the pipe dreams of a newcomer
I’d like to think many of the changes I propose would be fairly easy and uncontroversial to implement. But I acknowledge some of these proposed changes—while technically feasible—might not be politically feasible for now.
Please note everything I propose here is based on my informal impressions—and not on detailed site surveys analyzed in the context of current zoning regulations. Also, I’m pretty sure my own thoughts about how to make Boulevard more walkable will change as I learn more about the neighborhood, topography, politics, etc. This is merely the first version of this dream.
I’d like to know what people think of my suggestions. And I want to hear about your dreams—wild or practical—for Boulevard. Let me know. I'd like to do a future post that compiles these ideas.
KEY TO NUMBERED ITEMS ON MAP
1. My house. This is where my house is located, at 325 Lyndon Ave. The yellow circle on the map represents a half-mile radius from my house. A half-mile is considered by many urban planners and observers to be a relatively easy, convenient distance to walk.
2. Infill housing and “granny” flats. Here the parcel is divided in two, and two appropriately scaled single-family homes are built. I’d bet there are at least 25 parcels—if you subdivide some of the larger parcels—throughout the Boulevard neighborhood that could support new single-family homes. In my dream, all these parcels would be built on. And I’d also like to allow some of the larger lots the opportunity to build small single-family homes behind existing homes, and to sprinkle in low-income units.
3. Apartments. This new two-story 12-unit apartment building follows the scale of the adjacent Calais Apartments.
4. Coffee shop with upstairs apartments. Built to meet the sidewalk with parking in back—not on the street front—this new coffee shop features free wi-fi and four apartment units upstairs.
5. Cohen/Cain Pedestrian paths. These two paved paths open pedestrian and bike access between Chase St. and Cohen and Cain Sts, enhancing walkability.
6. Dubose Pocket Park. With a park bench, a picnic table, a flower bed border and a modest-sized open patch of lawn, this simple pocket park is well-used by neighborhood kids and adults.
7. The Black Panther Restaurant with Outdoor Café. The beautiful long windows of this restaurant housed in a renovated building overlook a shady, paved outdoor seating area on this busy corner.
8. Apartments. After the car repair shop moved to a new neighborhood site (see item 28), a new three-story, 24-unit, street-fronting apartment building was built.
9. The Bread Basket, transformed. There’s still a gas station here, but it’s moved behind the new street-fronting main feature—an expanded Bread Basket food counter and convenience shop. The same down-home fare is served along with new menu items.
10. Dubose St. (re?)extension. Looks to me like Dubose St. connected to Nacoochee Av. in the past, and it does so again. Why? Because doing so provides greater inter-connectivity and opens-up new space for development by busting-up a huge, traffic-clogging block.
11. Mixed-use development #1. On the ground level, this small cluster of street-fronting new two-story buildings is mainly occupied by medical offices, but there are also a few other kinds of offices, and some small retail shops. On top, there are condo units.
12. Mixed-use development #2. Green Thrift Grocery occupies a corner building at the intersection Dubose and Chase Sts. Other buildings house a mix of offices, retail and apartments. All structures are two-story and street-fronting.
13. Mixed-use development #3. This project includes a three-story street-fronting building devoted mainly to medical offices and apartments.
14. Mixed-use development #4. Three new two-story, street-fronting buildings with office and retail space on the ground level and apartments above.
15. Mixed-use development #5. This cluster of new two-story, street-fronting buildings features a mix of commercial, retail and medical office space with apartments on the second-story.
16. Bus shelter, better bus service. A large bus shelter offers plenty of seating and guaranteed access (or you get a free ride) to a bus every seven minutes every day from 6 a.m. to midnight.
17. Mixed-use development #6. A couple new three-story, street-fronting buildings provide retail space on the ground floor, and two stories of apartments above.
18. Single-family homes and condominiums. Two sets of two single-family homes are built are Dubose St.—one set on each side of the new Virginia Av. extension (see item 19). Behind the single-family lots, are three three-story condo buildings.
19. Virginia Av. extension. Pushing Virginia Av. through to Prince Av. opens-up new commercial and residential space and enhances connectivity and walkability.
20. Dubose St. pedestrian/bike path. The car part of Dubose ends when it hits the new Virginia Av. extension but continues as a paved pedestrian/bike path and eventually hooks up with Pope St. and Barber St.
21. Mixed-use development #7. This important gateway corner (like its sister corner, see item 22) is now anchored by a well-designed—actually, quite dashing—street-fronting contemporary building. Restaurants, shops (including thrift shops) and other retail store occupy the ground floor of this three-story structure. There are offices on the second floor and condominiums on the third floor.
22. Mixed-used development #8. Like the mixed-use development across Barber St. from it, this site now features an elegant, street-fronting contemporary building housing a mix of retail, commercial and residential uses.
23. Apartments. Perched atop this exquisitely re-landscaped site marking the beginning of Boulevard is a 54-unit apartment building with an underground parking lot.
24. Barber St. Park. This park, located where Boulevard begins, starts with street-facing benches and a small picnic area on the part that fronts Barber St., but then devotes itself to a beautiful shade garden and walking trails.
25. Light industrial development #1. A sleek, low-cost structure offers space for a business incubator program as well as for light industry, warehousing, artist/crafting studios and commercial offices.
26. Light industrial development #2. The same as item 25 above, except bigger.
27. Stream Track Park. This narrow park includes a paved bike path and unpaved hiking trails—both of which follow the streambed. At the trackside part of the park, is a small fenced-in dog run area.
28. Light industrial development #3. A series of compact, low-cost/low-rent and very modern-looking buildings to house light industry, commercial offices and artist studios.
29. Three Players Av. Named in memory of the three Town and Gown players murdered near where this new road begins, Three Players Av. runs parallel to Prince Av. and cuts across four over-sized blocks to slant up to a connection with Hiawassee Av. The new road activates lots of space for useful development and enhances walkability.
30. Mixed-use development #9. Some of the new two-story buildings in this cluster take advantage of the new street frontage offered by the new Three Players Av. (see item 29). All buildings are street-fronting and contain a mix of retail, commercial, medical office and residential uses.
31. Yonah Av. pedestrian/bike path. This short paved extension of Yonah Av. allows pedestrians and bicyclists to enter the new Hiawassee Urban Nature Center (see item 33) and to connect through to Hiawassee and the new Three Players Av. (see item 29).
32. Mixed-use development #10. This series of two story buildings—some of which are substantially renovated existing structures—offer retail and commercial space on the ground level and office and residential space above.
33. Hiawassee Urban Ecology Center and Park. The urban nature center takes this place as its model, and is dedicated to preserving the natural features of this stretch of streambed and educating residents, especially the kids at nearby Chase St. Elementary School, about the ecology of the stream. Kevan Williams, the architecture/development columnist at Flagpole Magazine, informs me that the Boulevard neighborhood was originally platted with a park in mind at this location—which explains the origins of bordering “Park” as a street name.
34. Condos. This contemporary-design, two-story, street-fronting condo building features 20 dwelling units.
35. Off leash dog park/expanded White Tiger patio. A fence surrounds this plot, giving dog owners a secure area to let their dogs run off leash. Thanks to the adjacent White Tiger—a restaurant and coffee shop—people in the park can also access a patio overlooking much of the park and order food or coffee.
36. Street and path extensions. A new street—called Electric Av.—cuts around the Georgia Power sub-station to connect first to an extended Chattooga Av., then to an extended New Av. and finally to an extended Nantahala Av. There’s pedestrian path and stairway to connect Nantahala Av. proper to the old Nantahala Extension.
37. Apartments. With a design inspired by the electric power sub-station it overlooks, a very modern-looking three-story, street-fronting apartment building offers 24 dwelling units.
38. Light industrial development #4. Same description as item 25, except smaller.