–By Walter Brown, Little Five Points Community Improvement District (CID) Vice Chair and Candler Park Resident–Planning a Safer, Cleaner, and More Joyous Findley Plaza (Yet Still Eclectic)–Want to learn more? Click here for the Findley Plaza Concept Plan PDF—
Have you spent time in Little Five Points lately? What was your experience? The answer to that question is complex but generally gravitates toward a negative impression and longing for something better. Most of us accept that Little Five Points is a unique place, and we love (mostly) the eclectic, creative spirit that has always differentiated L5P from any other place in Atlanta or even the Southeast.
The good news is that several new organizations have emerged over the last few years whose central focus is improving Little Five Points. These include the Little Five Points Community Improvement District (CID), the Little Five Alive (Friends of Little Five Points) non-profit, and the Little Five Arts Alive project managed by the Horizon Theatre. Combined with the existing L5P Business Association and in coordination with several community leaders, we have already had a positive impact on L5P through Findley Plaza activation and events – but it’s just not enough without some significant changes to the physical space.
It’s been nearly 25 years since Findley Plaza was last updated. As you may have noticed, the current location, spacing, condition, and use of the tree islands leaves much to be desired. In addition, there is a strong desire on the part of the broader community to have a space that can be flexibly deployed to attract a variety of active uses including cultural events, sidewalk dinning, markets, and musical performances. The current layout does not allow for full utilization of the plaza in more creative ways, and we now have an opportunity to re-think and re-design this critical space.
Fortunately, the City of Atlanta, as directed by Kwanza Hall, has allocated $450,000 to the Little Five Points Community Improvement District (L5PCID) to work with the Business Association and surrounding community to create a concept plan for Findley Plaza that can be built as soon as 2018. Here are some of the important elements featured in the newest plans:
• Large Tree Wells to permit very large trees and shade over time
• Tree Furniture Zone along streets to buffer visual/noise pollution
• Wide Sidewalks and space along businesses to display merchandise and dining tables
• Space for Bike parking and safe, dignified, access for MARTA busses
• Drop Off area for Ride Sharing and Taxis
• Large central programmable space for cultural and dining use (twice current size)
• Widened sidewalk in front of Corner Tavern for increased safety
• Improved Trash Collection and Lighting
• All new paving and granite curbing
• Paver system for Central Plaza that may also mitigate storm water
Perhaps the most important reason to redevelop the Plaza is to create a safer, cleaner and more joyous place for all users of Little Five Points to enjoy. Again, we love the eclectic clutter to a point, but also want our own children to feel safe walking through or being in the Plaza at all times of the day and into the evening. The status quo is not acceptable.
To better understand what the community would like to see in a new Findley Plaza, both Little Five Alive and the CID have been interacting with the community at festivals, neighborhood meetings, and community outreach sessions over that last six months. Feedback has been very encouraging, and the current plan is very close to the concept the city is likely to build out for us. Please see the most recent concept designs and imagery we are working with the City to build.
We know we will need to raise additional private or grant funding to support the extra ingredients we would all like to see in a new Plaza design including specialty lighting, security cameras, staging and power, specialty paving and landscape materials not covered by city funding. Fortunately, Don Bender has agreed to take on the task of raising non-profit contributions from businesses owners, community leaders, and residents wishing to invest in a more beautiful and functional plan for Little Five Points. A future article will describe how you can become involved in the fundraising effort to follow.
In addition, no amount of physical investment will take the place of better management of the Plaza and of Little Five Points in general. The CID is working concurrently on a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Atlanta to take over management of the public spaces in Little Five Points so that neighborhood expectations of security, cleanliness, and activation can be counted on and become less chaotic. The CID is committed to improving the business environment of the shop owners (many who are neighbors themselves) while offering the City of Atlanta a truly unique arts driven environment that we can all be proud to claim as our own.
Critical issues we must deal with include rampant illegal vending, chronic homelessness, public urination, drug sales, trash, and aggressive behavior that threatens to further complicate a retail environment facing competition from internet sales and the growing distractions offered by so many newer intown retail districts. A separate CID task force is working diligently and humanely on homeless overpopulation and quality of life crime.
The L5PCID Findley Plaza team includes: Walter Brown – CID Vice Chair, Carly Berg – CPNO rep, Don Bender – fundraiser, Scott Pendegrast – L5P Business Association, John Izard – fundraiser and homeless task force, Will McDonald – local resident and design assistant, Elizabeth Broderick – IPNA rep. For further updates, please continue to visit the L5PCID website (http://l5pcid.com/) and feel free to call me at 678-793-0457 and give us your thoughts.