Kaid Benfield Archive


The best infomercial for smart growth you are likely to see

Kaid Benfield

Posted May 6, 2010 at 1:34PM

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For some time, I have been intrigued by Atlanta as a city that contains both some of America's worst-case, most godawful sprawl and some of its most encouraging examples of smart growth.  On the sprawl side, the grasp of metro Atlanta grew from 130 square miles in 1950 to an astonishing 8000+ square miles today.  Urbanist Chris Leinberger has called it the fastest-expanding human settlement in human history.  The average employee in the region drives 66 miles per day.  Atlanta is chaos writ very large.

But, on the smart growth side, I hardly ever give a presentation in which I don't show images and data for the city's spectacular brownfield redevelopment Atlantic Station, the highly innovative Atlanta Beltline transit and parks project that will spur revitalization in long-neglected neighborhoods, or the city's wonderful new urban village Glenwood Park  - or all three of them.  They are some of the country's very best ambassadors for smart growth.

This short video shows us Atlanta in all its chaos and glory, along with some very eloquent spokespeople on these subjects, and I'm not saying that just because some of them are my friends.  It ultimately focuses on Glenwood Park, exactly the kind of walkable, mixed-use, human-scaled revitalization that provides an antidote to sprawl.  Developer Charles Brewer is particularly eloquent when he describes how much of what he wanted to do there had actually become illegal under today's zoning regulations, even though the design was basically following time-honored, traditional neighborhood design.

The video was a little slow to load the first time I watched it, but it's worth it.  Enjoy, and spread the word:


Sprawlanta is the first installment of a six-part video series called American Makeover.  It has won an award from the Congress for the New Urbanism.