Please join us on Thursday, December 3, 2015 for CNU Atlanta’s 4th annual Winter Luncheon featuring Ryan Gravel.

Ryan Gravel.

Gravel is a nationally-recognized urban planner and designer, and most notably, the originator of the $4 billon public-private project known as the Atlanta BeltLine. This summer Ryan began the next phase in his professional journey and established a new consultancy, Sixpitch, with a focus on similar “catalyst infrastructure” projects around the world. Come to The Shed at Glenwood for a conversation with Ryan about equity, politics, and regional vision, and how Ryan is taking his experience with the Atlanta Beltline and exploring similar challenges elsewhere.

Registration is limited to 50 people and will close at 5pm on Monday, November 30th. Please contact us immediately at,, if you have any dietary restrictions we should know about in advance of the event.

PLEASE NOTE: ABSOLUTELY NO day of walk-ups will be possible.

When: December 3rd, 2015, 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM

Location: The Shed at Glenwood


Event Fees: $30.00 for CNU Members, $40.00 for Non-Members

 Register here.

South of Downtown, there’s huge opportunity in redeveloping an underutilized lot that will also be a huge boon to the local community – no, not Turner Field, but an old steel manufacturing plant. If you head downtown to Five Points and take the route 155 bus to the intersection of Cooper and Love Streets, you’ll find that old mill on Windsor Street and the folks turning it into a game-changer for the neighborhood.


787 Windsor isn’t the kind of place one would think to find a successful small-scale developer and furniture-maker like Ric Geyer, but he’s there setting up shop in the derelict warehouse at the end of the block. Despite its unappealing first impression of barbed wire fence and rusted factory, the property is kind of mystifying, an artifact from another age. According to Ric, “That original building’s probably over a hundred years old… Most likely built in the 1890’s.”11888648_890661534344292_5945357857851589670_o

As he leads me past the large sheet metal-sided building in front, the property becomes much more interesting; the walls of the buildings are covered in graffiti from the recent graffiti party Ric and his associates held a couple of weeks ago (“That was a friggin’ blast,” he adds) and lights are strung up along the corridor. The cement recedes to reveal the old rail tracks that run right up to the old warehouse as we walk towards the back of the property where the storage shed – and one day, his studio – sits. Men from the neighborhood are hard at work caulking and cementing patches around the property to try to beat the rain (or at least see what parts can be made water-tight at the moment).

Ric pulls out a map and lays it across his workbench, showing the plans for the property. “Well, we’re back here of course,” he says showing the shop’s location to the rear of the schematic, “but that’s not the interesting part – everything else is.”


The plans revolve around creating a space for artists, studios and shared spaces, that mimics Ric’s work in Detroit with the 4731 Gallery and Studios. Self-identifying as an “urban revivalist,” Ric believes that creating spaces to foster the arts in turn fosters the community. But the plans for 787 Windsor are far more ambitious than just as an arts center; also in the works are spaces for a high end restaurant, a coffee shop, a space in the front-most segment for a deconstruction/e-waste recycling operation, and even a farm stand and raised beds for a community garden. “We want to build a place that will help the community,” Ric says, and his partner (and West End resident), Imran Battla, chimes in: “Development without Displacement.”


Ric (center) and Imran (center left) with volunteers and community members at 787 Windsor.

That idea of development without displacement is the unofficial mantra for the project, of including the community in the conversation and reaching out to them for input. Ric has gone so far as to go door to door along the houses nearby to meet and talk to the people in the community. “I was talking to someone right over there,” Ric elaborated, pointing to a house down the block, “when a woman comes out of the house, yelling her head off at me and I listen, and when she’s done I just tell her to give me a hug as if I’ve been here for years, and she does!”  You’ve got to let them know that you’re not just some white guy from the ‘burbs here to change their community, but that you want to be a part of it and help it grow.” He’s talked to local gang members and guys just hanging out at nearby gas stations, too, and found to his surprise that they love what he’s doing with the lot.


Ric and his trademark grin.

“This guy drove up in his truck real slow and just parked right across the street when I was painting the side of the front building with some of the neighborhood kids, and I thought ‘oh shit,’ like ‘what’s this guy’s deal.’ And he just looked at me and looked at the kids, and looked at the wall we were painting and muttered ‘Motherfucker… that is the coolest shit!’ And boy, was I relieved,” Ric said with a laugh.

It’s that kind of community involvement, that bold openness in the future of the project, that has helped the project build so much attention so quickly.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the Turner Field redevelopment. Will its impacts reach across I-20 and help (or hinder) the “development without displacement” that Ric and his partners are aiming for? Well, it all depends on what goes in. If The City gets its way and secures a deal with Georgia State University, the impacts will probably be negligible. If casinos get their way, that would be a gamble for the future of the community and South Downtown in a broader sense. But if The City moves forward with a plan with input from Summer Hill – and ideally Mechanicsville, too – there could be resounding implications for this community. Additionally, the Atlanta BeltLine also runs just south of 787 Windsor, opening up a whole other set of questions.






But for Ric and his crew, that doesn’t matter for the future of 787 Windsor. They are moving ahead with their own plan that will result in incremental growth on site and in the community. They have already been holding events at 787 Windsor for a few months now, most recently a graffiti party open to everyone, but they also just hang out every Wednesday with anyone who wants to stop by.



Graffiti party in action.

Graffiti party in action.

After the party.

After the party.


Some of Ric's furniture.

Some of Ric’s furniture.

No bad days down at 787 Windsor.

No bad days down at 787 Windsor.

When asked why Mechanicsville, Ric’s response is pretty simple: “I love it here and I love the community around here, and I think they’ll really love this.”

Source: 787 Windsor Facebook page.

Source: 787 Windsor Facebook page.

John Anderson, Gandhi-Developers, & “Beiging It Up:” An Intro to Small Scale Development

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Oct 232015

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The Small Scale Developer Boot Camp last week was a huge success. With over 120 attendees from Atlanta and beyond, we had the opportunity to listen to and engage with John Anderson and Jim Kumon of the Incremental Development Alliance. Thank all of you who attended and spread the word about this event.

For those who couldn’t come hangout for a day and a half with us, let me give you a brief recap:

On Tuesday evening, Eric Kronberg and Adam Wall hosted a Happy Hour and Pecha Kucha at their wonderful church-turned-office, featuring presentations from John Anderson, John Sanphillippo of the Granola Shotgun blog, Eric Kronberg, our own Geoff Koski, and more.

How hard is small scale development? Thunderdome hard.

How hard is small scale development? Thunderdome-hard.

Each presentation was packed with knowledge and numbers about small scale development and the “Missing Middle.” In next 20 years in Atlanta alone, we’ll need 30,000 more small-scale, multi-family, affordable housing options just to meet demand coming from Boomers and Millennials alike.

We’re trying to make civilization legal again.

Anderson gave us a preview of his presentation for the boot camp, too, explaining how we got to this missing middle dilemma and where small scale developers go from here. “At the local level, there is nothing more politically charged than real estate development,” according to Anderson. Essentially, the middle went missing because zoning policies, development financing, and popular cultural demand shifted to support more suburban development than traditional town structures, and getting back to that design paradigm now is extremely difficult despite that huge demand. “We’re trying to make civilization legal again,” Anderson added.

We kicked Wednesday off bright and early with Anderson explaining why exactly more people should become small scale developers; basically because large development firms don’t know how to do human-scaled development anymore. “Big developers are like the conductor of an orchestra that doesn’t play an instrument anymore,” he said. That task is for the people who live in a neighborhood, who know the needs of that place and, better yet, have a vision for how it should be.

Anderson continued to build on some of the topics from the night before, illustrating how exactly an individual takes a piece of property and finances it, recommended changes to zoning codes that support incremental development and complete streets, and the design requirements to keep costs down. The real key, it seems, to making great small-scale projects successful is for small scale developers to make them seem more evolutionary for a community than revolutionary. “Beige it up,” Anderson explained.

12119106_10153209132330963_2189807447881573002_nWhat does that mean? To get hesitant communities on board, to get banks to finance those projects, to make changes to zoning codes that allow for better buildings and smarter streets, small scale developers need to make their projects look less revolutionary than they may seem, and show that they are ordinary, evolutionary steps instead. “Beige.”

As for advice for those looking to transition into small scale development, he did warn against trying to assuage all community concerns. “We don’t have to be Gandhi-developers,” he said, “just not Darth Vader-developers.”

Who isn’t constantly looking at eyesores or underutilized spots brimming with potential and thinking, “that would make a helluva quadplex,” or coffee shop, or art gallery? In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking more closely at some examples of small scale developments and adaptive reuse projects around Atlanta that exemplify that potential, and the people that are making them successes.

Further viewing: The Dark Art of Developing Small Projects


Park Pride 2016 Parks & Greenspace Conference – Call for Presentations

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Oct 052015

11025899_10152738077253321_5659162742018380568_oPark Pride has put out a call for presentations for their 15th annual Parks & Greenspace Conference at the Atlanta Botanical Garden on March 21, 2016 that will resolve the questions of “the intersectionality of parks and play;” essentially, how parks can enhance and activate the communities in which they exist.

With around 400 attendees, Park Pride’s conference is no small matter, with many organizations and groups in attendance, including the Georgia Recreation and Park Association, the American Planning Association, the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the Urban Land Institute, the American Society of Landscape Architects, city departments, federal agencies, and, of course, yours truly.

Park Pride Executive Director Michael Halicki with attendees at the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Park Pride Executive Director Michael Halicki with attendees at the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Between eight and 12 proposals for presentations will be accepted, and they should be focused on four distinct topics:

  1. “Play as Placemaking,” or how a community can construct an identity around its public spaces;
  2. “Multi-Generational and Intra-Generation Play,” for creating spaces for all ages;
  3. “Design for Play,” looking at the cutting edge of public play space design and construction;
  4. And “Play Policies and Research,” the latest in data-driven strategies for promoting play.
These focus areas will then be organized into different program tracks for the conference:
  1. Park Advocate/Community Member
  2. Policy Makers/Municipality
  3. Design Professionals/Planners
Presentation and pre-conference event (on March 19th and 20th) proposals must be submitted by Monday November 2, at 5:00 PM. To submit, send all proposals to

Small Scale Developer Boot Camp with John Anderson, Oct. 14, Registration OPEN NOW

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Sep 162015

Click John’s Nose to Register

JA sponsors

The CityBuilding Exchange with Andrés Duany: New Orleans Oct. 15 & 16

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Sep 152015

In addition to the NTBA Roundtable occurring mid-October, our friends in Louisiana are hosting their own fabulous event that week, The CityBuilding Exchange, focusing on how public sector officials can leverage the benefits of new urbanist ideas for their communities.

Officials, planners, academics, and consultants will flock to New Orleans where the bleeding edge of technology, tools, and techniques for “reach[ing] your city’s potential,” will be on display in a compact two-day forum. Moderated by CNU co-founder and emeritus board member Andrés Duany, the forum will span October 15th & 16th, with a wide array of speakers from all backgrounds, including Georgia Tech’s own Ellen Dunham-Jones.

For more information about the event and registration, read more here.

NTBA Fall Roundtable 2015: “The Power of Good Design”

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Sep 142015

As you’re all well aware I’m sure, CNU Atlanta, The Georgia Conservancy, and the Center for Civic Innovation are hosting the Small Scale Developer Boot Camp on October 14th. But did you know that another great New Urbanism event is taking place the next day?

The National Town Builders Association will be hosting their 2015 NTBA Fall Roundtable in Atlanta, entitled “The Politics and Process of Adaptive Reuse; The Power of Good Design,” the following weekend. The focus will be on some of Atlanta’s largest adaptive reuse projects: Ponce City Market, The Atlanta BeltLine, and The Goat Farm Arts Center. With speakers like Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s Paul Morris, MARTA TOD Director Amanda Rhein, Lisa Gordon, and Ryan Gravel of Atlanta BeltLine acclaim, the event is sure to be as evocative as it will be educational. The planned walking tours are a nice addition, too

Additionally, The NTBA are hosting a “road trip” to Serenbe for a look at powerful design in action just South of Atlanta. Interested attendees will meet at Serenbe on Thursday evening, October 15th and stay overnight to explore the design and success of Serenbe before convening in Atlanta for the beginning of the Roundtable.

If you’re interested in attending the Serenbe road trip as well as the Roundtable, it’ll run you around $550.00. There are caveats for new members or first time attendees, which you can read more about here (PDF), however you can register early for only $495.00 for just the Roundtable or $607.50 for both the Serenbe trip and the Roundtable. Early Bird registration ends on Sunday, September 20th, so don’t wait too long!

CNU Atlanta September T3, Sept. 17th – South Fork Conservancy

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Sep 102015

Join CNU Atlanta in welcoming Bob Kerr, Board Chairman of the South Fork Conservancy, to our September T3* next Thursday, September 17th.IMG_1477

Bob will speak about the mission of the Conservancy, “connecting people and places through a natural creek and trail experience.”The trails the SFC is introducing along Peachtree Creek are weaving wildlife corridors through the city in some unlikely places, such as underneath GA 400 at the North Fork Confluence Trail, as well as connecting to the BeltLine Trail in the same area.

Come hear about this great organization and engage in a conversation about how corridors such as these could be incorporated in new urbanist schemes. We’ll meet at 5:30 PM and wrap up discussions around 7:30 PM.

Location: Steel Restaurant in Midtown Atlanta.

THIS EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Membership is not required to attend.

Convenient to the Midtown MARTA station, and parking also available in the Publix deck.

*T3 (Thirsty Third Thursdays) is a monthly gathering organized by the Atlanta Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU Atlanta) for architects, planners, real estate professionals and all others who are interested in our built environment.

Join Us For An Urban Scavenger Hunt In Downtown Decatur, Sept. 18th

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Sep 042015

CNU Atlanta, Georgia Tech’s School of City & Regional Planning, and the Emory Rollins School of Public Health are hosting The Built Environment & Health Scavenger Hunt in Downtown Decatur on Friday, September 18th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. We’ll meet in front of the East entrance to the Decatur MARTA Station, facing the intersection of Church and Sycamore Streets, to discuss the interconnectedness of the built environment and public health issues. The group will reconvene at 6:30 to debrief before heading to Raging Burrito for a little post-hunt hang-out.20150820ScavengerHuntFlyer [982242]

Since the scavenger hunt will be on a Friday evening, taking MARTA to the event will be the most convenient choice as most street parking may be occupied. Free parking may be found at the City of Decatur’s library parking deck or paid parking at the lot behind the Private Bank of Decatur on the corner of E. Ponce de Leon Ave and Church Street.

We’d love to see you there to learn more about the ways public health and public design are tied together in Georgia’s “Greenest City.”

CNU Atlanta’s New Program Manager: J. Candler Vinson

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Sep 022015
J. Candler Vinson, CNU Atlanta Program Manager

J. Candler Vinson, CNU Atlanta Program Manager

CNU Atlanta is proud to introduce J. Candler Vinson as the newest member of the CNU Atlanta Chapter team. As the chapter’s Program Manager, Candler will assist in communications, social media, event coordination, and more. Candler is an Atlanta native, a writer, an Emory alumnus, and an environmentalist (yes, one of those). He is passionate about studying urban development, climate change, technology, agriculture, gentrification, public health, and how they intersect in modern cities.

After graduating from Emory University in 2013 with a degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainability, Candler worked for multiple environmental and sustainability-oriented organizations, including Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives, the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, Environment Georgia, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (Clean Tech division). Candler also reported for the Urban Times on all things urban development, transportation, environmental policy, and climate change before starting his own blog earlier this year, The Suburban City, to focus on Atlanta.

Candler has a keen eye for the details and crafting stories that don’t just examine issues, but explore the underlying contexts in which those issues exist. As an undergraduate at Emory, he studied Atlanta’s history of transit and racial inequality as a basis for deeper understanding of Atlanta’s failed T-SPLOST in 2012. He has since explored the rise of the modern American streetcar, examined sustainable agriculture in Atlanta’s West End, and, most recently, met the man behind MARTA’s Instagram marketing strategy.

With Candler on board, CNU Atlanta will now have the ability to enhance the pursuit of its mission to promote walkable, neighborhood-based development as an alternative to sprawl.

Don’t be shy if you run into Candler at our next T3 or a coffee shop around town!

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