Many people believe that the bulk of an architect’s job involves detailed drawings and communication with internal teams of consulting engineers. However, some of our most important work, as an architect, is to advocate on our client’s behalf. Very many of the local neighborhoods inside greater Atlanta have established procedures to incorporate local citizens into the the design approval process. This allows them a stake in maintaining the special, and often historic, character of the neighborhoods in which they dwell. Navigating this complex framework of players can be difficult for the uninitiated. However, embracing the process can also yield very well-received and beautiful projects that enhance their greater neighborhood and immediate environment.
The Case of Boulevard Townhomes
In the case of the proposed townhomes at 75/85 Boulevard, this procedure involved both the immediate Martin Luther King Historic District as well as the larger Old Fourth Ward neighborhood- which is divided into four distinct action groups. An additional group, Sweet Auburn Works, provides commentary and guidance on projects within the historic subareas. These areas tend to focus more on walkable streets and commercial development while the project resides within the Beltline Overlay District. The final step for design approval within the historic district is the city-wide Urban Design Commission. This group is a legislative group that takes into account project compatibility with the existing historic fabric and the commentary of neighbors.
The Approval Process
Our design team created an initial proposal for the design. We then presented the design to the immediate neighbors and the various neighborhood groups above. We listened to the critique and comments that the neighbors provided. Then, we went back to the drawing board to adjust the design. When we met again, neighbors and neighborhood groups responded positively to the revised design. Elements of the revised design were incorporated from direct engagement all of the distinct groups, and the Urban Design Commission approved the design unanimously. The process was challenging but overwhelmingly positive. Our team walked away feeling strongly that the project was received positively by the neighborhood. The design documents are proceeding, and we anticipate beginning construction prior to the end of 2018. Stay tuned for more photos as we proceed!
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