City Politics Opinion Politics Skyline

The Skyline Op-Ed (Opinion)

A retrospective from 3484’s co-founders

By Sam Baskin and Sarah Kallis

From Georgia Tech’s campus, Atlanta’s skyline seems like a walkable urban paradise. A thick skyline spanning over three miles, and seemingly designed like American cities such as New York or Chicago. The skyline seems to constantly be growing, with several new high rises constructed each year.

However, when you change perspectives and look at the skyline from the North or South, it becomes a small clump of buildings. Atlanta’s misleading skyline follows along Peachtree Street, with many of the city’s tallest buildings lining the street and its parallel roads. The reality is that Atlanta is a very sprawled and car-centric city. Our skyline represents Atlanta. From one perspective it shows Atlanta’s potential as a walkable city, and from the other, it shows it still has a long way to go.

We first started developing 3484 Magazine in 2018. Over the next five years, Atlanta changed and grew in ways we couldn’t have expected at the time. Seemingly small issues at the time grew and caused mass changes in the city. One big change has been the way we get around.

Scooters had just been introduced to the city the summer we started work on 3484 Magazine, and their mass adoption would accelerate Atlanta’s bike and micro mobility infrastructure. Several scooter riders were killed in that first year, and instead of outright banning rentable micro- mobility devices, Atlanta’s leadership passed a few safety regulations and pushed for more bike lanes.

Now, rentable scooters and e-bikes flood the streets, offering an alternative for last-mile trips and moving Atlanta away from being a car- centric city. Our streets have changed a lot since scooters arrived. One notable change for Tech students is the Spring Street protected bike lane. Stretching from 12th Stret to 3rd Street, it made student housing much more accessible by bike and scooter. At the same time, Atlanta began to convert parking spaces into parklets. So far the city has created 16 parklets, converting parking spaces into seating for dining, or a place for pedestrians to relax. Even in late March of this year, bollards were installed on 10th and 14th Streets.

One of the most popular places to use those scooters is the Beltline. Since 3484 Magazine was founded, several new paved stretches of the trail opened, new high rise office buildings were built along the trail, and the MARTA announced plans to build rail on the Eastside Beltline trail.

Gentrification has increasingly become a household phrase, and more people seem to be noticing the displacement caused by unchecked development on the Beltline and around Atlanta. However, Atlanta has an incredible amount of work to do to create the affordable housing necessary to prevent further displacement.

The pandemic created economic hardship for many Americans, and in Atlanta, organizers and unhoused people reported a huge increase in the city’s homeless population. Fortunately, Atlantans formed networks of support systems to help unhoused people. Mutual aid organizations such as Sol Underground and Free Fridge Atlanta distributed food, provided shelter, and overall organized to help those in need.

Youth organizing in Atlanta has boomed in the past several years. This comes as no surprise as Atlanta has long been a hub for young people who want to see change. The city’s history is intertwined with the civil rights movement.

Since the 2016 presidential elections, Atlantans have continued to organize over social causes they are passionate about. We have seen marches to protest Georgia’s six week abortion ban in 2019 and advocate for gun control in 2018.

2020 was a turning point globally, and the effects extended to organizing as well. As students were sent home for the COVID-19 pandemic, social movements started heating up, largely with the help of social media.

Young people in Atlanta used social media to call attention to police killings of unarmed Black people and took to the streets to protest.

The 2020 Black Lives Matter movement became more personal to Atlantans when Rayshard Brooks, an unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police officers and video was released of Ahmaud Arbery being killed by a former police officer in Brunswick, Georgia. Police reform on the scale that many had hoped for did not come immediately. But, in the years following, Georgia repealed the citizens arrest law and implemented a hate crimes law. Organizing on a hyper local level has also gained steam, with resistance to Cop City. In spite of consistent legislative losses, protestors have managed to gain widespread attention and support for their cause to protect Atlanta’s tree canopy.

Increases in youth activism are not confined to just Atlanta. A study from Tufts University found that the number of young people who have participated in a protest tripled between 2016 and 2018.

Young people are also voting at record rates. Another Tufts University study found that there was an 11% increase in voter participation between the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

The cover of our first issue shows buildings lit up at dusk from miles away. When we first took that picture, we realized that those thousands of small specs of light showed a life being lived simultaneously. It reminded us that millions of Atlantans call this place home and all live unique lives – even if in reality, most of those specs were lights that office workers forgot to turn off before going home.

When we first launched 3484 Magazine, we designed a logo consisting of Atlanta’s skyline wrapped around an orb. The idea was that a skyline is the best image to represent the city, but over time we grew unsure if a collage of developers’ vanity projects was the best representation of the people of Atlanta. However, we decided that instead Atlanta’s skyline is both a declaration of what the city can become, and what it needs to fix.

Atlanta needs to ensure the skyline is for everyone, and not just wealthy suburbanites moving back into the city as it becomes a nicer place to live. The city needs to ensure that the pattern of displacement does not continue, and cause more people in poverty to be pushed out of the city, away from transit and their communities.

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