Whoever's elected mayor of Atlanta from a crowded field will lead a city poised for a new golden age.
Losing the Braves to Cobb County was a damaging blow for Mayor Kasim Reed and the city, more a loss of national prestige than economic generation. While the Braves move shook in-town advocates, Reed is finishing his second term with a series of developments that promise to transform the city.
In contrast to the city's history of patchwork development, the recent announcements appear to fit together, offering the possibility of unified growth rather than disconnected economic and social islands.
The latest good news is Emory's announcement that it has formally requested annexation into the city. The Wall Street Journal in its article Thursday on Emory's move also reported that the Centers for Disease Control also wants to enter Atlanta.
Ever since Buckhead was annexed into Atlanta in the 1950s, suburban areas have resisted any annexation efforts, and in the last 10 years formed new cities in Fulton and DeKalb counties. Now, the prestigious private university and medical complex wants to enter the city, attracted by what it sees as better public schools and the possibility of a transit line connecting to the MARTA rail system, a plan that was part of the T-Splost rejected several years ago, another crippling blow to the city and metro area.
Emory will join Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Morehouse and Spelman in the Atlanta Unversity Center complex as residents of the city. That unified front will help attract new businesses. A rail line will encourage cooperative programs, especially between Emory and Georgia Tech, with its development of high-tech startups. Joining the city will also strengthen Emory's partnership with Grady, Atlanta's public hospital.
A few days before the Emory announcement, the Hawks presented details of its plans to transform Philips Arena, and the surrounding downtown area. The Hawks' plans coincide with a German company's announcement that it has bought up historic buildings south of MARTA's Five Points Station for a major revitalization project. Already, a South Carolina firm has begun revival of Underground Atlanta.
Reed has also presided over Falcons owner Arthur Blank's construction of a new stadium, hailed as a technological marvel that will remove all regrets over the destruction of the 20-her-old Georgia Dome. The new Mercedes-Benz stadium, and the Hawks plans, dovetail with the nearby College Football Hall of Fame, and the Aquarium, Coca-Cola Museum and Civil Rights Museum on the other side of Centennial Olympic Park.
MARtA, which enjoys a new era of prestige at the Republican-controlled state Capitol, will take over the struggling Atlanta streetcar downtown. With the development of the Beltline, a true streetcar network will form. MARTA also will build and manage the Emory transit service. The Emory rail line promises to revive the dreams of restoring rail service between Emory and the University of Georgia in Athens.
I was amused and puzzled that the Wall Street Journal's lead said that Emory "wants to officially become part of the metropolis." I never thought of the city of Atlanta as a metropolis, especially since it makes up a relatively small part of the metro area in geographical size and population. But with the constellation of projects, the city might one day find itself a true metropolis.