Midtown is the second largest business district in the city of Atlanta, situated between the commercial and financial districts of Downtown to the south and Buckhead to the north. Midtown has a resident population of 30,000, a workplace population of 68,000, a student population of 20,000. The district attracts about six million visitors annually.
Midtown is marked by its cultural attractions, institutions of higher education, noteworthy architecture, and urban layout. The district is the center of the city's arts scene that includes the Fox Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center, the High Museum of Art, the Museum of Design Atlanta, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Center for Puppetry Arts, and the 14th Street Playhouse. Midtown is also home to three well known institutions of higher education: Georgia Institute of Technology, John Marshall Law School, and the Atlanta division of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Midtown contains about one-third of the city's high-rises and some of Atlanta's most iconic buildings, such as the Bank of America Plaza, AT&T Midtown Center, Atlantic Center, and 1180 Peachtree. Midtown has also been a primary area for high-density development in the city in the first decade of the 2000s due to the district's mass transit options and urban street grid.
Geography and nomenclature
The definition and meaning of "Midtown" has varied over time, expanding from an original concept of a small neighborhood "mid-way" between Downtown and Buckhead. Boundary definitions vary by the source. In many cases, Midtown is a quasi-legal entity for zoning, law enforcement, and taxi purposes. It is defined by the City of Atlanta to include the business district along Peachtree Street as well as the residential area surrounding Piedmont Park. The Midtown Alliance defines Midtown as a larger area of approximately four square miles that, in addition to the city's definition, also includes the neighborhoods of Ansley Park, Sherwood Forest, Atlantic Station, Home Park, and Loring Heights.
The area has gone by other names in the past. An 1897 source refers to the area as North Atlanta, which would later be the name of today's city of Brookhaven. The 1897 "North Atlanta" encompassed (roughly) most of today's Midtown, Georgia Tech, and English Avenue. Sources from the 1950s and early 1960s refer to the area as "Uptown Atlanta," a moniker which would later be applied instead to Buckhead following its annexation.
The southern half of Midtown between 8th Street and North Ave was originally purchased by Richard Peters in 1848 to use the pine forest there for fuel for his downtown flour mill. Over the next 40 years, Peters slowly subdivided sections of these land lots off for a gridded residential area and built his own home there on Peachtree at 4th Street. His son, Edward, built his home on the block bounded by North Avenue, Piedmont Avenue, Ponce de Leon Avenue, and Myrtle Street. The home, now called Ivy Hall, was restored by the Savannah College of Art & Design in 2008 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After the Civil War, Peachtree between what is now 8th and 12th streets was still about a mile beyond the city limits, which ended at Pine Street. As Atlanta grew ever further outwards from its historic center, mansions were constructed along Peachtree Street. Cross streets were built and residential development began around 1880. Piedmont Park was established with the Piedmont Exposition of 1887, followed by the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895, lending the area new prominence. Electric streetcar lines extended along Piedmont Avenue by 1895 and along Peachtree Street (to Brookwood) by 1900. In 1904, development on Ansley Park began. By the 1920s, Tenth and Peachtree had become the nexus of a significant shopping district for the surrounding neighborhood. The 1910 Encyclopædia Britannica listed Peachtree Street in Midtown as one of the finest residential areas of the city, along with Ponce de Leon Circle (now Ponce de Leon Avenue), Washington Street, and Inman Park.
The Downtown Connector freeway opened in the 1950s, and the blocks between Williams Street and Techwood Drive were demolished to make way for it. In 1964, Ansley Mall opened, and the Tenth Street shopping district went into decline. By the late 1960s, Peachtree Street between Eighth and Fourteenth Streets had become a center of hippie culture known as The Strip.
Large-scale commercial development began with Colony Square, the first mixed-use development in the Southeast, which was built between 1969 and 1973. The MARTA subway line opened in 1981. In the 1980s, many older properties were demolished, some remaining vacant for decades. High-density commercial and residential development took root in the north-south corridor along Peachtree and West Peachtree. The BellSouth Center (1982), now the AT&T Midtown Center, was long the landmark skyscraper in the area. However, commercial development escalated after 1987, when One Atlantic Center was completed.
The 2000s decade saw the construction of numerous high-rise condo buildings in Midtown, such as the Spire, Viewpoint, and 1010 Midtown. In 2006, then-Mayor Shirley Franklin set in motion a plan to make the 14-block stretch of Peachtree Street a street-level shopping destination. The 2004 opening of the Seventeenth Street Bridge over the Downtown Connector reconnected Midtown with the west side of the city and to the Atlantic Station mixed-use development, which was built on the former site of the Atlantic Steel company.
The Midtown Alliance, a group of volunteers, employees, and business and community members, was formed in 1978 in order to work towards improving the overall quality of life in Midtown and transform it into an ideal place for people to actively live, work, and play. Activities of the Alliance include improving the neighborhood safety, developing area arts and education programs, and building community leaders. The master plan from the Alliance, called Blueprint Midtown, is credited with fueling the economic resurgence that has helped the once downtrodden Midtown area transform over the past number of years into a popular neighborhood.
In a 2011 Creative Loafing article claimed that:
No part of the city has evolved more dramatically over the past two decades...Impersonal office buildings, imposing parking decks and cold asphalt arteries have given way to high-rise living and an explosion of street life...Where once there was a wasteland, now there are great restaurants, groceries, specialty shops, townhouses, lofts and ... people.
Architecture and historic districts
In the early 1980s, Midtown Atlanta was a blighted area mainly consisting of parking lots. By 1987, One Atlantic Center was built on the corner of West Peachtree Street and 14th Street, which kick-started the redevelopment of the area. Some contemporary buildings of note are:
- High Museum of Art by Richard Meier and Renzo Piano
- One Atlantic Center by Philip Johnson
- 1100 Peachtree
- 1180 Peachtree
- AT&T Midtown Center
- Four Seasons Hotel
- Promenade II
- 1010 Midtown
In the area surrounding Peachtree Street, very little of the original architecture was preserved. Some of the notable exceptions listed on the National Register of Historic Places include the Margaret Mitchell House, Rhodes Hall, Edward C. Peters House, and the Academy of Medicine.
Historic districts include the Fox Theatre Historic District and Historic Midtown, and both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Fox Theatre Historic District comprises the Fox Theatre (Oliver Vinour et al., 1929), William Lee Stoddart's Georgian Terrace Hotel (1911), Stoddart's Italianate Ponce de Leon Apartments (1913), and the Cox-Carlton Hotel (1925). Historic Midtown, which includes most of Midtown east of Piedmont Avenue, is noted for its bungalows and Queen Anne style houses.
Parks and recreation
Midtown's focal point is the expansive greenspace of Piedmont Park, which underwent a major expansion in 2011. The park is surrounded by the Midtown business district to its west, Ansley Park to its northwest, the BeltLine, Morningside, and Virginia Highland to its east, and the Midtown Historic District to its south. The Atlanta Botanical Garden adjoins the Park.
The BeltLine is a 22-mile (35 km) long trail circling the older neighborhoods of central Atlanta which will be developed in stages. The Eastside Trail connects Piedmont Park (at the intersection of 10th and Monroe) to the Inman Park MARTA station at DeKalb Avenue. The "Art on the BeltLine" project has resulted in the installation dozens of contemporary art pieces on the trail.
Midtown Atlanta is a commercial district in its own right, containing 22,000,000 square feet (2,000,000 m2) of office space, with 8,200,000 square feet (760,000 m2) of office space added to the area since 1997, with up to 3,800,000 square feet (350,000 m2) more planned. Furthermore, Midtown is home to many corporate headquarters, such as Equifax, EarthLink, Invesco, and The Coca-Cola Company, as well as other corporations with a sizeable presence such as Norfolk Southern, Wells Fargo, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and AT&T Inc. Carter's, Inc. has its headquarters in Midtown but will move to Buckhead before December 31, 2013. Regional offices for companies such as Google, Arcapita, and Jason's Deli are located in Midtown. Major law firms such as King & Spalding and Kilpatrick & Stockton are also located in Midtown.
Midtown is also home to a share of Atlanta's diplomatic missions. The Consulate-General of Canada is located in 100 Colony Square Building, as is the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency. The Consulate-General of Switzerland in Atlanta is located in the Two Midtown Plaza building. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, representing the Republic of China, is located in the Atlantic Center Plaza. The Consulate-General of Israel to the Southeast is also located in Midtown. From 1995 to 2002, the Consulate-General of Japan in Atlanta was in Colony Square before moving to Buckhead.
Arts and culture
Midtown is known by many residents as Atlanta's "Heart of the Arts". It is the home of the Fox Theatre, the Woodruff Arts Center, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Richard Meier- and Renzo Piano-designed High Museum of Art, as well as the Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Center for Puppetry Arts, and other arts and entertainment venues. Recently, the Woodruff Arts Center and its campus were expanded. Future additions will include a new Atlanta Symphony Center. The High has collaborated with major art museums to house temporary collections of masterpieces, most notably the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Across the street from the High is Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA), the only museum in the Southeast devoted exclusively to the study and celebration of all things design. Midtown is also the home of the Atlanta campus of Savannah College of Art and Design, which is located in historic buildings throughout the district.
Midtown's Piedmont Park is a popular venue for cultural festivals in Atlanta. Every spring, when the native dogwoods are in bloom in Piedmont Park, is the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, an arts and crafts fair. Piedmont Park is also the finish line of the Peachtree Road Race, held annually on Independence Day. As ground-zero for Atlanta arts community, Midtown is home of the annual Atlanta Arts Festival, which brings artists from across the country to Piedmont Park. Piedmont Park is also the home of the Southeast's largest multicultural festival, Festival Peachtree Latino, which celebrates Hispanic-American culture with arts and crafts, family activities, sporting events, a parade, dance demonstrations, ethnic foods, and a live music stage featuring international performers from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. Midtown is also the home of Atlanta's major music festival, Music Midtown, which was revived in 2011 after a five-year hiatus. At the corner of 8th Street and Spring Street, near the Midtown MARTA station, Midtown also hosts the Peachtree Music Festival, a one-day, two-stage music festival blending indie rock bands with electronic DJs. In the fall, the Atlanta Pride festival attracts the LGBT local and regional community while the week-long Out on Film gay film festival highlights films by, for, and about the LGBT community.
Residents are zoned to schools in the Atlanta Public Schools.
Midtown Atlanta is served by Atlanta's rail rapid transit system, MARTA, at the North Avenue, Midtown, and Arts Center MARTA Stations. MARTA operates significant bus service in the district, as well. There is also a free shuttle between the Arts Center MARTA Station and Atlantic Station, as well as a free-to-the-public daytime shuttle between the Midtown MARTA station and Georgia Tech called the "Tech Trolley".
- Midtown Mile
- 1010 Midtown
- The Varsity
- Junior's Grill
- First Presbyterian Church Of Atlanta
- Out on Film
- Atlanta Pride
- Midtown Alliance, Midtown Market Report, 2007. Retrieved June 3, 2009.
- "Suburbs will not be annexed now: The Rice measure tabled by Council yesterday afternoon", Atlanta Constitution, October 27, 1897. North Atlanta was defined as the area including today's Midtown between Myrtle St. in the Midtown Historic District and Cherry St., now inside the Georgia Tech campus, as far north as 14th St (then called Wilson Ave.); most of what is now the Georgia Tech campus, south of what was then 5th Street; and the area west of Georgia Tech, south of Jefferson St., as far west as Ashby St. (now Lowery Blvd.), including today's English Avenue neighborhood.
- "City limits extended to take in Pittsburg, Reynoldstown, Bellwood and North Atlanta" in John R. Hornady, "Atlanta yesterday, today and tomorrow", 1922
- "Outside Folks Hot After Rice", Atlanta Constitution, October 24, 1897
- 1963 map of urban renewal, City of Atlanta
- Search for "Uptown Atlanta" in Google Books, search for publications through 1965
- "National Park Service: Edward C. Peters House". National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
- Atlanta ward system
- Tommy H. Jones, "Margaret Mitchell House: Historical Context"
- Tommy Jones, "Midtown History", Midtown Local Historic District site
- Mankin, Bill. We Can All Join In: How Rock Festivals Helped Change America. Like the Dew. 2012.
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- Midtown, "Ultimate Neighborhood Guide", Creative Loafing, retrieved November 7, 2011
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- Atlanta Preservation Center’s SoNo/Midtown Commercial District Tour Guide: APC
- Thomas Wheatley, "Beltline gets $5 million for Piedmont Park-DeKalb Ave. bike trail", Creative Loafing, 2010-06-19
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- Midtown Alliance, neighborhood planning/advocacy organization
- Midtown Atlanta, information/marketing site by Midtown Alliance
- Midtown Neighbors Association, residential neighborhood association
- Midtown Ponce Security Alliance, private neighborhood security organization
- A 19th century history of what is now Midtown Atlanta