Editor’s Note: City of the Future

Betsy Riley
Editor Betsy Riley

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

In 2011, as part of Atlanta magazine’s 50th anniversary celebration, we invited all the living mayors to the Atlanta History Center for a conversation with Pulitzer Prize–winning author Doug Blackmon. At the time, Kasim Reed, who was just 22 months into his tenure, said, “I view my job as a job of finishing things that others started. We will finish the civil and human rights museum, we will finish Hartsfield-Jackson’s Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal, finance the debt of $1.5 billion, we will finish the water and sewer work. All this work was related to my predecessors, so when I’m leaving, I’m leaving it done.”

And, mostly, Reed is leaving it done. This month, as Atlanta welcomes a new mayor, Executive Editor Steve Fennessy examines Reed’s legacy. You can read his story and judge it for yourself.

As leadership transitions at City Hall, Atlanta seems poised for a quantum leap. The city’s population may still fall short of its peak of nearly half a million in 1970, but it has grown faster in the last six years than it has in the last 50. In the 12 months ending in July 2017, Atlanta issued permits for an unprecedented $4 billion in construction. And voters have passed not one, but two transportation-funding tax increases: a MARTA expansion and a special purpose local option sales tax.

For a metro area once too busy to build mass transit, we finally seem to be growing with more deliberation. In September, the city released a 400-page book outlining an Atlanta City Design for the future. Most remarkably, this plan—spearheaded by Atlanta BeltLine founder Ryan Gravel and City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane—is rooted not in economic goals but in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the “Beloved Community.” The proposal’s blueprints for transit, preservation, housing, and conservation all call for “inclusive growth”—a commitment to making room for everyone. And, unlike in older, already prohibitively expensive cities, here it’s not too late. There’s still time for Atlanta to become, as the plan says, a “better version of itself.”

The possibilities before us are heady stuff, so we decided to dedicate this issue to the future of Atlanta. We interviewed dozens of experts about what life might be like here in the year 2040—far enough away for big dreams, close enough for realistic predictions. We were heartened that most of our sources were optimistic. But, then, they wouldn’t be Atlantans if they weren’t.

This article originally appeared in our January 2018 issue.