Making Our Mark on Atlanta

Amidst the towering skyscrapers and high-rise buildings that surround our campus, sometimes it can be easy to get overwhelmed in the “concrete jungle” that Georgia State calls home.

As a school, we seem to keep buying all sorts of property downtown, which is great, but sometimes it’s hard to tell where our campus ends and the rest of the city continues.

That’s our problem.

So, as the university looks to rebrand its image into the cultural and architectural heart of Atlanta through the use of strategic plans and roadway rights, it’s important that Georgia State also keeps attractive, safe green space within its thoughts, in addition to the big-picture logistical problems it faces in how to expand.

Consider our best and most preeminent model just a few miles north on I-75/85 for inspiration.

Nestled between midtown and down- town Atlanta, Georgia Institute of Technology has an absolutely superb looking campus that is distinctly marked from the rest of its surroundings yet perfectly integrated into the community.

When you cross over the 10th Street Bridge, there is no mistaking that you have entered onto a truly beautiful college campus with its own cultural flavor.

Tech should be our aspiration for what our campus should look like. While Georgia State certainly has its own unique downtown flavor, which it should be rightly proud of, one thing it desperately needs is a clearly defined image like Tech’s, apparent to both students and visitors alike.

For us to succeed in the long term, Georgia State needs to become synonymous for what an “urban institution” should look like. We need to be the “go-to” example for other schools, not the other way around.

Forget the plastic, faux brick crosswalks the administration seems so proud of.

Those look cheap and hideous. Give them a few years and they will, without question, look even worse than right now once they our covered in the filth and grime that a busy city street must inevitably weather.

Consider the “decorative crosswalks” already installed at the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and Decatur Street. Within just a few weeks of being laid down, the city of Atlanta repaved a lane right above the crosswalk, making it look even worse.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something similar will happen again in the future, especially when the university seems to want to go hog wild and put them all over cam- pus.

Now consider just Decatur Street with a closer eye towards making the campus a better place than usual. With that fresh mindset, I’m certain you will notice something distinctly askew.

Between the freshly paved patches of concrete on the side of the road, patches of dirt and bare soil mar the potential appearance of what could be a more handsome college campus.

Now, I don’t claim to know which trees would be best suited to place there or even if the bare spaces are the fault of the university or the city, but I do know that something needs to be done there if we are to take our constantly evolving image seriously.

The university should be commended for incorporating some greenscape into its expansion of the sidewalks between the Urban Life Building and the Recreation Center along Piedmont Avenue, but other elements of our campus can also incorporate additional green space, in addition to just Decatur Street.

While we have some great city parks around campus, they are sullied by other elements of urban life that make the parks unfriendly to use, especially after sundown.

The specter of crime and the trepidation of being harassed by the homeless haunt some from actively using the parks to their fullest.

These are serious issues that must be addressed, otherwise we risk scaring off the best and the brightest potential students from ever coming back, assuming they come to visit in the first place.

While these problems likely require solutions much larger than planting a few trees or increasing police patrols, they are reasonable problems that must be addressed for the long-term growth of our school as it makes its transition from an urban commuter school to a more traditional college.

Still, they are issues that must be addressed, no matter how hard, in order for the school to continue to succeed and grow out of its proverbial roots.

Indeed, in the words of Kermit the Frog: “It’s not easy being green.

 

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This is the personal page of Chris Shattuck -- an Atlanta-based media professional with a background in business reporting, nonprofits and agency PR.

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