posted : May 31, 2016

Midtown, the center of Atlanta's arts scene, is the second largest business district in the city of Atlanta after Buckhead.

 

By: Joanna Jin for Georgia Weekly Post. 

 

Joanna Jin

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.

In 2011, Greater Midtown  has a 2011 resident population of 41,681, a workplace population of 81,418, and a student population of 26,500.

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 Ferst Center for the Arts, 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, One Coca-Cola Plaza, Atlantic Center, and 1180 Peachtree.

Photos by Joanna Jin for Georgia Weekly Post.

 

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.

 

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.

▲ Margaret Mitchell House. Photo by Joanna Jin for Georgia Weekly Post.

 

 

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.

After the American Civil War a shantytown named Tight Squeeze developed at Peachtree at what is now 10th Street.

 

It  -  that part of Midrown - was infamous for vagrancy, desperation, robberies of merchants transiting the settlement.

 

▲ Japanese maple tree and towering statue celebrating athletics in Pershing Point Park at Peachtree Road. Photo by Joanna Jin for Georgia Weekly Post.

 

 As Atlanta grew ever further outwards from its historic center, mansions were constructed along Peachtree Street and the area around 10th was known as Blooming Hill. 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 street car lines extended along Piedmont Avenue by 1895 and along Peachtree Street (to Brookwood) by 1900.

 

▲ A Car show in Lenox Square. a popular and preferred site of events, public gatherings and celebrations. Photo by Joanna Jin for Georgia Weekly Post.

 

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.

 

▲ 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 Downtown Connector freeway opened in the 1950s, and the blocks between Williams Street and Techwood Drive were demolished to make way for it. In 1959 Lenox Square and 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.

 

▲ 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 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.

 

▲ High Museum. photo by Joanna Jin for Georgia Weekly Post.

Midtown is known by many residents as Atlanta's "Heart of the Arts". It is the home of the Ferst Center for Arts, 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.

 

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.

 

Midtown is known by many residents as Atlanta's "Heart of the Arts".

It is the home of the Ferst Center for Arts, 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. 

 

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