Thinking about suburban sprawl

Posted: November 20, 2012 in Uncategorized
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DULUTH, Georgia — Greetings from the northern ‘burbs of Atlanta, Georgia USA. I have a lot of local references in here, but I think this post is appropos because these issues are shared throughout the United States.

While I was caught in the typical stop and go traffic on Gwinnett County’s Pleasant Hill Road, I noticed several landscape crews planting an assortment of shrubbery that will line the new retaining walls and sidewalks along this massive thoroughfare. It’s evident that the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District – better known as the CID – has many initiatives that have already affected this traffic-clogged “artery” which is festooned with an array of restaurants, gas stations, drug stores, supermarkets and much more. I’m sure there are many who appreciate these much-needed improvements. After all, there’s more to Pleasant Hill than drivers.  The just-opened portions of the sidewalks are already bustling with a diversity of folks carrying bags of goods from local retailers or people who are out for an afternoon stroll.

The added shrubbery and uniform Gwinnett Place signs are a sight for sore eyes on what has been an eyesore for years.  It’s obvious that “UnPleasant Hill” has also included tacky pawn shops, grotesque-looking emission centers, too many light-polluting car dealerships, a struggling mall and vacant stores for years.

Gwinnett’s Pleasant Hill Road has been the poster child for the metro area’s “dumb growth.” It’s tough to point fingers because the philosophy of the “build it and they will come” mentality was popular when the road was being developed. The metro area paid a large price for that mentality. There’s no doubt that there are many of us in the metro area who can remember when the road went from nothing to boom times to the doldrums of recent years.

From Pleasant Hill’s horrifying stop-and-go traffic, jammed-in retail outlets and a lack of alternative transportation, it will be a challenge to turn it all around. There is hope. I applaud the CID’s efforts, but they are merely a start to something positive.  After reviewing the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District’s website at, there is potential for a thriving area. From a Diverging Diamond Interchange, traffic signal optimization and daily community patrols, we could see a Gwinnett Place which will be a shining example of proactive smart planning in the Atlanta metro region. Could the CID do more? It’s easy for me to say yes, but wouldn’t it be nice if there was some type of “raised-up on stilts people mover” that could possibly go right down the center of the road. Now that’s dreaming way too much.

In another part of the county, the young city of Peachtree Corners is talking about adding a new development across the street from The Forum on Peachtree Parkway. This slice of land is attractive retail and restaurant space. There is no doubt that this new development will bring more traffic to this slice of Peachtree Parkway, also known as Georgia Highway 141.

With news of this development, many folks in the area are hoping that the development will include much-needed greenspace and/or an area for outdoor entertainment – much like the development in downtown Suwanee, Georgia.  It’s encouraging to see that residents in the area are lobbying for quality-of-life components to the development. Without an active citizenry, the area could end up much like Pleasant Hill. 


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