Placemaking characteristics

We all have touchstone references of distinctive city places and ideal walking environments. For streets, an oft-cited example is Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
For squares and town centers,
 the go-to reference is the Italian Piazza. But why are they successful? At GID, we think the answer is the concept of place and the process of placemaking.

What is placemaking?

It’s the creation of a legible space within the city fabric with a distinct identity. One that has the power to transform it into a memorable entity that’s attractive to people. It is turning mere space into place. At High Street Atlanta, GID has used the space, image, and emotional cues that research calls for to create a dense and vibrant walkable environment from scratch.

View of the Crescent Plaza at North Street looking toward the steps

The masterplan:

High Street Atlanta is organized around a memorable central public space: our park and its surrounding boulevard. The street grid is based on traditional city block structure and defines three sub-districts, each with a distinctive character. Its public spaces provide the ‘refuge and outlook’ experience that people naturally seek.

Human scale:

High Street Atlanta has a variety of building types, and heights, and the buildings are sheathed in a variety of small unit materials like brick and stone that lend a human scale to the streetscape. There are no blank walls and parking is hidden from most streets.

Vertically stacked mixed uses:

The buildings contain a variety of different uses, including offices, hotels, residential apartments, retail stores and restaurants. Stacked vertically, the blocks allow the intermingling of different uses with different schedules that, in the parlance of retailers, will ‘stretch the day and week.’

Retail & street life:

The various comings and goings from the mixed uses will enliven the street life. Doors and entrances are distributed throughout the public realm so that this activity is not concentrated only in one place. Retail tenant design guidelines require transparent storefronts and a variety of signage, awnings, and lighting.

Indicative aerial rendering of Phase 1 of the masterplan.

Zoned streets & sidewalks:

Storefronts are lined with wide, clearly zoned sidewalks. Cross-walks with bulb-outs are plentiful so that cross-shopping is easy. Parallel parking protects the sidewalks from moving traffic, and sidewalk paving materials extend across vehicular driveways, giving primacy to pedestrians. Amenities and street trees are plentiful.

Dining & entertainment:

Our streetscape features recessed courtyards, creating soft edges and activity pockets ideal for outdoor dining, another activity that will enliven the street life. At the North Street project entry, large format floor space has been reserved for an entertainment tenant within the eastern crescent building.

Central public space:

High Street Atlanta’s park is a tree-bordered commons that contains lawn and paved areas, ornamental plantings, a pop-jet fountain and children’s playground, loose seating, food and bar kiosks, a games area, and sales carts. The surrounding buildings make it into an ‘exterior room’ similar to Rome’s Piazza Navona.

A distinctive & memorable environment:

We consciously use all these strategies to create a place that feels authentic and welcoming; a place that people will know and come back to again and again. High Street Atlanta as a whole is the destination, not just a single retailer or office building.