Feb 3, 2022 - News

Tim Keane shares his thoughts on Atlanta’s next big project

A man in a gray shirt and maroon pants uses a roller brush and stencil to paint a stick figure on a busy urban street

Soon-to-be-former Planning Commissioner Tim Keane helps set up the Peachtree Shared Space study. Photo: Courtesy of the Atlanta Department of City Planning

After seven years as planning commissioner, Tim Keane is departing City Hall this month.

Why it matters: He leaves behind a broad vision for Atlanta’s future that aims to address affordability, transportation, equity, a more enjoyable Peachtree Street and, yes, an improved permitting office, among other things.

  • Keane, who was hired under Mayor Kasim Reed, is heading to Boise, Idaho, to lead the mountain city’s efforts to boost greenspace, build affordable housing and guide growth.

Axios sat down with Keane in his City Hall office Wednesday to hear his reflections about the job, insight into his farewell memo to the mayor and Atlanta City Council, and thoughts about Atlanta’s next big thing.

Atlanta’s next great project: It’s not a specific development or bike trail, Keane says — it’s how Atlanta marries the built environment and nature in a way that helps right environmental wrongs and connects people to creeks, rivers and forests. “That’s the trademark, to me, of Atlanta. These things are happening now.”

  • Near the Bankhead MARTA station, where Proctor Creek intersects with Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, city departments and nonprofits are trying to restore the polluted waterway and add multi-use paths — right outside of Microsoft’s planned mega-campus.
  • Another is near already dense Lindbergh, where Piedmont and other roads cross Peachtree Creek, and a trail system is coming together.

Not too far in the future, Keane says, are efforts to stretch the Proctor Creek Greenway to the Chattahoochee River, to build trails along the river and increase access to forests. “All this stuff is Atlanta. Let’s shape it, or curate it as we develop it, so it becomes what it can be.”

  • With those projects and progress comes development, which offers an opportunity — if the city is intentional and serious about equity — to increase affordability and mobility by adding bike lanes and wider sidewalks.

Final thoughts: After the Atlanta City Design project, Keane felt good about what residents wanted Atlanta’s growth to look like. But he was surprised by the pushback against the department’s plans to increase density near transit and make it easier to build accessory dwelling units.

  • “Wherever you are in the city, it is going to change,” Keane says. “It’s not a choice to just be static. Sorry to deliver the news, but it’s just not possible. A city gets better with more people.”

As MARTA plans to redevelop its Five Points station, Keane says, Atlanta should hold firm on making sure the project stitches together Broad Street, which was ripped apart decades ago when the downtown hub was built.

Keane also says the city should focus on housing affordability and zoning. “With the amount of growth, the scale of growth and the pace of growth in Atlanta, it’s an emergency situation," he says. "There are things we know that are critical that are urgent. Let’s deal with those.”


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