The Reimagining of Cascade Heights

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The Reimagining of Cascade Heights

With Atlanta City Studio moving into its neighborhood among its numerous community assets, Cascade Heights is now in the sightline of redevelopers eyeing new neighborhood as for Atlanta’s constant expansion. Already a diverse area with a renewed confidence in its holdings, Cascade Heights residents are feeling the pressure on its borders to welcome revitalization. From its proximity to the city and Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to its lavish parks and preserves, Cascade Heights has so much to offer to the city of Atlanta and its residents. Cascade Heights Commercial District, (CHCD) located at the intersection of Benjamin E. Mays Drive and Cascade Road between Delowe Avenue and Venetian Drive is the center of this outside focus and budding change, but of course, this neighborhood and community has not always been an area of planning cohesion and collaboration.

Throughout most of its history Cascade Heights has been an area of racial tension in Atlanta coming to a recognizable head with Peyton Road Affair. Commonly known as “Atlanta’s Berlin Wall,” in 1962, Mayor Ivan Allen Jr ordered barricades to be built on Peyton and Harlan Roads to keep blacks from moving into a predominately white neighborhood. Though the barriers only lasted 72 days before a court ordered its removal, the impact on exclusionary and inclusionary zoning with definite race relations implications forever changed the city. Today Cascade Heights is home to many of Atlanta’s “black elites”, the power-brokers and movers and shakers of the local African-American community.

Cascade Heights is in the midst of surveying and widespread redevelopment. Its parks, recreation and greenspaces, like the 150-acre Adams Park and the 135-acre Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, have made the Cascade Heights neighborhood desirable and a key area for revitalization. Assisting the revitalization efforts is the Cascade Heights Community Development Corporation (CHCDC), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2014. CHCDC is made up of community members and leaders, such as renowned architect Oscar Harris, FAIA, who has called this community home for many years and who feel a community conscious plan with already settled residents involved is paramount to both short-term and long-term positive development.


Short-term/Tactical

Tactical urbanism constitutes low-cost, temporary changes to built environments with the hopes of improving communities through increased community awareness to social and economic issues. Also known as “Pop-Up” or “D.I.Y. Urbanism”. The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) School of Architecture performed a study on Cascade Heights focusing on tactical solutions for the neighborhood. The study looked to “occupy” initiatives of streets and parking lots. If you walk Cascade Heights today you’d be met by parking lots with several vacant and overlooked lots scattered in between. Tactical urbanism may be a great short-term solution to help gain community interest and involvement by looking at these spaces as places of engagement and civic immersion. The Georgia Tech study provides the community short-term solutions with intentions toward fostering connections and growth streamlined in a scaffolding of envisioning, planning, and incremental proposal creation to detail all feedback.

Long-term/ Sustainable

The 2006 Campbellton/Cascade Corridors Redevelopment Plan marked the most recent comprehensive scheme for neighborhood transformation. Key points in this campaign focused on strengthening surrounding neighborhoods, revitalizing commercial centers, increased pedestrian friendly rights-of-way, traffic calming solutions, and improved pedestrian connections to schools and parks. In the decade since, this extensive list of improvements has only been touched at. Later in the Atlanta 2016 Comprehensive Plan, the Campbellton/Cascade Corridors Redevelopment Plan was mentioned. Character areas and policies for Atlanta’s neighborhoods, centers and corridors. However, this comprehensive plan only provides general and non-area specific strategies and policies for implementation which works for the city as a whole, but Cascade Heights needs to push further. With a push towards an update of the 2006 redevelopment plan, hopefully Cascade Heights will set forth more sustainable and practical goals for the community’s redevelopment that focuses more on making the neighborhood more sustainable and detailing those efforts through plans, programs and policies as well as other incremental approaches to achieve the community’s goals.  

– Gloria Woods

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