Inman Park and Grant Park are two historic neighborhoods known for their strong sense of identity and place in Atlanta.
Residents of those neighborhoods, guided by development blueprints — or master plans — have largely helped to shape their respective communities' identities and set the boundaries for what's acceptable and not in terms of economic development.
Those plans not only help create a vision for how their communities look today, but they also help keep that neighborhood identity in focus with respect to future growth and development plans.
Candler Park, an historic Atlanta neighborhood that traces its beginnings to 1890, has an identity, too.
But Candler Park doesn't have a master plan, something it is looking to change.
The community is in the beginning stages of getting input from residents on how they'd like to see their neighborhood grow and just what should be top of mind when thinking of the Candler Park identity.
Not having a plan is ultimately working against Candler Park, District 6 Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan told neighborhood residents recently.
Adjacent neighborhoods such as Inman Park and Edgewood, and nearby communities, including Old Fourth Ward, have master plans in place that control what kind of developments can come and how they are to be incorporated.
But by not having one of its own, those plans, to some degree, affect Candler Park in terms of traffic, business investment and growth, Wan said last week at the August meeting of the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization.
"You're addressing all of those issues, that's why it's so great to have one," Wan said. "The impact of their plans are affecting you."
Candler Park's quest to create blueprint for its future started with a focus on a key component of many such community plans: traffic control.
"The traffic planning meetings were initially scheduled to address the McLendon and Oakdale intersection concerns, and then opened up to address all traffic issues in the neighborhood," Kate Sandhaus, CPNO's communications officer, explained to East Atlanta Patch.
Wan and Aaron Fortner, a former city planner, attended the traffic planning meetings and from those discussions it was thought that a master plan would be good for the community, she said.
Fortner, who now is a principal in Market + Main, an East Atlanta-based planning consultancy, told Patch the best master plans are really about helping a community leverage its unique strengths, its history and what differentiates it from other neighborhoods.
For example, the company helped West Point, Ga. develop a plan to leverage its natural amenities, which includes recreational fields and facilities, as well as West Point Lake.
"You don't need to be like everybody else; you don't want to be like everybody else," he said.
Fortner added each community is going to hone in on something different to keep their unique identity.
Indeed, when he worked on East Atlanta's plan for the Village business district, the main objective was to keep the development renaissance going. For Edgewood, another plan he worked on, that community's goal was not to be so gentrified that it would lose its socio-economic, racial and ethnic diversity.
"It's really about what makes you unique and let's leverage that asset," he said. "And the best way to be unique is to drill down to what's true."
Patch sat down with Fortner to discuss the importance of master planning and how they help communities. Please click on the accompanying audio interview to hear excerpts from that conversation.