Downtown Duluth

This article –and others highlighting innovative new urbanist projects in the Atlanta area– can be found in the book on the region produced especially for CNU 18: Building Metropolitan Atlanta: Past, Present & Future.

Project Name:

Duluth, GA

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Site Information:
The moribund historic downtown of Duluth, a community now absorbed into Atlanta’s suburban sprawl.

Project Information:
The once-rural Gwinnett County community of Duluth got its name in 1871, but recently experienced both growth and economic benefits due to its proximity to Atlanta. But by the turn of this century, its downtown was virtually extinct. Historic buildings were dilapidated and falling into disrepair, and repair shops and industrial businesses were taking over buildings and changing downtown’s business mix.

Duluth’s leadership decided to revitalize the downtown, which still had a lot of character, but was starting to lack vibrancy and sense of place. A visionary plan was developed for recreating a town center with a central Town Green as the focal point. Bringing more activity downtown was a strategy to spawn the redevelopment of dilapidated adjacent parcels.

The Town Green was designed to accommodate large events and also attract individual users. The Green, sited in the middle of the business district, is edged by the backs of the Main Street stores; new condominiums; 2.4-acre Taylor Park; and the City Hall. A major east-west transportation corridor passes between City Hall and the Town Green. Thus, everyone who travels through Duluth gets the dramatic view down the sloping Green to its 70-foot fountain. City sidewalks enter the park from all sides and connect to an oval walkway which leads to the central interactive fountain. Local residential areas are linked via the sidewalk system. The main walls of the Green are reinforced for vehicular use when setting up events in the park. The City Hall looks down on the space. The Police Department, located just across the street, has added bicycle- and horse-mounted patrols just for the Town Green. The Pavilion located within the Green was designed for community events, concerts and theater productions. Two community rooms flank the stage and provide space for a wide variety of activities. Its upstairs is rented for private events to help generate revenue. In addition, the stage is sized to accommodate a 50-member orchestra. The Amphitheater seats 1,500 persons, while the Town Green accommodates crowds of up to 15,000.

The Town Green has had dramatic impact on the identity of the city and the attitude of its citizens. Since its completion, various large and small events have taken place there, and have created lasting impressions on the citizens. What was once a dilapidated group of old repair shops and a parking lot is now a green oasis and rest spot. It has become the social backyard and playground for the community.

Livable Centers Initiative Achievement Award by Atlanta Regional Commission, 2007
Great Community Place Award from the 8th Urban Parks Conference, New York City, 2003
2003 One of Ten Cities of Excellence by Georgia Municipal Association
2003 Georgia Chapter – American Society of Landscape Architects