the histories of our streets

Georgia State University students map Atlanta's past

Author: Andrew Parks

How the Expansion of Higher Education Transformed the Fairlie Poplar District

The Fairlie Poplar District is a walkable, pedestrian-oriented business center located in the middle of Downtown Atlanta, with a prevalence in food, shopping, and historic buildings that are concentrated within the heart of Atlanta’s central commercial region. This district and its surrounding areas effectively capture the exciting, diverse, and energetic atmosphere of a bustling inner city, featuring a variety of amenities that authentically serve the Atlanta population. Over the past century, the district as a whole has become a vibrant gathering location for Atlanta residents, with numerous pedestrian friendly qualities that create an inviting space to commence social interaction and establish a greater sense of community in this part of Downtown. While the district has undergone numerous structural changes in recent decades, the area has still managed to remain fairly preserved in terms of vibrance and walkability. Fairlie Poplar’s liveliness is especially apparent in comparison with many other historic regions in Atlanta, which have either been demolished completely or altered to accommodate a car dependent lifestyle. Streets that were once distinguished with unique character and architectural beauty over a century ago have been transformed by contemporary urban design, leaving behind a gray and institutional landscape that has been drained of its energy and culture.

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Highway Interchange

The aerial photographs below depict a block of land just Southeast of a highway interchange that forms the intersection of interstates 85 and 20. The image on the top was taken in 1949, two years after the interchange was planned for construction, and the image on the bottom depicts the landscape that remains following decades of expressway construction and redevelopment of surrounding land. While this area once belonged to a compact residential community with a thriving economy, significant changes in land use have reduced the area to being nearly undeveloped. Despite the area’s current state, the residential neighborhood that once existed in this block had undergone over half a century of rich and complex history, with both notable changes and consistencies throughout its lifetime.

Northwest Block, 1949
Northwest Block, 2024

From roughly 1899 to 1913, this block of land was almost entirely composed of small residential units, consisting of either one or two story homes, each housing only one person. Additionally, all residents living within the confines of the block are white, which remains consistent for the duration of the neighborhood’s existence in the following decades. While a few new housing developments arose at around 1913, the block would remain mostly the same at this point until the early 1930s, in which many of the single residences have been transformed into either apartment buildings or duplexes. As a result of these changes in the area’s overall housing density, the neighborhood as a whole could support a significantly higher population. As the residential population continued to grow throughout the 30s and 40s, the community’s economy would thrive, with various new businesses that would surround the block. However, the block itself would remain entirely residential. In this period, additional changes include the replacement of horse stables with private garages for cars as the neighborhood transitioned to a time in which cars have become increasingly popularized among normal residents.

Sanborn, 1899

Other than changes in housing types and transportation methods, this area still remained fairly consistent in terms of its land use and overall character until around 1950, immediately following the proposal for an expressway to run directly west of the block. Demolition would immediately begin after construction began nearby, and the displacement of residents would soon follow. Once the entire interchange was finally constructed, and after decades of variations in land use in this general area, all buildings ended up being demolished, and for years the land was completely vacant. Recently, however, the area became a construction site, and a new parking deck on Fulton Street is expected to be completed by May 2024. The parking deck is planned to have six stories, accommodating nearly 900 new parking spaces. This new building will be located directly west of the GSU Convocation Center, which is the building that the parking is intended to serve.


Lynch, M, Atlanta City Directory, (Atlanta, GA: V.V. Bullock and Mrs. F.A. Sanders), p. 236, Internet Archive, ( /2up: accessed March 7, 2024). 

Sanborn, D.A., “Atlanta 1899,” ProQuest, (https://digitalsanbornmaps-proquest-com.eu1.proxy. se_maps/11/1377/6152/6515/97070?accountid=11226: accessed March 7, 2024). 

Abrams Aerial Survey Corporation, “Aerial Survey, Atlanta, Georgia, 1949 (Mosaic),” ( /collection/PlanATL/id/10766/rec/1 accessed April 6, 2024).

The Hub at Peachtree Center

Me inside of The Hub

Within the Peachtree Center District in downtown Atlanta, many working Atlantans throughout the area visit a small, partially underground food court known as the Hub at Peachtree Center, which offers a variety of restaurant and retail services as well as other amenities. This frequently visited food court is located between Peachtree Street and Peachtree Center Avenue, easily accessible from the nearby MARTA station. The Hub is surrounded by several office buildings with pedestrian walkways that connect directly to the food court, providing businesses with convenient access to the numerous available services offered.

The Hub was designed by architect John C. Portman, who also designed many of the adjacent office buildings and hotels along with most of the high rises in the Peachtree Center District, contributing greatly to the transformation in Atlanta’s skyline in the 1960s. Due to challenges in its aging infrastructure, the mall underwent several renovations over the last three decades, with the goal of reinstituting the outdated food court to a central gathering location for the millions of annual visitors staying in surrounding hotels.

This site is particularly interesting to me because I often walk here to eat lunch before my next class, and it has become a regular location in my daily schedule. Also, a scene from one of my favorite movies, Baby Driver, was filmed here in 2017, in addition to various parts of the GSU campus as well as other areas in downtown.

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