BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir of Atlanta – Andrew Wegner

In the 1970’s a small group of three people began discussing their lack of Hindu places of worship or a Hindu mandir in Atlanta. Soon that small group gained a few members all of whom shared the same desires. Each member contributed $10,000 to achieve their goal of providing a place to worship Hindu teachings for the greater community and future generations. The current location is located on Highway 85. It is called the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir of Atlanta. The current location for the temple was chosen for its unique geographical contours and its close proximity to various highways and other high traffic roads.

The Hindu Temple of Atlanta

The mandir itself was constructed out of hand carved Italian marble, Turkish limestone, and Indian pink sandstone (the Indian pink sandstone was used as the means for constructing the administration building to the right of the first picture shown above). The mandir was constructed using no additional foundational or structural materials other than the limestone and the marble. With this being the case, the hand carved pieces were constructed in such a way that they locked together to hold together the structure. There was a total of approximately ~34,000 separate pieces to construct this truly magnificent structure.

Domed ceiling inside main temple worship space

In Hindu temples, each ceiling tile has a separate meaning. The central most tile is of the utmost importance. During the construction of the building, the center piece was the last to be added because it locked the entire construction together upon placement. The pictures below show the truly beautiful and intricately detailed inner temple.

One of several altars inside the temple
Intricate, hand carved pillars inside the main temple space

After construction 1.3 million hours’ worth of community service, $19 million, and 17 months from the day the workers broke ground, the Mandir of Atlanta, Georgia was inaugurated in August of 2007. Thousands of people flocked to the inauguration. Since then, the temple has seen over a million visitors over its time.

A common misconception of Hinduism is that it is polytheistic. The faith does worship a variety of idols, but they believe in one God. That monotheistic God exists in all things. Hinduism appears in every plain of the body, the physical, mental and spiritual. The emotions and intensity that one feels upon entering a structure such as this is awe-inspiring. Have the opportunity to witness the ceremonies that occur delay reveal a substantial lesson that can be learned, don’t judge a book by its cover.

The similarities that can be viewed when comparing Hinduism to Christianity is quite interesting. Most notably, how each religion makes use of food. The Hindu faith presents a full meal to the idols with the temple and allow them to, as I understand it, to both consume the essence and bless the food. Christians use food in a different way. We accept an offer from Jesus Christ in the form of his body and blood. This simple use of food is starkly different, but the difference in whom is presenting the food and whom is reserving the food is worthy of note.

The Mandir of Atlanta has brought a unique opportunity to the people of Atlanta. They have created an even more diverse population. The Mandir is located in the Lilburn suburb of Atlanta. It is primarily white community with little diversity. However, the community has begun to see a steady increase in the Indian population. The increasing in diversity helps to cultivate an ethical city by introducing different viewpoints and concerns. New Hindu communities will have a place to worship and have a general congregation place. In such a large city, it is important that people have individual outlets where that can receive more individualized support from a community they identify with. Additionally, the presence of the Mandir in Atlanta will help to make the residents more culturally competent.

Temple and reflecting pool

References

“About Us.” Hindu Temple of Atlanta, hindutempleofatlanta.org/pages/about-hta.

“BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir – Atlanta – Manidr Info.” BAPS, www.baps.org/Global-Network/North-America/Atlanta/Mandir-Info.aspx.

Desai, Mahadev. “Atlanta Dunia.” BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir’s Inauguration Ceremony -Atlanta Dunia –, atlantadunia.com/dunia/News/N295.htm.

Doniger, Wendy, et al. “Hinduism.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 15 Feb. 2019, www.britannica.com/topic/Hinduism.

Lohr, Kathy. “Gleaming Hindu Temple to Open in Atlanta Suburb.” NPR, NPR, 15 Aug. 2007, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12753002.

Wikipedia contributors. “BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Atlanta.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 Apr. 2019. Web. 26 Apr. 2019.

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PONCE CITY MARKET – CALISTA HOLMAN

Sears, Roebuck & Company at the grand opening, August 1926

Ponce City Market was opened in 2014 after fully renovating the Sears, Roebuck & Company building located in the Old Fourth Ward. The building was originally built in 1926 as a Sears, Roebuck & Co. retail store, warehouse and regional office. Approximately 30,000 Atlanta residents flocked to the grand opening in August of 1926 to marvel at the nine-story building, the largest brick structure in the Southeast.

Sears, Roebuck & Company, 1928

After World War II, Sears completed a major expansion, bringing the building to more than 2 million square feet.

Sears, Roebuck & Company after its expansion, 1950

The Sears, Roebuck & Co. plant was booming through the 1960s, at its peak employing over 1,000 people. The construction of a freeway and suburbanization caused the once thriving 21,000 people residing in the Old Fourth Ward to shrink to just 7,000 by 1980. The company continually downsized retail operations until its eventual closure in 1989.

Workers installing signs at the new City Hall East, 1993

In 1990, the City of Atlanta purchased the building and converted it into a center for city offices. It was renamed City Hall East and housed the central offices of the police and fire departments as well as a city funded art gallery. Although the building was being used, those offices only filled 10% of the building and the rest sat empty. In 2010 the building was closed to the public and in 2011 was sold to a private equity group, Jamestown, who had plans to revive the old building.

Ponce City Market – Present Day

Thirty years after the closing of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. building and a $300 million project overhaul, the Ponce City Market was formed. The first floor is filled with a variety of food options. From dine-in restaurants to grab-and-go stands, there was a gourmet Italian market, Indian street food, a European café and farmstand, a sushi bar and many more. The second floor of the market, as well as a large outdoor area on the back of the building, contained many shops and boutiques to browse while taking in the city life all around us.

Ponce City Market – Aerial View

The other eight floors contain offices of high-tech companies, industrial flats, and educational facilities. President of the Fourth Ward Alliance Neighborhood Association described its renewal as, “a building that’s gotten an opportunity to live multiple lives…it is once again going to be a job center and activity center.” Ponce City Market became large community gathering place that was established from an old building in downtown Atlanta.

There are many positives and negatives to the renovation. One positive is that the historic building in the Old Fourth Ward is not sitting empty and has been revived. But the remodel of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. building is called gentrification. Gentrification is the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste. Due to gentrification all around the neighborhood, the predominately black area of the Old Fourth Ward has seen an influx of whites. The question is, is this a good thing? Yes, whites are moving back into the city centers that they had left during the urban sprawl; however, the renovations they are making are only benefiting themselves. The low-income, persons of color that have been living in this area are now being pushed out, and the shops and markets that are being built are too expensive for them to shop at – a phenomenon referred to as the suburbanization of poverty. What is the balance between renewing and revitalizing the history of Atlanta and making it something that is beneficial to everyone?

References

Green, Josh. (2018, September 19). ‘Urban reclamation’ meets Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. Retrieved from https://atlanta.curbed.com/atlanta-development/2018/9/19/17861216/ponce-city-market-atlanta-old-fourth-ward

Green, Josh. (2015, March 27). The many lives of Ponce City Markey. The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved from https://www.ajc.com/

Ponce City Market. (2019). Retrieved from https://poncecitymarket.com/

Ponce City Market. (2019, March 12). Wikipedia. Retrieved April 18, 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponce_City_Market

Weible, David. (2013, November 29). Ponce City Market: Atlanta’s History in the Making. National Trust for Historic Preservation. Retrieved from https://savingplaces.org/stories/ponce-city-market-atlantas-history-making#.XLixa5NKgWo

GRADY HOSPITAL – DAMON SCHMALZREIDT

Grady Hospital Main Entrance

Grady Hospital was opened in 1892 in memory of Henry W. Grady, who served as the newspaper editor for the Atlanta Constitution in the 1880s. The hospital is located at 80 Jesse Hill Jr Dr SE, situated between Georgia State University and the Sweet Auburn district. It serves mainly patients from Dekalb and Fulton counties in the greater Atlanta area. However, Grady’s care also reaches 149 other counties in Georgia and areas of North Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas.

Grady has undergone numerous changes since its inception. The hospital opened with 18 employees servicing 100 beds, divided evenly between blacks and whites. After World War I, divisions deepened through the formation of two distinct facilities, one for black and one for white, and these were termed “the Gradies.” The two facilities would be desegregated as a result of the Civil Rights Movement, but not before the first open heart surgery in Georgia was performed (1921) and the field-leading cardiac catheterization lab was brought to Grady (1940). Along the way, Grady has supported medical education, beginning with Atlanta Medical College, which became Emory University, as well as Morehouse College medical students and a nursing education program that endured until 1982. Now, Grady houses 953 beds with 17 operating rooms and over 5,000 employees, providing evidence of its growth and impact on Atlanta.

Grady began its mission of serving Atlanta with the intent of providing care to poor families in the region. This ideal has followed Grady through its 127-year existence, but it almost cost the hospital everything. Due to shortcomings in state and federal budgets and provision of care to uninsured patients, Grady almost closed its doors in 2007, but it was saved by a reformation of the board of directors and a pledge from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation of $200 million. Despite the adversity faced by the hospital, Grady continues its dedication to providing quality and holistic care to all comers, “with arms open wide to everyone in [their] community” (gradyhealth.org).

Grady’s open arms extend many types of care to patients, including cancer, urology, cardiology, neurology, chronic disease, family medicine, and senior care, though the hospital is most well-known for its emergency care. Grady houses a trauma-1 center, the Marcus Trauma Center, that is a leader not only in Atlanta, but all of Georgia and even nationwide. The Marcus Trauma Center provides incoming patients with immediate access to a highly-trained, multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, therapists, and technologists. The emergency department and trauma center have been so instrumental in providing care to Atlanta, and the Marcus Trauma Center was recently awarded the highest trauma center recognition in 2017 for its efforts. This recognition stems from the hospital’s ability to sustain adequate care for trauma patients, as well as promote educational training and research toward emergency care. (Video:Trauma Care at Grady)

Grady Hospital ER Entrance

Everyone who enters the Grady emergency department is assessed as quickly as possible. Upon arrival, each patient is classified by the severity of injury and need for immediate attention. Those with what are called lower acuity injuries, such as a minor asthma attack, back pain, or knee pain, are transferred to an area manned by physician assistants and nurse practitioners. In this area, it’s all about turnover rate. According to Dr. Brooks Moore, an associate director of the emergency department, the average bed in the lower acuity area is turned over in two hours or less, and this quick rate of treating and discharging patients helps to alleviate the stress of such a high patient volume. Even with that high turnover rate, there are still times when the hallways are lined with beds holding patients waiting their turn. There’s a need for emergency health care in Atlanta, and Grady is doing the best it can to fill that need.

In more serious cases, patients may be transferred to the Marcus Trauma Center, which houses fifteen beds and is staffed by physicians, residents, and nurses. In the trauma center, efficiency is paramount because the patient may be facing a life or death situation, and the team operates differently than it would a normal hospital as a result. Where a patient would undergo a series of tests in sequence, meaning extended or multiple hospital visits, a patient at Grady undergoes a barrage of tests all at once. The physicians need to know what is wrong now, not later, and the flurry of tests and treatments that takes place was described by Dr. Moore as providing “two months of care in two hours.” The providers at Grady are not only efficient, but provide quality care, as well. Denise Simpson, the media relations manager for Grady, remarked that she often cannot believe how some patients walk out of the hospital on the same day they enter it with such traumatic injuries.

Grady also emphasizes its holistic care, providing various services to improve the lives of its patients. One of Grady’s services is financial counseling, which helps patients plan for and manage costs associated with medical care. This service helps ensure that patients are financially stable to provide for themselves so that they are less likely to be re-admitted. Grady also has a unique way of assessing costs to their patients. The hospital analyzes a patient’s background, including his or her work status, number of family members, rent payments, and previous hospital visits, and it accounts for those factors when assessing costs to a patient. The ability to vary price based on patient characteristics is enabled by the restructuring of Grady leadership into a board of directors with business expertise. The implementation of economically-minded leadership has helped to maximize efficiency and improve Grady’s programs, which are provided in addition to the seldom-paralleled care offered by its emergency department.

Food prescription is another interesting service provided by Grady. Food prescriptions, which are coordinated with the Atlanta Food Bank and Wholesome Wave, center on providing free fruits and vegetables, as well as lessons on cooking with them, to patients with the goal of improving their quality of life and health. With programs like this, Grady hopes to extend its care beyond hospital doors and contribute to well-being in innovative and lasting ways.

Resources:

https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/science-medicine/grady-health-system

https://www.gradyhealth.org/learn-about-us/

https://www.gradyhealth.org/specialty/marcus-trauma-center/

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/grady-receives-level-1-verification-from-the-american-college-of-surgeons-becoming-atlantas-only-level-1-trauma-center-to-achieve-this-coveted-status-300487363.html

SWEET AUBURN HISTORIC DISTRICT – CAITLIN FALLON

The Sweet Auburn Historic District is home to many historic African-American sites, businesses, and homes. Just east of downtown, the neighborhood around Auburn Avenue was dubbed “Sweet” by John Wesley Dobbs, who was an African-American civic and political leader as well as the unofficial “mayor” of Auburn Avenue. However, the neighborhood was predominantly white before the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot.

Leading up to the riot, African-American men had just been given the right to vote in 1870 and were gaining more and more educational and occupational opportunities. As a result, a “black elite” were becoming more prominent in the political, business, and social realms in the city, to the dismay of the established white elite. However, impoverished and working class African-Americans were being blamed for growing crime rates by both the white and black elites, who were attempting to distance themselves from affiliation with these stereotypes. At the start of the 20th century, Atlanta’s population was increasing exponentially, which caused strain on municipal services, increased job competition, and heightened tensions between classes. The city’s leadership of elite white men responded by expanding the Jim Crow laws and put extra restrictions on the working class.

The 1906 governor’s race also flared racial tensions as one of the candidates, former Atlanta Journal publisher Hoke Smith, ran his campaign on promises to keep African-Americans “in their place.” At the same time, the papers were provoking anger because they were carrying stories about alleged assaults on white women by black men which were sensationalized with lurid details and inflammatory language, as well as editorials and even cartoons demeaning African-Americans. Soon after, a mob of thousands of white men had gathered downtown and flooded the city, attacking African-Americans, vandalizing, smashing windows of, and raiding African-American owned businesses. An estimated 25-40 African-Americans were killed as compared to two whites, one of whom was a woman who suffered a heart attack when she saw the mob outside of her home. The results of the riot were a delicate interracial cooperation between white civic leaders and black elites, and increased class divisions among the city’s African-American populations. This contributed to a depression of both the African-American economy and community in Atlanta.

Birth Home of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the aftermath of the riot, the black elite began to inhabit the homes and businesses surrounding Auburn Avenue. This included Rev. Adam Daniel and Jenny Williams, the maternal grandparents of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in 1909 purchased a home at 501 Auburn Avenue NE. When Martin Luther King, Sr. married Alberta Williams, they moved into the house and lived there until 1941. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in that very house on January 15, 1929. This house is also one block east of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, on 407 Auburn Ave NE.

Although the church building on Auburn Ave was not yet built, Ebenezer was founded in 1886 by John A. Parker, who had been born into slavery. Rev. A.D. Williams became pastor of the Ebenezer church in 1894 with only 17 members, a congregation which grew substantially, outgrowing various buildings until construction finished on the church building on Auburn Ave in 1922, and continues to grow to this day. Rev. Williams’ son-in-law, Rev. Martin Luther King Senior began to serve as assistant pastor in 1927, and became pastor following Rev. Williams’ passing in 1931. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became a co-pastor alongside his father in 1960, remaining in the position until his assassination in 1968, after which his funeral was held in the church.

Crypts for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King
Reflecting Pool and Final Resting Place for MLK and Coretta

The Rev. Dr. King , Jr. was laid to rest in a marble crypt east of the historic Ebenezer church, which in 1967 was surrounded by a memorial park, including a reflecting pool around the crypt on a raised pedestal, as well as a brick and concrete plaza with an arch-covered walkway and chapel.

New Ebenezer Baptist Church

Because of the ever-growing congregation, construction was completed on a new church building directly across the street from the historic Ebenezer church in 1999, a building which was dubbed the Horizon Sanctuary. In 2001, the National Park Service began restoring the historic church thanks to a Save America’s Treasures Grant as well as other contributions. Now, the historic Ebenezer church building is open to the public as a memorial to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his family, with recordings of his sermons being played in the nave of the church during open hours. The historic Ebenezer church, as well as the birth home and gravesite of Martin Luther King, Jr., are now part of a National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service, in addition to the National Park Service’s Visitor Center, which features exhibits about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights movement.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church

Just a couple blocks away from the Ebenezer church buildings on 25 Boulevard NE is the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church, which is considered to be the Mother Church of African American Roman Catholics in Atlanta. The name Our Lady of Lourdes is in memory of the late Archbishop Patrick Ryan of Philadelphia. It was founded in 1911 by the Rev. Ignatius Lissner of the Society of African Missions, who was initially met with racist and anti-Catholic backlash. The Reverend found support from St. Katharine Drexel, a wealthy heiress from Pennsylvania who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She provided funds as a mission to African Americans and Native Americans in 1912, with which the church site was purchased and financed. The original site in Sweet Auburn is where the church still stands today.

Restored Home in Historic Sweet Auburn Neighborhood

The Sweet Auburn neighborhood as a whole was designated as a National Historical Landmark in 1976. However, it was plagued with crime, abandonment, lack of investment, and construction of a new highway right through the neighborhood. In 1992 it was recognized a one of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In response, the Historic District Development Corporation (HDDC) was formed to reverse the negative trends in the neighborhood. Their mission was to renew and improve the community without raising prices which would force lower-income residents out of the neighborhood. In 1994 they began by restoring houses surrounding the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and have since rebuilt and restored over 110 homes and over 50 affordable rental units.

References

“Atlanta Race Riot of 1906.” New Georgia Encyclopedia, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/atlanta-race-riot-1906.

Ebenezer Baptist Church Atlanta. “Our History.” Ebenezer Baptist Church, ebenezeratl.org/history/.

“History.” Our Lady of Lourdes Atlanta, lourdesatlanta.org/history/.

“How to Spend a Day in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic District.” Official Georgia Tourism & Travel Website | Explore Georgia.org, http://www.exploregeorgia.org/things-to-do/article/how-to-spend-a-day-in-atlantas-sweet-auburn-historic-district.

“Main Church Location and Directions.” Our Lady of Lourdes Atlanta, lourdesatlanta.org/locations/main-church/.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home.” Official Georgia Tourism & Travel Website | Explore Georgia.org, http://www.exploregeorgia.org/atlanta/history-heritage/african-american/martin-luther-king-jr-birth-home.

“Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site–Atlanta: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/atlanta/kin.htm. “Sweet Auburn Historic District–Atlanta: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/atlanta/aub.htm.

CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK – THERESE DEHNERT

Centennial Olympic Stadium

In 1996, Atlanta hosted the Olympics for the 100th Anniversary of the first modern Olympic games in Athens.   In order to prepare for the Olympics, a stadium was built in downtown Atlanta.  After the Olympics ended this stadium was taken down, and in its place the city built the Centennial Olympic Park for public use.  The park features fountains and reflecting pools, as well as a 20-story Ferris wheel called the Skyview Atlanta.  Surrounding the park are several museums and attractions which reflect the global city Atlanta is trying to become.

National Civil and Human Rights Museum

Atlanta’s Civil and Human Rights Museum highlights the city’s history as the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. and as the “City Too Busy to Hate”.  The museum walks visitors through the history of the Civil Rights Movement, showing the impact it had on the southern United States and featuring the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  It also includes a section about discrepancies in human rights which are still an issue today, such as human trafficking and poverty. 

Foyer of CNN Headquarters

Atlanta is also the home of CNN, or the Cable News Network, which broadcasts news from around the world to people all over the world.  At CNN headquarters in Atlanta, one can tour studios where the news is filmed or just sit in the foyer with a view of the offices on the upper floors.  CNN’s presence, like the 1996 Olympic games, highlights the global aspect of the city of Atlanta.  It shows that Atlanta as a city interacts with the rest of the world rather than keeping to itself.

World of Coca-Cola Museum

The World of Coca-Cola museum is also located near Centennial Olympic Park.  This museum features some of the business impacts that Atlanta has made on the world; namely, the invention of soft drinks and Coca Cola in 1886 Atlanta.  At World of Coca-Cola, one can learn about the history of Coca Cola as well as the impact it has on the world today.  Visitors can also see the vault where the recipe for Coca Cola is hidden and try over 100 flavors of Coca-Cola. 

Whale Shark at Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium and Mercedes-Benz football stadium are both within walking distance of Centennial Olympic Park as well.  While these attractions have less global significance than Coca Cola or CNN, they are examples of the entertainment aspect of Atlanta.  The Georgia Aquarium is home to four whale sharks, and the Mercedes-Benz stadium hosted the Superbowl in 2019.

Mercedes Benz Stadium

Because all these attractions center around Central Olympic Park, the area has become a hub for tourism.  While their proximity is convenient for tourists, this sprawl has a negative impact on residents.  Those driving to work face long hours in traffic, and public transportation to the downtown area is not always.  Gentrification is also prevalent in the area.  In order to build the Centennial Olympic Stadium, multiple blocks of residential areas were torn down with the promise of relocation- a promise which has not yet been completely fulfilled.  This means that families that used to have homes in downtown Atlanta had to move farther away from their jobs.  Atlanta tries to make itself a “global city” by highlighting it’s history, it’s global thinking, it’s business and it’s entertainment options in a way that will appeal to outsiders.  However, this structure provides a very enclosed experience to those who do not venture outside of the tourist sphere, and it does not show tourists how residents of the area really live.  Is there a way to improve conditions for residents without making conditions worse for tourists?  Does Atlanta improve its standing as a “global city” by having good conditions for tourists and poor conditions for residents?

References

“Centennial Olympic Park.” Centennial Olympic Park. Georgia World Congress Center Authority, 2019. Web. 23 Apr. 2019.

VILLA INTERNATIONAL – Zach Schmit

Villa bears witness to God’s love for the world as it:

Creates a safe community of mutual respect and hospitality

Encourages friendship and global understanding

Promotes the health and wellness of the world

Villa International Front Patio

Villa international is a 33-bedroom residence for international guests located in Atlanta, Georgia. Villa was founded in 1967 as a “home away from home” and since its opening, has housed over 25,000 guests form over 170 different countries. Villa International’s proximity to Emory university, specifically the Rollins School of Public Health, as well as the CDC makes it an ideal residence for international students, researchers, doctors, and other public health officials.

Villa international was founded with the aid of seven Christian denominations including The Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church (U.S.), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and The Evangelical Lutheran Church (U.S.). These groups sought to create a living space in which people from all over the world can find safe, affordable, housing in an otherwise daunting city in America. The founders of the Villa hoped to create a space in which all people can be accepted and respected while simultaneously experiencing the comfort of home. An introduction video to Villa International can be found here.

Villa International prides itself on providing the unique experience of a hotel combined with the community and fellowship of a guest house. Villa strives to promote a shared experience with its residents through open dining places, a common industrial kitchen, and a game room consisting of a pool table, a ping pong table, as well as other games and lounging

Common Room at the Villa

Villa international also offers informal and formal opportunities for fellowship through numerous planned activities such as community dinners, visits to local historic sites and attractions, and visits to different locations near Atlanta. Once a year, Villa sponsors a Festival of Nations, in which community members can gather, experience foods from different cultures, international dances, and different world crafts. This festival lasts one afternoon and draws in hundreds of people. The proceeds of this festival go to students who are surviving on a minimum stipend in order to continue their education.

Apart from providing affordable and comfortable housing for international and local guests, and offering a place of kinship and community spirit, Villa international promoted a bioethically considerate model in the Atlanta community. In 2018, Villa international implemented several energy conservation methods in order to cut the Villa’s carbon footprint. All of the shower faucets were replaced with low-flow fixtures, all lightbulbs were switched from incandescent to LED lights in over 300 fixtures, and multiple high-grade solar panels were installed on Villa International’s roof, accounting for nearly 30% of their energy efficiency. With these strides toward a more sustainable business model, Villa International exemplifies how even a service-based business can support a community conscious of world health.

Aerial View of the Villa

Through the lens of an ethical city, Villa international checks many of the boxes in the formulae for urban happiness established by author Charles Montgomery in his book The Happy City. From Montgomery’s list, the most notable aspects of a happy city are striving towards maximum happiness with minimal hardship, allows the residents of the city to build and strengthen the bonds between people which give life meaning, and to acknowledge our interconnectivity.  First, Villa international and its residents all agree to an informal contract to maximize their happiness for minimal hardship through a community-based living space. Residents cook, eat, clean, and maintain their own building and living space with the expectation that other residents will perform in the same manner. In regard to building and strengthening bonds, as aforementioned, Villa international prides itself on creating relationships between different people from different cultures in as many ways possible. Periodic community dinners are held, all the facilities besides private bedrooms can be used by all, and entertainment options are available to bring people together in their free time. Correspondingly, these bonds which form from a codependence of residents to hold up their end of maintaining the Villa as well as the bonds formed by working and playing with each other, Villa provides an atmosphere where the interconnectivity of all people, regardless of their background, becomes apart and important. This acknowledgement rightfully breaks down previous barriers established by culture, race, and religion, and, in the words of Charles Montgomery, “opens doors to empathy and cooperation” (Montgomery 43).

Undoubtedly, the model established by Villa International represents a company which supports diversity, understands the meaning of a community, and supports actions moving towards the model of an ethical city. Villa International is a place in which different members of different communities, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and political backgrounds can come together and build friendships and partnerships under common experience. In doing so, Villa plants a seed of acceptance and understanding which can grow in the minds of their guests, and hopefully, go with their guests to their homes and workplaces, promoting understanding of difference and diversity throughout the world.

For a more in depth look at Villa International, click here.

References

Good News from Villa International- Spring 2019

“Villa International, A Home Away From Home for CDC International Visitors.” CDC Foundation

“Villa International.” About Us | Villa International


ATLANTA BELTLINE – Marne Boehm

The Atlanta BeltLine Project was started in 1999 by Ryan Gravel as part of his Masters Thesis at Georgia Tech. Evolving from this idea, the BeltLine Project grew as a grassroots campaign to redevelop abandoned railroad tracks and transform the city through building a 22-mile loop of modern streetcar, 33 miles of multiuse trails, and 2000 acres of parks. The first trail openings began in 2008 and as of 2019, the BeltLine has five open trails and seven parks. The project’s estimated completion date is 2030 which is being funded by federal, state, local, and private contributions.

Beltline Project Overview

Atlanta is considered to be a “sprawl city” which means it is geographically larger and more spread out than some other cities in the U.S. Due to the lack of geographic boundaries confining the city, developers chose to expand outward as people came in and the city grew. This means that many individuals rely on cars for transportation, and although Atlanta has a metro transit system it can be difficult to use and due to traffic, it is not always the fastest way to get around. The lack of alternative transit takes a toll on the environment as well as the overall happiness of individuals living in cities. Charles Montgomery’s The Happy City outlines how urban design and infrastructure can transform our cities and our lives through more efficient ways of travel, communal spaces, and beautiful areas for all. The BeltLine Project can be seen as a sort of “happy city” initiative by taking an unused space and creating something to be enjoyed by everyone.

Beltline near Krog Street Market

In aiming to solve this problem, the project works to provide a sustainable, alternative means of transit which may mean biking, walking, scootering, or by light rail. The project is considered Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) which “guides the growth of vibrant, livable, mixed-use communities.” Through various developments, the BeltLine is working to build community in a city that is sometimes too big to develop community otherwise. The organization’s website refers to the BeltLine as a “living, breathing part of our community; not simply a means of getting somewhere, but a destination unto itself.”

Working with their end goal in mind, the Atlanta BeltLine supports affordable housing, economic and job development, public arts, and environmental clean-up, among other efforts to improve the city. In 2008, the City Council approved a $8.8 million bond for the Atlanta BeltLine Affordable Housing Trust Fund. However, the BeltLine is not without its issues. Although many of those initiatives fell within their goal, it is sometimes difficult to prevent the response from others in the community.

The BeltLine aimed to be an asset for all, but sometimes those with money get more say in the matter. In some neighborhoods near the BeltLine, realtors have started to build expensive housing or raise housing costs because of the new appeal from the BeltLine. In some areas, housing prices have risen by 80%. This has pushed individuals who cannot afford this housing farther out of the city, creating a new issue for Atlanta.

Gentrification in Atlanta

These issues are not unique to Atlanta and are common in cities everywhere. There are benefits to improving and restoring a city, but this often comes with drawbacks as well, which are still being addressed.

With the BeltLine still under construction, creating a space that will remain accessible to everyone must also be considered. In 2016, two new affordable housing developments were completed which include Reynoldstown Senior and Stanton Oaks. The project also states that around $20 million of tax revenue will go to support more affordable housing. Hopefully, as the project continues more consideration will go to ensure the BeltLine can improve the city of Atlanta for all.

References

Atlanta BeltLine Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://beltline.org/about/the-atlanta-beltline-project/atlanta-beltline-overview/

Burnette, M. (2011). Atlanta: Urban Sprawl. Retrieved from https://www.greatamericancountry.com/places/local-life/atlanta-urban-sprawl

Lartey, J. (2018) Nowhere for people to go: who will survive the gentrification of Atlanta? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/oct/23/nowhere-for-people-to-go-who-will-survive-the-gentrification-of-atlanta

Montogomery, C. (2013). The Happy City. London: Penguin House