January 13, 2020
Why Atlanta Needs Another Park.
Q/A with Jim Durrett, executive director, Buckhead Community Improvement District
James Ryan, the President of the University of Virginia, my alma mater, included the following paragraph in his letter in the most recent UVA alumni magazine:
“Our world is also facing enormous challenges. Democracy faces pressure both at home and abroad. Political polarization is rampant. Climate change presents a genuine existential threat. Income inequality is staggeringly high. Rates of anxiety and depression are at record-high levels. Trust in established institutions continues to dwindle. Data and technology remain a blessing and a curse, at once connecting and separating us.”
Pondering these and other challenges for a while now, I have become fervent in our vision for creating a world-class, green, gathering place in the heart of Buckhead. A place to take cover among the trees and recover from the laborious work in filing cabinets called office buildings. We call it HUB404 because like a wheel, it can become the focal point for meaningful dialogue, discourse and decompression.
Two recent books have greatly influenced my focus of the HUB404 Atlanta GA park project. The first is Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg. After devouring his book, I believe that figuring out how to heal the divisions in our society is one of the most important undertakings to pursue. A park is a playground for the soul to solve these existential problems that require distance to get closer to the solutions.
Klinenberg argues convincingly that the most important thing necessary to allow divisions to be bridged is what he calls “social infrastructure.” By this he means places and institutions that allow people – all people – to come together – be that libraries, schools, sporting venues, plazas, neighborhood organizations and parks.
Think of HUB404 as a big park bench—a place where we can sit and communicate with nature, with our hearts, with our colleagues, and with the patient pace of nature. If you find a quiet park bench where you can ponder our purpose, you’ve had a beautiful day.
HUB404 can be an important piece of this social infrastructure, not just for Buckhead, but for the entire city of Atlanta. Making the case that it WILL be and why it is important is a priority for the Buckhead CID and the HUB404 Conservancy. Not only the fact that we will be creating the nation’s first Transit-Oriented Park, but I also believe that through our physical connection to MARTA and the imaginative and inclusive programming that will take place at the park, we will create the opportunities to bridge current divides.
The second book is The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams. This book does a marvelous job of explaining how science is proving the substantial beneficial physiological and neurological effects that nature has on people, and how lack of exposure to nature in urban environments has detrimental effects on our lives. The “biophilia effect” is a big part of the mechanisms of human/nature interaction, and I happen to have a good bit of experience and relationships with leaders in the field of biophilia and biophilic design. Contrast this design space with the cubicle, more aptly spelled “cubikill” because these boxes snuff out our freedom to think. The park is the best laboratory for your imagination.
HUB404’s landscaping will be selected and designed with this biophilia effect principle in mind. One of the finest landscape architects in the country is working with us to achieve the project, and we are fortunate to have begun to forge a partnership with the Atlanta Botanical Garden to collaborate on the creation of the park’s natural elements.
Our park will help us to address the challenges outlined succinctly and well by UVA’s James Ryan. Our goals with HUB404 are grand, but very attainable. Our hope is that this little respite reconnects us with not just another place but our true home. As William Shakespeare wrote, “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
Atlanta needs HUB404 because if we want to protect, inspire and grow inside, we need to go outside.
Stay tuned to the latest project news by visiting hub404.org or by following the project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.