Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Urban Wilderness

Posted by Sam Jones, ATLANTA, GA -- City dwellers across the country go out of their way to enjoy open spaces, taking in a little bit of the outdoors whenever they can in municipal parks or redeveloped waterfronts.  What they don't seek out, however, are the vast stretches of vacant land full of interesting graffiti, rubble, rust, and overgrown grass. Perhaps such spaces represent an urban wilderness of sorts, ones that once were sites of important industrial activity, but now are abandoned and waiting for something else to happen. Atlanta has many of these empty spaces, particularly since the Housing Bust of 2008. In fact, along the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) East-West train line there is an eye-catching one -- near, quite ironically,  a large luxury condominium development.

How could this be? Well, this empty lot marks an unofficial border between two of Atlanta’s most prominent neighborhoods, one Black, and the other White. Both neighborhoods have political clout. But for whatever reason, this lot has not yet been considered prime real estate.  So it's forgotten-- at least for now. In some ways this place is visually striking because of its vastness, proximity to the MARTA line, and the luxury condo development, as well as all the colorful graffiti painted on its old rusted trestles and piles of rock. In other ways, it's unsettling. If you venture into it, there are plenty of used heroin needles, crack pipes, condoms (well at least folks are practicing safe sex), as well as rats running around. It is a wilderness to be sure, but certainly not a tourist attraction. 

Sam Jones is a senior majoring in Sociology at Georgia State University. He has also been an intern and volunteer on the GSU Urban Health Initiative  He can be contacted at


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