Dodge & Burn: Atlanta's Changing Streetcapes, Monroe and Boulevard

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1. See the bottom of this photo essay for descriptions of each image. All photos by Ryan Nabulsi. Click the images to zoom.

For the past two years, I’ve been driving along Boulevard on my commute to and from work, and more often recently as a way to avoid the highway. Traffic becomes backed up frequently, but at least the road provides more interesting scenery than on the Downtown Connector. If I’m going to be stuck, I might as well have something to look at, right?
Boulevard changes names to Monroe Drive when it crosses Ponce de Leon Avenue, marking the boundary between the Old Fourth Ward and Midtown. If you ask a local why the road change names, even though it continues in the same direction, the answer varies depending on their personal history with the city.
Regardless, the street soon will go through another stage of revitalization. With the recent sale of City Hall East, there is renewed interested in developing the surrounding areas which include the Old Fourth Ward and specifically the Boulevard corridor. Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall unveiled a plan earlier this year to redevelop the Boulevard corridor close to Midtown, focusing on community and safety. In an interview with East Atlanta Patch, Hall stated that progress in the area is “not where it needs to be” and that people “should feel safe in their neighborhoods or driving through their neighborhoods.”
Calling it the “Year of Boulevard,” this aggressive redevelopment plan has seven key factors, including the creation of an Atlanta Police Department mini-precinct within the Atlanta Medical Center that will be home to a dozen officers exclusively dedicated to Boulevard. Management at one of the nearby apartment complexes will donate space for a booking and processing center for people who are arrested. The plan also includes job fairs hosted by the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency and Mt. Zion Baptist Church, as well as a beautification project.
As Boulevard begins to undergo transformation, I started to imagine what it might look like. Would it begin to reflect its sister street, Monroe Drive? I roughly mapped out how the blocks would match up. Beginning at Ponce where the two streets meet, I shot this series of photographs walking north on Monroe and south on Boulevard. I then paired together 10 photos in five diptychs to show how Boulevard (on the left side) might come to look like Monroe (on the right).




1. Ponce de Leon Avenue and Boulevard (left) and Monroe Drive (right)
2. Boulevard and North Avenue / Monroe and St. Charles Avenue
3. Boulevard and Boulevard Place / Monroe and Greenwood Avenue
4. Boulevard and Winton Terrace / Monroe and 8th Street
5. Boulevard and Angier Avenue / Monroe and 10th Street
(Click here for a map to follow along.)
Trying my best to match locations, block for block, I documented the streets approximately five blocks in both directions: as far as Monroe and 10th Street and where Boulevard crosses Angier Avenue. Although both streets continue well past where I stopped, the most marked differences occur close to the where the street changes names. I believe this is where the most change will come from the new revitalization plan.
Maybe Boulevard won’t change much, but maybe it will. These might be the last few months that this section will look the way it does. It’s part of living in a city: old neighborhoods become new ones, just as new ones decay into old ones. And the longer you live in one area, the more you notice.

Seeds, a juried show. applications open through August 5 at Westobou Gallery, Augusta

Suggested links:

2012 Revitalization Plan on Boulevard
East Atlanta Patch, January 12, 2012
East Atlanta Patch, January 13, 2012

Enry on Boulevard
Entry on Ponce de Leon Avenue
List of former Atlanta street names

Atlanta History Center
Historical photographs of Atlanta

Facebook group
Stop Renaming Atlanta Streets

Other articles about street names
Cascade Patch, February 15, 2011
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 30, 2011
Atlanta INtown, July 1, 2011

Dodge & Burn is a series of photo essays documenting local culture with a focus on artful imagery, movement, and light. Check BURNAWAY’s homepage for new photography every week, and watch our Flickr account for regular updates!

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