A century ago, farming equipment was constructed in the King Plow factory off of West Marietta Street. The factory was renovated and is now the King Plow Arts Center and hosts more than 65 different establishments. Terminal West is just one of the numerous tenants that inhabit the industrial complex today. Where steel and iron were once molded into plows, (nice) modern music resonates within the aged building whenever Terminal West hosts a show in its 7,000 square foot property.
Terminal West took advantage of the electronic dance music craze in 2012, earning the title of Best New Venue from Creative Loafing. Referred to as “the house that dub step built” by Creative Loafing, the venue now hosts anything from its original electronic beats to other tunes like rock and R&B. However, Terminal West stays true to its electronic roots with an advanced light system that complements any DJs that may step onto the stage.
Terminal West gives viewers not only a musical experience but a visual experience, too. Using the combinations of sight and sound, Terminal West boasts on its website that visitors will have “unforgettable nights of music.” Furthering its appeal, the venue added a feature in 2013, adding a third sense to its arsenal, the sense of taste.
The extension of Terminal West is a restaurant called Stationside because of its direct proximity to railroad tracks across the street. Stationside serves lunch from 11 a.m.. to 2 p.m.. on Tuesdays through Fridays, and whenever Terminal West has a show at night. Stationside pulls together its array of sandwiches with local ingredients and also offers gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Contrasting the history surrounding it, Terminal West and Stationside both bring a modern vibe to a historic area. Depending on when you visit, the venue offers the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a new world of music or to enjoy your lunch break while overlooking railroad tracks on the balcony.
As college students, many of us are strapped for cash, but as this map proves, that doesn’t mean that we can’t explore Atlanta on a budget. With its many restaurants, bars, and museums, Midtown is fairly easy to access for next to nothing.
Jesse Grossman sits comfortably in the back of Starbucks after combating Atlanta traffic to get to Emory Village. He normally rides his bike to Emory from his home in Virginia-Highland, but it will be dark soon and Grossman does not want to run the risk of biking home in the dark. “There’s no time for fun,” he says sarcastically, punctuating his jest with a smile.
Grossman’s sarcastic statement encompasses the attitude of the volunteer group that he founded. The group, called Community Bucket, is a collection of young professionals who seek to make a positive impact on Atlanta through service while simultaneously connecting with new people. Following the service project of the day, the group moseys over to a bar or tavern to socialize and celebrate its hard work.
In 2013, Community Bucket hosted 28 volunteer events ranging from cleaning up the Atlanta BeltLine, to sorting books to be sent to African children. These events had a combined attendance of 500 different individuals. These specifics are good. However, that is only the beginning. In 2014, Community Bucket is introducing its corporate program.
For a fee, Community Bucket will schedule and plan events for corporations to participate in. The past year, Grossman was able to turn a profit out of Community Bucket from the fees that individuals paid to work with Community Bucket. Grossman supports himself from the profit he makes through his company and also with freelance marketing jobs.
Grossman and his roommate from his senior year at Emory, Mike Guardalabene, had discussed starting a non-profit together. In the summer of 2012, the plan was set into action. Gathering friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends, Community Bucket held its first large service project and 75 volunteers attended. Realizing the potential of Community Bucket, as well as losing his interest marketing for large-scale businesses, Grossman quit his job in marketing in January 2013. “Building a brand from nothing and making it into something of value, as well as marketing for something I’m passionate about, I realize how much I enjoy it now,” says Grossman. He has tremendous enthusiasm for his brand, but it may not always be evident to outside observers.
Grossman speaks with a soft and calm tone, but at the same time he is never forced to raise his voice over the coffee beans grinding behind the Starbucks counter. The curly-headed Marietta-raised man has an intriguing balance of passion for his brand but that excitement hides behind a shy, but suave personality.
Jacey Lucus, a fellow millennial and official team manager for Community Bucket, shares the 25-year-old Grossman’s affinity for sarcasm, “His sarcasm is hilarious. He’s able to poke that in, but he knows when to be professional,” says Lucus. Professional and passionate are certainly two adjectives to describe Grossman.
“He is very welcoming, but very relaxed and lets people come to him,” says Lucus. Grossman goes against his natural shyness to greet volunteers at events, according to Guardalabene. “Jesse can speak to a crowd and command a presence, but he can also gravitate quickly back to being quiet and reserved,” said Guardalabene.
Guardalabene said that it actually took some time for him to get to know Grossman because of their shared shyness. Following their graduation in 2010 from Emory, Grossman and Guardalabene traveled to South America together for five weeks, “That’s where I got to know him best,” said Guardalabene. Grossman is an explorer of sorts, always looking for a new favorite restaurant around Atlanta, naming Brick Store Pub, Woo Nam Jeong Stone Bowl House, and Fellini’s as his top three destinations. On his weekends, Grossman lives an active lifestyle. “I generally try to get outside somehow,” says Grossman, sporting a Columbia athletic shirt and blue jeans.
Leaning back with his elbow resting on a neighboring chair, Grossman gives off relaxed vibes, but maybe it’s the calm ones you have to worry about most. “His purpose in life, the reason he’s on this earth, is to pull practical jokes on people,” said Guardalabene. His calm, cool, and collected demeanor likely helped him to keep a straight face during any prank Grossman pulled on Guardalabene.
That same attitude is beneficial for crisis management for when things go wrong around Community Bucket. A location for a service project recently fell through but Grossman handled it, according to Lucus. “He was able to make calls, work it out, maybe freak out for a bit. But he stepped up and made it happen. I really only have great things to say about him,” said Lucus.
A unique mix of prankster, explorer, and entrepreneur, Grossman is a balanced person who is not afraid to chase down his passion. Luckily for Atlanta, Grossman’s passion is social work, and Community Bucket is his outlet. Grossman’s former roommate gave a description of Grossman that might mirror Community Bucket’s personality. “Jesse’s a mix of serious and laid-back,” said Guardalabene. Oddly enough, Grossman described how he hoped people approach an event with Community Bucket with a similar phrase that Guardalabene used described to Grossman. “Let’s work hard but try not to take it too seriously.”
The photos throughout this article track the walk along the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, starting from the entrance at 10th Street and Monroe.
I went the wrong way the first time I tried to use the Eastside Trail.
In my defense, it starts as an extension of Piedmont Park, and that’s where it looks like the real green is. It’s hilly, it’s vibrant—it’s what a green space should look like. The Eastside Trail, on the other hand, is asphalt.
But then, you realize this is where all the joggers, bikers, families and regular trail-goers in sight are headed. No one’s turning the corner: everyone wants to be here. And they’re all approaching a giant burst of color—a mural painted on an overpass, seemingly out-of-place in this industrial area.
This big weird mural is, though, a design by Atlanta-based graffiti artist Hense, and part of an initiative that spans the whole city. The Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine, and its respective Art on the Atlanta BeltLine program, is the newest opening in an assembly of several trails around the city that aims to, one day, connect all of the city’s neighborhoods in a movement-inspiring, environmentally-friendly, city-revitalizing kind of way.
Atlantans are truly tethered to their cars. It’s an enormously ambitious goal to get the city to think about getting around any other way. And yet, they’re trying it–and it all can be traced back to one man’s master’s thesis.
In 1999, Ryan Gravel was a graduate student at Georgia Tech studying architecture and urban planning. His now-unforgettable thesis opens with the words, “The project of the modern city was built only in fragments, and the challenge now is to remodel and augment the different parts of the city without destroying them.”
A challenge indeed. Particularly in the case of Atlanta, which was Gravel’s focus in the thesis. Forbes once called Atlanta one of the most disjointed cities in the country: there’s no grid system to simplify construction selections, and the downtown neighborhoods are markedly divided.
But Gravel, who grew up in Chamblee—a northeastern suburb of Atlanta, about a half-hour drive from the BeltLine— and has lived his whole life in the metro area, saw potential to fix this disconnect in the city’s history as a rail hub. The railways were primitive, sure. But they provided the city with a kind of efficiency and connectedness that hasn’t been seen since. So Gravel studied up on the current states of the rail corridors, and found that by and large, they weren’t being used. But Gravel felt that that abandoned land alongside the corridor had tons of potential.
“A lot of communities that used to have those kinds of [attached] qualities back when there were streetcars, they’re gone,” Gravel offers. “So the kernel of the idea was to reuse the corridor for transportation and then the associated redevelopment of all the abandoned industrial land that follows those railroads.”
So he put two and two together, and his thesis (aptly titled “Belt Line – Atlanta as a Reflection of Public Policy”) proposed “new lighter transit lines could be woven throughout the city.” These lines would pay tribute to the city’s past as a rail center (old-fashioned streetcars), but also encourage residents to get around in fresh, environmentally-friendly and modern ways (through bike and hiking trails).
Gravel rails (pun very much intended) against Atlanta being a “car city.” The freeways were built to relieve congestion, but, he says, they’ve only made the city feel more frantic.
“The design of infrastructure influences urban development…and the interstate highway system has created a very different but recognizable pattern,” Gravel says. “I meant to revitalize that…and do that through transit. And that would encourage compact, mixed-use redevelopment.”
Gravel speaks academically—in the form of a true architect, like someone who really has spent nearly all of his adult life studying up on this phenomenon.
Indeed, it’s obvious that Gravel knows his stuff about urban infrastructure. His thesis cites cities around the world as models for an efficient transportation system:
Paris with the Metro, Chicago with the El, Berlin with the Onkel Toms Hutte. And when we talk, he tells me he’s involved in about 30 similar projects nationwide, and rattles off a list of cities he’s working with to help develop their own unique versions of the BeltLine. He mentions, among others, New York’s High Line (a green space and walkway situated above a historic freight line), Los Angeles’ River (a similar idea, but along the river), Houston’s Green Spaces, and Cleveland’s aspirations for a bridge project.
“I think the BeltLine is part of a movement of the sort of catalytic construction projects,” Gravel explains. “People in different communities getting involved to enact change in their community and to create something interesting. What’s really cool is that most of them are tied to the origin of the place. So Atlanta’s a railway town and here we are reinventing the railroad as a new infrastructure for the future…L.A. is the same thing. I mean, L.A.’s downtown is where it is because of the river, and who even knew they had a river? So it’s pretty cool that they are making the future around an authentic piece of the town, their reason for being.”
He continues—it’s easy to see that this is what makes him the proudest.
“The cool thing about it is that we’re kind of learning from each other,” Gravel continues. “So we were in similar positions, in the early stages of getting [the BeltLine] off the ground and we tried to learn from [the High Line]. And it’s cool that the people who work on these projects across the country are willing to work together and willing to learn from each other.”
It’s safe to say that Gravel’s world has gotten bigger: all the way from a thesis to a nation-wide phenomenon. But at the same time that his plans are being realized on a larger scale, he also has to hone in on the micro-details. It’s his job to both see the big picture and to make the nitty-gritty work.
And he really loves it. He talks to me animatedly about the ramps, trees and stairways that they’re hoping to implement in the BeltLine over the next year.
“Today, I was just talking to a woman who’s trying to start a business for urban agriculture and edible plants along the BeltLine,” Gravel says. “And so there’s this new sort of layer that might sort of be overlaid on the larger vision, and that’s only going to make the project more interesting. Wouldn’t that be kind of cool to be walking down the trail and pick some blackberries off the vine?”
The possibilities are endless, and Gravel says a lot of the initiatives the BeltLine has ended up adopting have come to him by sheer happenstance.
He doesn’t need any help getting him excited about the BeltLine—Gravel is clearly of the mindset that urban planning itself is worth getting energized about.
But not all Atlantans feel the same way—some of them need a little motivation to see the potential in abandoned rail tracks. And that’s where initiatives like Art on the Atlanta BeltLine come in.
At 10th Street and Monroe Drive, at the tip of Piedmont Park (where I got lost), it either feels like you’re headed into the wilderness or an abandoned neighborhood. Grass grows wild and unkempt, and the asphalt trail is simple and unmarked. There’s no sign telling you that this is the right way.
But I guess it makes sense that way. The BeltLine’s Eastside Trail isn’t centered on the art or really on any aspect of its aesthetic; it’s about being out and about in Atlanta. Not in a car.
Still, that it’s not the center of attention doesn’t make Hense’s untitled mural under the Virginia Bridge any less enjoyable. After trekking down the rough road, I finally come to the bridge, where it feels like I have been transported. It is truly a breath of fresh air, a glimmer of color in an otherwise-gray area. It’s an abstract work, so I’m not sure what exactly I’m looking at. But it’s certain that if this burst of color and life and interest in what’s currently a dull, gray pathway is a sign of what’s to come with the BeltLine, the neighborhoods of Atlanta are going to start looking a whole lot more enchanting.
And this certainly is a sign of what’s to come. The mural is just one of dozens of works of art scattered along the BeltLine. It’s part of the permanent collection—a group of long-lasting sculptures, murals and constructions that you can find along the trail year-round. But at the height of the annual Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibition, in the fall, it gets even more intense: there’s art everywhere you turn. In fact, the 2013 exhibition included more than 70 works throughout a span of two months.
There are sculptures. There’s music. There are dance performances. There’s basically every art you could want.
But as we talk, it becomes clear that Gravel isn’t exactly an art aficionado. He’s more roused by how the project will change the way people experience the city. Still, he says, “The idea was to get people to come out to the BeltLine,” and the exhibition has certainly succeeded on that front. In the three years since its inception, hundreds of artists have participated in the project, and thousands of observers have come to check out the excitement.
The Art on the Atlanta BeltLine’s website reads, “It is a powerful conduit for everyone in the Atlanta region to gather, connect and experience something vibrant and dynamic; something that stirs passions and creates an energy unlike anything that has ever been conceived of in our vast community.”
Dr. Catherine Ross, one of Gravel’s most devoted allies on the project, once called the BeltLine “a link from where we are to where we aspire to be.”
And that’s true both in terms of location and in terms of mindset. One day, Gravel hopes that the BeltLine will take Atlantans across the city swiftly and effectively. And the artists hope that their work will make the ride a little more enjoyable.
“It’s been a learning experience for me,” says Gravel. “It’s been evolving. I mean, you wouldn’t want this to be exactly what was in some kid’s school paper, right?”
It’s true—the project has undergone many changes. But if the success of Gravel’s initial vision is any indication, maybe his school paper isn’t such a bad thing to aspire to after all.
Take a look at the details of the BeltLine’s progress, and how to get to it yourself:
There’s a new set of “chains” emerging in Atlanta, and it’s not Chick-fil-A… Actually, these chains are the complete opposite – they’re good for you. In the past couple of years, many people have begun swapping gym memberships for boutique fitness classes. These small, niche fitness centers that specialize in specific group classes have gained popularity in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles, and now Atlanta. Atlanta’s boutique fitness scene has exploded in the past two years with studio options ranging from indoor cycling, to hot yoga to CrossFit.
One reason behind the rise in the boutique fitness trend is flexibility. Most boutique fitness centers require booking online on each studio’s individual system and have extensive schedules with classes beginning at 6 a.m. and ending around 8 p.m. Another reason behind the rise is specialization. At a “one-size-fits-all” gym, people might love the spinning classes, but not the kickboxing classes. A person might also love a certain instructor, but none of the others. Boutique fitness studios boast qualified, specifically trained instructors and some studios even pride themselves in employing celebrity trainers.
While Atlanta’s boutique fitness scene is quite concentrated in Buckhead, there are studios throughout the city. Flywheel, an indoor cycling studio with an abundance of national locations had opening weekend for their second Atlanta studio in Midtown on April 12, 2014. Flywheel Buckhead’s assistant manager and instructor, Kelsey Dick, says Flywheel is “not your average cycling studio.” Its use of technology allows clients to see their results from each class on their personal account, enhancing people’s workouts and adding another benefit to boutique fitness that can’t be found at a mainstream gym. Her passion for Flywheel is apparent through her giddiness when talking about it. “The studio has 48 bikes, is dark lit, the music is insane, it’s outrageous, it pushes you, the instructors are professional… so it’s dynamite instructors, and our clients love it,” Dick says.
Rainbow-colored laser lights and theatrical fog scintillate through the thick throng of sweaty bodies. Two cobalt-clad girls pop their intertwined bodies in perfect synchronization, while one man in a wheelchair receives a lap dance from whom I surmise is a stranger. Unconventional electronic dance music vibrates from the powerful subs on the small stage to the enthralled audience.
“We do it for the love y’all,” one DJ alongside Amerigo Gazaway exclaims.
For $10 per ticket and free parking, the Binary EDM mini festival at The Basement was very reasonable for the customers, but probably not for the DJs or employees of the music venue. While club scenes generally generate a large portion of their money from booze, and despite offering a full bar, water was mostly the only beverage consumed.
“It’s a great venue,” Nate Kieser, a professional photographer and venue promoter, says of The Basement, “very up and coming.”
Since its opening in 2011, The Basement has hosted alternative DJs and live bands several nights a week. The concert venue is located in East Atlanta, a few miles from the Bohemian enclave of Little Five Points.
The neighborhood of late-night bars and closely packed houses is gritty, but the people are very friendly. Immediately upon finding The Basement, which is literally the basement of the Graveyard Tavern, I was greeted by several members of the friendly staff. In fact, the majority of the people I met were working the mini festival at The Basement.
“It was even more dead earlier,” says Michael Straub, who operates an LED accessory vendor called Man Cave through Amazon. There were roughly 50 people in the venue by the end of the night. Straub adds, “This is the only kind of crowd I can sell this stuff to.”
The Basement may not be an overflowing, trendy Atlanta nightclub, but it is an up and coming Atlanta hippie music scene. There was mostly an alternative EDM crowd you might expect at Electric Forest. A few underage kids in matching striped tank tops and Wayfarer sunglasses trickled in, but none made it until the end of the night. The music enthusiasts meandered aimlessly around The Basement as if it were their own.
Lounge seating, pool tables, arcade machines, and a full bar are all scattered throughout the venue. Graffiti, like “you are beautiful” and “stop fucking musicians,” is written on almost all available spaces. Skeleton figurines sat among the many beer bottles behind the bar. The concrete floor is surprisingly clean, but the bathroom is nightmarish— it doesn’t even have a sink.
The center of gravity is the dance floor. Most of the people were exceptionally talented at breakdancing or twerking, while the other people were free and unpretentious with their movements. Both types of dancing are engaging to watch.
A 60-year old couple, a lesbian couple, and a bi-racial couple were among the diverse, and extremely welcoming, crowd. At least a third of the people approached me to actually initiate a conversation. At many club scenes in Atlanta people are too busy spilling their drinks and staring at their phones to dance or talk to new people.
In contrast to venues like Opera, The Basement isn’t well advertised. While the non-traditional spirit of the devotees of EDM suggests they wouldn’t wantit to be too publicized, the venue would benefit from some additional attention.
“I found it on Facebook,” Straub says, “I’d never even heard of it before this event.”
The Basement deserves recognition simply because, besides the quirky vibe, it has an excellent sound stage. A variety of EDM culture was represented with bass, jam, dubstep, TRAP, glitch, hip-hop, live-electronics, and jam. The all-around atmosphere of The Basement is progressive.
“At least one more hour!” one fan yells in response to the ending show. The newly formed circle of friends appear sincerely saddened to leave.