All the chatter about a city center and the Aberdeen redevelopment has got me to thinking about the old days. The days where all seemed content with PCDC running the development of this once unique little town.
For me, those days begin in the mid to late ‘70s during the infamous bellbottom era. While visiting from out of state, I tagged along with my cousin to visit a friend near Peachtree City. On the way we passed a Big Star grocery store, a Hardee’s, and a couple of small businesses before coming to a 4-way stop at Hwy 74/54. I asked him where the town was, and he replied that we’d just passed through it. It was nothing a city dweller like me would consider a city.
Fast forward a couple more years to the summer of 1980. I had moved to Georgia and was living near Fayetteville. While looking for employment, my aunt told me about a job opening in Peachtree City. Since it was the city I missed, I needed directions. It all sounded simple enough: Take 54 and turn left at the first light, then right at the fire station. Go over the railroad track and then turn left onto Dividend. Can’t miss it!
The next day I’m eagerly heading that way and come to the first traffic light and make that left turn. I continued down this narrow, divided 4-lane winding road looking for a fire station on the right and seeing nothing but houses. Eventually the road turned from pavement to gravel as the houses faded to thick woods. Still no fire station. Eventually the gravel gave way to red clay and the trail ended 100 yards further at a mountainous pile of tree debris next to an excavator. I back-tracked out of there and finally found my destination.
It turned out to be South Peachtree Parkway and they had recently installed the traffic light at 54. I’m guessing the road ended somewhere around McIntosh Trail and interestingly, I now live not far from that very spot where an 18-year-old ran out of road.
At the time, south Peachtree City hadn’t been carved out, Robinson road was dirt, Crosstown didn’t exist, there were only 2 traffic lights, and the population was under 8,000. South 74 near Eaton and Sany was all pine crop and Dividend Drive didn’t have stop signs at Kelly and TDK.
I got the job and thus began my life of working and/or living in Peachtree City. Flip the clock forward 39 years and here we are, and the changes have been vast. The roots laid down by PCDC are still here but buried in the latter development overgrowth since the city deviated from the original development plan. What was once a hidden city, is now wide open and, in some places, sprawling out of control.
The village concept, followed for decades, is what made this place special and unique. Congestion was something you only saw in big cities. There were no traffic jams in PTC unless it was after the fireworks on the 4th of July. There was no need for a city center as it was designed purposely to be a collection of village centers. Each village retail center was a place you would find people you knew, and each had their own mix of restaurants and shops.
You couldn’t go to anywhere in town and not run into people you knew. Partners, Hudson’s grocery, Shadows, Kroger, Frady’s, the Fred – it didn’t matter. Later on it was the Braelinn Kroger and shops in that area. It was a neat place to be part of.
These days you hardly run into anyone you know. Everything’s diluted with excessive retail and the boom in population. That small-town feel has all but gone and the traffic noise and sirens, once seldom heard, now seem a constant annoyance. The sounds of a quiet community have been replaced with big city noise.
Peachtree City doesn’t need a city center. It already has one at the intersection of highways 54 and 74 and extends west to McDuff Parkway. Approved by the council after disregarding the land use plan and village concept, they allowed the creation of their masterpiece: The most congested and dreaded mile in the county no sane human wishes to enter.
The big box developments on the west side, along with all the retail jam-packed in has all but destroyed the original uniqueness of this place. They caved to developers and now we’re stuck with the ugly aftermath.
The proposed new city center at Aberdeen, or anywhere for that matter, will create the same outcome and further depart from the original concept this city was built on. They’ll cram in high density creating another traffic jam for the taxpayers to fix later at a massive cost. They tout it as golf cart and pedestrian oriented, but that is a bit of smoke as we all know traffic will increase.
We all can agree that Aberdeen needs updating. It’s one of the oldest, if not the oldest, original structures in town and has earned landmark status. Building what has been proposed isn’t the best idea and a new one should be considered that keeps to the original village plan.
Aberdeen has been a focal point in PTC for a long time and should be kept that way, but not in the way of a new useless grand mini downtown for languid millennials.
If the big development continues throughout Peachtree City, it will cease being unique. Once that is gone, it will be no different than any other congested suburban city in America.
Peachtree City, Ga.