Highway has the dubious distinction of having one of Atlanta's largest
pedestrian populations living in probably what is its least-pedestrian
friendly area. With a 7-lane thoroughfare serving as it's main artery,
the Buford Highway corridor epitomizes that particular American landscape
developed to the scale of the automobile. Indeed, car-culture has deep
roots in the area, in more ways than one.
The entire area grew up around the Doraville General Motors Assembly
plant which opened in 1947 as a spur of the their Lakewood facility.
Famous for being the home of the Cutlass Supreme and Delta 66, today
the plant is still in operation despite GMs notorious layoffs and numerous
factory relocations, and is still a
major employer in the area (around 4,000 people), now producing
minivans such as the Oldsmobile Silhouette and Chevy Venture. In February
of 2003, GM spent $150 million to
retrofit the plant.
Naturally, the area both beget and attracted a population skilled in
the automotive arts. As a result, car repair, sales, maintenance, and
customization services of every size and description dot nearly the
entirety of Buford's length. In fact, many Atlantans are familiar with
the area primarily as a place one goes when something needs to be fixed:
be it a kitchen appliance or the family wagon. So with the GM plant
as it's anchoring landmark and auto service as the smaller business
of choice, Buford Highway is, on one level, a peon to suburban automobile-culture.
But what was not foreseen in it's development was that one day the majority
of the area's population would be pedestrians.