The Square in Downtown Decatur, GA

101 E. Court Square,
Decatur, GA

Submitted by: Cather Lee

Local town square. URLS: www.decaturga.com


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Why It Works

The Decatur Square is in the heart of the City of Decatur located six miles from downtown Atlanta. It's situated above a MARTA station (Atlanta's subway system) and surrounded by local shops and restaurants. There is a large bandstand located on the west side that's used for annual concerts and serves as the main location for the city's numerous events. The large plaza area, located to the east of the bandstand, has a kid-friendly fog fountain, benches, public art and a large open area in the center of town. During the week day the square is filled with people eating lunch outside, walking to and from the local restaurants and shops, and parents playing with their kids on the grass. Like many small towns, Decatur experienced a decline during the 1970s. Its rebirth has been an organic process. In the 1980s, festivals and special events were critical to developing a positive image for the downtown area. Shops and restaurants followed in the 1990s. Today the square is a vibrant community center and is considered by the city officials as a 25 year overnight success.

What Makes The Square in Downtown Decatur, GA a Great Place?

The Square is integral to downtown Decatur. It's bordered by shops, restaurants, two technical colleges, the historic county courthouse, the current county courthouse and Decatur City Hall. Downtown Decatur's daytime traffic expands by 10,000 during the work week. Daytime workers use it to get to the local restaurants for lunch or meetings, residents living in nearby condos take advantage of the green space and students use it as classroom and study space. People are constantly crossing the plaza and walking around the bandstand because it's at the center of Decatur's main business district. It's easily accessible by foot with five main entrance areas and it sits on top of a subway stop. The bus-to-rail transfer facility borders the western side of the square. In 2007 the plaza underwent a sizable renovation that resulted in an open and bright space with plenty of room for outdoor dining. Ten turquoise lights line the plaza and create a unique look for the square. The pavement used on the plaza feature images of local city buildings including the historic courthouse. There are a number of wide sidewalks and ramps making it handicap accessible and pedestrian friendly.

The Decatur Square is an open and inviting place. Local shops, restaurants and office buildings can be seen from every angle and the area is well-lit at night. There are roughly the same amount of men as women who use the square during the day. More families and groups of friends come out in the evening. There are tables and benches that provide plenty of seating and a number of outdoor eating spaces. The city's department of Public Works cleans the square and empties the recycling and waste bins every day and a police officer patrols the square on a bicycle. There are two small parking lots on the outer edges of the square, but the majority of the space is just for pedestrian use.

The square is used regularly every day. Local office workers use it as a place to eat or meet colleagues and students from the Art Institute use it to study or sketch. The tables and benches on the square quickly fill up in the Spring, Summer and Fall during lunch and the afternoons. A couple of times out of the month Tai Chi groups and dance groups will use the bandstand as a practice space. During the day, the square mainly consists of daytime workers. More families and couples come out in the evening to dine and shop and a younger crowd usually stays out on the square later due to a popular pub located on the square. A number of festivals take place throughout the year on the square including the Easter Egg Hunt, Earth Day celebration, concerts on the square every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday evening in May and September, the Decatur Arts Festival, Decatur Beach Party, July 4 Concert and Fireworks, Decatur Book Festival, the Great Decatur Beer Tasting Festival, Wine Tasting Festival and the Holiday Bonfire and Marshmallow roast. The area used the least is located on the west side of the courthouse where there is no seating and only enough room for a wide sidewalk. The MARTA plaza and area around the bandstand are almost always populated.

Everyone on the square is usually very open and friendly. It has a great small town feel with all the local residents and community leaders passing by. During the day there are more individuals eating or working on their own,and then it switches to more groups and families in the evening. The local pride is very strong in Decatur. There's a bust of Stephan Decatur, the navy admirable the city was named after, on the square that is well liked and the large statue that rests on the fog fountain was dedicated to the city's first African American mayor. During the work week there are mostly locals using the square. On the weekend, visitors outnumber the locals since Decatur is a shopping and dining destination in metro Atlanta.

History & Background

Decatur was founded in 1823, 25 years before Atlanta. The town was laid out by a surveyor, James Diamond, as a grid of a type traditional in the South. In the center of the city, on it's highest knool of land, is the Square with the historic Dekalb County Courthouse in the center. Although it suffered a decline in the 1970s, Decatur has revived as one of the most popular neighborhoods in metro Atlanta. The square is known for its mix of small town characteristics, hip boutiques and environmentally friendly dining options.

Contact Info:

Economic and Community Development Department, City of Decatur 404-371-8386

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