Midtown is the second largest business district in the city of Atlanta, situated between the commercial and financial districts of Downtown to the south and Buckhead to the north. By 2011, Greater Midtown had a resident population of over 41,000, a workplace population over 81,000, and a student population of 26,500. The district attracts about six million visitors annually.
The area has gone by other names in the past. An 1897 source refers to the area as North Atlanta, which would later be the name of today's city of Brookhaven. The 1897 "North Atlanta" encompassed (roughly) most of today's Midtown, Georgia Tech, and English Avenue. Sources from the 1950s and early 1960s refer to the area as "Uptown Atlanta," a moniker which would later be applied instead to Buckhead following its annexation.
Piedmont Park was established with the Piedmont Exposition of 1887, followed by the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895, lending the area new prominence. Electric streetcar lines extended along Piedmont Avenue by 1895 and by 1900 continued along Peachtree Street (to Brookwood). In 1904, development on Ansley Park began. By the 1920s, Tenth and Peachtree had become the nexus of a significant shopping district for the surrounding neighborhood. By the late 1960s, Peachtree Street between Eighth and Fourteenth Streets had become a center of hippie culture known as “The Strip.”
Large-scale commercial development began with Colony Square, the first mixed-use development in the Southeast, which was built between 1969 and 1973. The MARTA subway line opened in 1981. In the 1980s, many older properties were demolished, some remaining vacant for decades. High-density commercial and residential development took root in the north–south corridor along Peachtree and West Peachtree. The BellSouth Center (1982), now the AT&T Midtown Center, was long the landmark skyscraper in the area. However, commercial development escalated after 1987, when One Atlantic Center was completed. The 2000s decade saw the construction of numerous high-rise condo buildings in Midtown, such as the Spire, Viewpoint, and 1010 Midtown.
The Midtown Alliance, a group of volunteers, employees, and business and community members, was formed in 1978 in order to work towards improving the overall quality of life in Midtown. The Midtown Alliance defines a larger, "Greater Midtown" area of approximately four square miles. This includes the area within the city's definition, but splitting it into the sub-areas Midtown Core and Midtown Garden District, i.e. Historic Midtown. It also includes the neighborhoods of Ansley Park, Sherwood Forest, Atlantic Station, Home Park, and Loring Heights.
Historic districts include the Fox Theatre Historic District and Historic Midtown, and both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Fox Theatre Historic District comprises the Fox Theatre (Oliver Vinour et al., 1929), William Lee Stoddart's Georgian Terrace Hotel (1911), Stoddart's Italianate Ponce de Leon Apartments (1913), and the Cox-Carlton Hotel (1925). Historic Midtown, which includes most of Midtown east of Piedmont Avenue, is noted for its bungalows and Queen Anne style houses.
Midtown is known by many residents as Atlanta's "Heart of the Arts." The district is the center of the city's arts scene that includes the Ferst Center for the Arts, Fox Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center, the High Museum of Art, the Museum of Design Atlanta, the Atlanta Ballet, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Center for Puppetry Arts, the 14th Street Playhouse, and other arts and entertainment venues.
Across the street from the High is Museum of Design Atlanta, the only museum in the Southeast devoted exclusively to the study and celebration of all things design. Midtown is also the home of the Atlanta campus of Savannah College of Art and Design, which is located in historic buildings throughout the district.
Midtown is also home to two other well-known institutions of higher education: Georgia Institute of Technology, and the John Marshall Law School.
In addition to the AT&T Center, Midtown contains about one-third of the city's high-rises and some of Atlanta's most iconic buildings, such as the Bank of America Plaza, One Coca-Cola Plaza, Atlantic Center, and 1180 Peachtree.
Midtown's focal point is the expansive green space of Piedmont Park, which underwent a major expansion in 2011. The park is surrounded by the Midtown business district to its west, Ansley Park to its northwest, the BeltLine, Morningside, and Virginia Highland to its east, and the Midtown Historic District to its south. The Atlanta Botanical Garden adjoins the Park.
Piedmont Park is a popular venue for cultural festivals in Atlanta. As ground-zero for Atlanta arts community, Midtown is home of the annual Atlanta Arts Festival, which brings artists from across the country to Piedmont Park. During the late sixties and early seventies Piedmont Park played host to free music every Sunday, which included appearances from bands such as the Grateful Dead, Mountain, Spirit, the Allman Bros Band and numerous other homegrown favorites.
The BeltLine is a trail circling the older neighborhoods of central Atlanta which will be developed in stages. The BeltLine Eastside Trail connects Piedmont Park (at the intersection of 10th and Monroe) to the Inman Park MARTA station at DeKalb Avenue. The "Art on the BeltLine" project resulted in the installation dozens of contemporary art pieces on the trail.
The Atlanta BeltLine is a planned loop of 22 miles of modern streetcar (an expansion of the Atlanta Streetcar), 33 miles of multi-use trail, and 2,000 acres of parks. It is being opened in phases through the anticipated completion in 2030.
Midtown residents are zoned to schools in the Atlanta Public School District including Springdale Park Elementary School, Inman Middle School and Henry W. Grady High School.
Midtown is served by Atlanta's rail rapid transit system, MARTA, at the North Avenue, Midtown, and Arts Center MARTA Stations. MARTA operates significant bus service in the district, as well. There is also a free shuttle between the Arts Center MARTA Station and Atlantic Station, as well as a free-to-the-public daytime shuttle between the Midtown MARTA station and Georgia Tech called the "Tech Trolley".