The future of Atlanta is what we make it and we are currently at a crossroads. By 2040, the Atlanta Regional Commission forecasts that our city will pack on 2.5 million people, bringing Atlanta’s metro population to over 8 million. With such an explosion in population and development, Atlantans need leadership in the local nonprofit sector to manage our growth responsibly and advocate for basic urban needs like public space. That’s where the The Pillyr Foundation comes in.
Fresh on the scene and bringing good urbanism to a neighborhood near you, The Pillyr Foundation (pronounced ‘pillar,’ as in being a pillar of the community) motors equitable living through DIY projects, contract work, and an upcoming crowdfunding platform. With a brand new website and a successful summer launch happening just a few short weeks ago, Pillyr is already going places. We wanted to be the first to know what Founder and Executive Director, Daniel Snider, has up his sleeves and like us, you won’t be disappointed.
Congrats on your new Georgia nonprofit incorporation! Tell us how you got started with Pillyr.
Our team is mostly transplants, and as such, we see many folks like us as part of the problem in gentrification and displacement in Atlanta. We are committed to living in this city and want to contribute so that Atlanta can become the thriving place we think it can be. The next 25 years are essential, especially with so much focus aimed at developing Downtown and along the Atlanta BeltLine. All future development must be done correctly or there will be very little opportunity to solve the problems of transit, housing, and equity that we see today. We saw the creation of Pillyr as a great opportunity to implement tactical urbanism and enhance the experience of greenspaces, walkability, public art, urban play, and mobility.
What is tactical urbanism? How does it change lives?
Tactical urbanism is about trying different ideas through a DIY approach to ultimately create better infrastructure and an increased quality of life. We want to encourage folks to strive for things that make their lives a more sustainable urban experience. We hope that eventually community members will fight for good urbanism practices after seeing the positive changes it brings. We don’t want to just shove it in people’s faces.
How do you implement tactical urbanism at Pillyr?
At Pillyr, we have a multipronged approach. We actively seek to propose and implement solutions to problems in neighborhoods. A lot are temporary in order to acclimate people to something new in their neighborhood. Our organization focuses on six areas: placemaking, horticulture, mobility, public art, community events, and workshops. It sounds like a lot but they almost always intersect in some way. If you maximize those areas, it enhances the vibrancy of our city and citizen’s connection to the built environment.
We also intend to spend a lot of time focused on adding amenities to the biking experience because it’s one of the most universally accessible modes of transportation. Although new bike infrastructure is sometimes viewed as a sign of gentrification, this mode of transportation and lifestyle liberates individuals with connectivity to employment and all other services without the burden and expense of car ownership. When cities construct bike networks in indigent neighborhoods, those programs are almost always successes for helping the working class and creating a more equitable city. Things like temporary bike lanes are catalysts for residents to perceive their city differently; eventually, these temporary projects can lead to folks demanding permanent fixtures of urban infrastructure in their neighborhoods.
Pillyr also has a technological side. We are launching a neighborhood-based crowdfunding platform to help individuals fund projects without having to depend on local government. The crowdfunding funds could go to something as small as a bike rack, or something as large as a playground or vertical wall gardens to cover street-facing parking garages. We’ll be different from other platforms because we’ll have an extremely low platform fee and we’ll provide localized support to facilitate the success of all these kinds of projects. We plan on providing guidance throughout this process. For example, most of our leadership has an architecture background, we are learning about local ordinances, permits, and zoning procedures so that we can disseminate it in simpler terms to the public. Eventually, we hope small businesses and even corporations will jump onboard with sponsoring campaigns. Our vision is to empower individuals to transform their communities with the support of their fellow Atlantans.
Odds are people may have seen our work but don’t realize it. We recently built an Art on the BeltLine pavilion project designed by two friends of ours called City Dreamer. It’s a stone’s throw from Trader Joe’s; drop by and give it a look!
What events have you held? What is coming up?
At the most recent Streets Alive we deployed Operation Pit Stop where we turned Marietta St NW by North Avenue into functional public space. We built a 50-foot deck system that went right through the middle of the road to showcase tactical urbanism. At that deck, we had a bar where folks could bike right up for King of Pops. We went all in by incorporating spoken word artists, as well as a temporary crosswalk, planters, and benches. People generally drive through that industrial corridor on the Westside at highway speeds so it was nice to show people an alternative and safer public version of itself.
We are reusing Operation Pit Stop at Atlanta Streets Alive on September 24 for our next activation dubbed “Over & Under”. This time we are taking over the Peachtree Street Bridge that connects Midtown and Downtown over I-75/85. Folks can roll up and visit our partners that offer aquaponic gardens, herbal medicine, and donation coffee from a community favorite. We want to show people what that bridge could be if the city put more resources into it. We are extending the city’s canopy for this event by partnering with Trees Atlanta to deploy trees and a fabric canopy to complement them and our other tactical urbanism installations.
How can people get involved?
We welcome community input on the design ideas we propose for different neighborhoods as local stakeholders know about their community needs. There’s a delicate balance we need help with: it lies between understanding the needs of a community and uncovering inexpensive, feasible solutions. We are always looking for volunteers so if you are interested to help please reach out to me to see how you can impact our process. Also like any charitable initiative, we would greatly appreciate donations to help our mission and funding projects. Stay tuned to our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for upcoming involvement opportunities and monthly events.