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Atlanta's Plan to Create Its Own Times Square

The city wants to spur foot traffic, business, and density through a new “bright lights district.” Urban lighting scholars point out some pitfalls.
Manhattan's Times Square serves as inspiration for Atlanta's plan to create a "bright lights district."
Manhattan's Times Square serves as inspiration for Atlanta's plan to create a "bright lights district."Heath Cajandig/Flickr

New York’s Times Square, London’s Piccadilly Circus, Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing: These teeming “bright lights districts” are such integral parts of each megacity’s identity that a visitor almost feels compelled to experience their frenetic, always-illuminated energy.

Some smaller American cities have recently been attempting to mimic this aesthetic, albeit on a lesser scale, in the hope of spurring economic development and a more pedestrian-friendly downtown. Denver’s theater district, for instance, now features an enormous video screen and lighted advertisements peddling the latest in products and entertainment, and Atlanta is in the process of planning such a district for a section of its downtown.