Leon Eplan, longtime Southface Institute board member from 2001 to 2019 and fourth generation Jewish Atlantan, passed away on April 15, 2021 at the age of 92. After graduating from Emory University, a short stint in the army and marrying his wife Madalyne Buchman in 1959, Eplan had a long career as a city planner and consultant for cities all over the U.S., including dedication to his home city with a vision of an Atlanta that was more pedestrian and public-transit friendly, preserved more public greenspace and ensured access to affordable housing. He planned major projects like Atlanta’s MARTA rail system and created the Neighborhood Planning (NPU) program, which gives local neighborhoods a voice in development and was boldly future-forward at the time. He was finishing his appointment as City Commissioner of Budget and Planning under Mayor Maynard Jackson when Southface was founded in 1978. Then in 1979, he was named the director of Graduate Studies in City Planning at Georgia Tech, later serving as the President of the American Institute of Planners (now the American Planning Association) and winning numerous honors and awards, including Southface’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year Award.
“Although there is sadness on this occasion, we celebrate a full life that made a positive difference in the lives of many others. Leon was both a man of his times and also ahead of his times. Many of his ideas that were too much a stretch for the traditional thinkers of his day are now helping to transform cities,” said former Southface President, Dennis Creech, who worked many years with Eplan.
Current Southface President, Andrea Pinabell, shares his continued influence at the nonprofit: “Leon was a true visionary who made a big impact in many ways! At Southface, his warmth, calm demeanor, clear vision and passion for an inclusive and better Atlanta are still felt. The organization is better because of him, and we extend our immense gratitude and condolences to the entire family.”
Eplan is survived by his three children, Elise Eplan (Bob Marcovitch), Jana Eplan (Craig Frankel) and Harlan Eplan (Jen Denbo), as well as six grandchildren; Gil, Tali and Tamir Eplan-Frankel; Max and Hannah Marcovitch; and Madeleine Denbo Eplan. His wife, Madalyne Buchman Eplan and his sister, Carolyn Goldsmith, predeceased him.
Read more about Leon Eplan in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.