The Atlanta region is kicking butt with walkable urban developments

posted on June 24, 2015 12:25pm

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A new report in a series on developments in walkable urban places – referred to as “WalkUPs” – focuses on Michigan, but it contains an interesting graph that combines data from metro regions in that state with that from previous reports on Washington DC, Atlanta, and Boston. 

The studies are showing a shift away from car-centric development patterns that dominated development in US metros during the latter half of the 20th century, and a trend toward building new offices, retail and residential in walkable places. The graph above provides a good comparison between the regions – and it also shows that the trend in Metro Atlanta is actually stronger than in the other metros.

A full 50 percent of new properties developed in the Atlanta region from 2009-2014 happened in walkable urban places, which is not only a higher amount than what’s happening in the other regions as charted here, it also shows a much bigger jump between that time period versus what was happening in 1992-2000, when the Atlanta region was really lagging behind and producing a lot of new construction in sprawling patterns

The studies are showing a shift away from car-centric development patterns that dominated development in US metros during the latter half of the 20th century.

If you haven’t seen the report on the Atlanta region from 2013, it’s well worth a look: The WalkUP Wake-Up Call: Atlanta. Here are a couple of highlight quotes from it – the first one explores the big boost in new office spaces in the region being built in walkable urban spaces:

“Only 19 percent of the office space delivered in the 1990s cycle was built in then-Established WalkUPs. This increased to 31 percent in the 2000s and to 50 percent in the current cycle that started in 2009″

The report also shows the connection between these new developments in WalkUPS and public-transit access:

“Within both Established and Emerging WalkUPs, the vast majority of recent development has gone to those areas that are served by MARTA
rail. In the current 2009-2013 real estate cycle, 73 percent of development in Established WalkUPs went to the MARTA-served places. Even more dramatic, 85 percent of development in Emerging WalkUPs went to places with rail transit.”

But wait! You also get…

But of course this data on new developments doesn’t even tell the whole story because there’s also a trend happening in the absorption of empty office space in Atlanta’s walkable intown area’s that are near transit. Just this week we have news that Coke is moving another 500 employees from suburbs to existing offices in Downtown Atlanta – this comes on top of another recent shift that saw Coke relocating 2,000 workers to the downtown locations.

About that 1992-2000 period

We should always temper this kind of exciting info with the realization of what happened in the 1990s. That was a period when the Atlanta region, by some accounts, was sprawling outward in its development at a faster rate than any urbanized place in history. So we have a heavy load of non-walkable places that were built prior to this current trend that are weighing us down as a region. Undoing job sprawl and building better new developments, bit by bit, is a good thing. But we have a major sprawl handicap that we’re working under.