Mixed-use development booming in metro Atlanta area

Is Atlanta’s love affair with the car over? If recent mixed-use projects in development across the metro area are any indication, autos may soon become optional.


The drive to get out from behind the wheel and walk, bike or hop on public transit is fueling an array of new construction projects with live-work-play themes. While mixed-use developments have changed the metro area landscape in recent years, even more are rising both intown and in suburban communities. Developers are devising projects with retail and restaurant spaces, offices, recreation and residential components. And all include some element of travel that does not involve a car.


That fact pleases the staff of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC)’s Livable Centers Initiative, which has been working toward .


“The basic premise of the [LCI] program was to get people out of their cars and create this environment where you can live, work and play in close proximity,” said Sam Shenbaga, ARC’s community development group manager. “That program has been successful throughout metro Atlanta, as we now have about 119 designated LCI areas where we want to create these dense, walkable communities. And it’s been happening as much in downtown, Midtown and Buckhead as Acworth, Woodstock and other outlying suburbs.”


Establishing these projects may take longer in some areas, he added.


“Midtown has had this idea for a long time,” he said. “But sometimes it’s slower to come to other areas where the idea of doing dense, walkable, mixed income projects might be new.”


Still, Shenbaga said he is celebrating the successes.


“Since the program began in 1999, vehicle miles traveled per capita has dropped by 13 percent, and while it’s not all from the LCI program, LCI has had a big role in making that happen,” he said. “Twenty-nine percent of commercial development and 69 percent of office development has been in these projects that get people off the roads and walking and biking more. They’re in communities with apartments, condos, grocery stores, parks and bike trails, so people don’t need to get in their personal vehicles for every trip.”


ARC identifies two groups behind the push to abandon cars. One is the aging population that wants the lifestyle a mixed-use project brings, particularly the ability to walk to services, restaurants and recreation from a one-story living space. The second group, typically including millennials, is the next generation of workers who want to trade commuting time for communing time.


That’s the allure of Alpharetta’s City Center project, a 25-acre redevelopment in Alpharetta’s downtown area that is adding 100,000 square feet of retail and 36,000 square feet of office space, along with apartments, single-family homes, parks and a dozen restaurants.


This article was originally published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on August 3rd, 2018 and written by H.M. Cauley. To read the article in its original publication, click here.