Live-Work-Play Developments Catching on in Atlanta

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By Douglas Hartley, Staff Writer

(APN) ATLANTA — With Atlanta competing for longest commute times in the nation, planners, developers, and officials gathered at the Southface Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable to find solutions, on Friday, October 06, 2006.

Panelists discussed how developers and governments can leverage existing MARTA rail stations to benefit nearby existing and future transit oriented developments (TOD’s).

“The world has changed,” Mike Alexander, Principal Planner of Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), Development Review, said, describing people’s desire to live near where they work and shop, a new concept to Atlanta.

“Transit oriented development which includes residential units has been fundamentally missing in Atlanta development,” he said.

But the ARC is changing developers’ visions by providing alternative ideas.

Perimeter Place Retail began as a standard commercial-only development.  At ARC’s urging, plans changed to include residential units.

“They went from zero to 700 residential units,” Alexander said.  The developers now include residences in their projects whenever possible.

Availability of parking, rail and bus transit, residential and commercial units creates a new form of development, according to Alexander.

“It’s not metro and it’s not suburban.  I call it murban.” he said.

Some of these developments contain up to 220 dwelling units per acre. A neighborhood of single family houses, on the other hand, might average four or five.

This high density of mixed-use spaces creates vibrant streets in the day and evening, unlike suburban neighborhoods which are empty during the workday and don’t have the density to support many stores or restaurants.

Tying these developments to transit depends on creating walkable pathways to the transit stations, according to Alexander, and also to Scott Pendergrast, Manager of Real Estate at MARTA.

Currently, this is a weak link in the planning process.

“Pedestrians are not made to feel welcome,” Pendergrast said.  “It is important that development be oriented toward walking.”

Pendergrast also emphasized the importance of housing affordable to working families as well as middle class families.

A planned development at the Avondale Station in Decatur will contain “55% workforce housing because the city wants its teachers, firefighters, and retail workers to be able to live in town,” Pendergrast said.

Southface is a nonprofit organization providing environmental education and outreach programs for builders and the public.

Southface has been recognized for excellence by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Roundtable discussions on environmental and development issues are held the first Friday of every month from 7:30 am to 9:00 am.

Southface’s Energy and Environmental Resource Center is located in Midtown, Atlanta.

About the author:

Douglas Hartley is a Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at douglas@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.

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