This Week on The Street
(A more or less regular compilation of news, factoids and observations.)
By Harold V. Shumacher
May 12, 2011
You never know when you’ll have an opportunity to connect the dots and see something you’re familiar with in a new or different way. Last week was one of those times. In the span of 48 hours I attended two unrelated events that both painted a similar picture of Atlanta’s future.
Imagine a day when you get on a street car or trolley and ride from Midtown’s Ansley Mall to Rathbun’s Steak in Inman Park along a landscaped pedestrian and bike path viewing some of Atlanta’s most exclusive in-town addresses along the way.
If the folks at the Atlanta Beltway have their way that day may not be that far off. A glint in the eye of a Georgia Tech graduate student over 10 years ago, the beltline has become one of the largest transit development projects in the United States.
When completed, with the first phase opened in four to five years, the city will end up with a 22 mile transit loop, 33 miles of trails and 1, 300 acres of new parkland, The total cost will easily exceed one billion dollars but the impact is likely to spur development throughout Atlanta’s inner city neighborhoods providing the vital connectivity that would make the city more accessible to all.
At least that was the vision spelled out when a group of restaurant owners, architects, attorneys and brokers had a sneak preview last week. Among the highlights-a peek at the Bellwood Quarry (on the northwest side of downtown) that will soon be Atlanta’s largest park-with over 300 acres); a tour of the new park created behind the former Sears building on Ponce and a walk along a portion of the beltline already being utilized by runners and walkers.
The commercial aspects are still being analyzed but suffice it to say that businesses located along the beltway should prosper the key question is when. In fact neighborhoods located within a half mile of the proposed path grew twice as fast, according to the last census, as other parts of the city.
Demographics and census info was also at the heart of a presentation by Boston Consulting Group’s Michael Deimler and Allison Sander at Hines Company’s annual Breakfast speaker series.
The two, who work in the company’s Center for Sensing and Mining the Future, noted the following. Some events are random, such as who wins the Superbowl, the price of gasoline or what pop singer becomes a break out act. What’s more predictable are observable trends such as the growing urbanization of the world-where today 51 percent of the world’s population lives in cities.
Other trends that have longevity are the continued interest in health, the increasing importance of the internet in commerce and the increase in life expectancy (double from one hundred years ago.)
What does that mean for Atlanta?
Going forward Atlanta will continue to grow. By 2020, according to predictions, Atlanta will be the sixth largest metro area in the United States (we’re now number 8.) The population will, on average be better educated than the rest of America, be younger-by an average of almost three years-more physically fit and live in urban areas with amenities (such as a beltline connecting attractions.)
For retailers and restaurateurs that can only bode well, especially if you’re proximate to growth areas.
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