Things are about to get real when it comes to transit-adjacent development in Metro Atlanta. Demolition of the 162-acre GM plant begins this month and, according to an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the space could become 20 blocks of mixed-use buildings, all next door to the Doraville MARTA station (just northeast of the City of Atlanta).
[There’s a cool recent article on the background work done to allow this project to take place — it’s a nice read.]
The ABC article points out that there’s a significant hurdle to overcome in regard to transit connectivity: creating a pedestrian bridge between the project and the Doraville MARTA station. The bridge would overpass a wide stretch of freight rail infrastructure.
At least one person is confident that a deal will be reached to build the bridge. Here’s a quote:
If negotiations are successful, the pedestrian bridge would link the Doraville MARTA station to the GM redevelopment, a huge draw for developers seeking to add a rental housing around the site. The bridge would help residents connect by rail to existing job centers in Buckhead, Midtown and downtown and be linked to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“We’ve been working on this site, along with Doraville, for a decade, and we will continue to work with them,” [Dan Reuter of the Atlanta Regional Commission] said. “This can become the biggest transit-oriented development site in America.”
If all works out, this Doraville project has the potential to one-up Midtown Atlanta’s Atlantic Station. A similar redo of a closed large facility (the Atlantic Steel site), Atlantic Station’s site cleanup was aided by federal funds that came attached with an unfunded mandate to provide public transportation — which so far has consisted of a relatively low-capacity shuttle bus service.
This Doraville site, however, would see the development of 20 new city blocks with a close connection to high-capacity rail transit. That’s big.
— Why Atlanta is ripe for innovation | 9/13/2014, Money.CNN.com
There are many reasons to get excited about Atlanta’s current trend of good, sustainable urban development. Visions for the Atlanta Beltline (above), MARTA’s transit-oriented developments, expanded bicycle infrastructure, new greenspaces — these can appeal to people on mutliple levels.
But I admit that I sometimes wonder if I’m preaching to the choir and alienating others with my references to the purely environmental good of building our people habitats in a more compact, connected form — for the sake of sparing land for nature. It’s a tree-hugging sentiment that is close to my heart but may be a stretch for others not already among the converted.
So I was happy to read in Fortune magazine, of all places, a news item about the economic benefit of preserving unbuilt land and growing our urban places in a more compact, walkable form that can be served well by transit. This is the kind of argument that can appeal to a broader audience. Read about it here: Why fighting climate change may help the economy, not hurt it
Compact cities save forests
The article focuses on two recent reports, both of them detailing the economic & environmental value of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, showing that:
…reducing greenhouse gas emissions can actually result in a stronger and more vibrant economy in the United States and across the globe.
The report that interests me most is from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, a group made up of “24 former heads of states and finance ministers.”
Their report calls for:
building “more connected and compact” urban cities driven by public transport, halting deforestation and restoring at least 500 million hectares of lost or degraded forests and agricultural lands by 2030, and developing energy systems more reliant on renewables and less dependent on coal.
Putting a dollar amount on good urbanism
A look at the report’s details reveals these nuggets of economic goodness:
- Cities: Building better connected, more compact cities based on mass public transport can save over US $3 trillion in investment costs over the next 15 years. These measures will improve economic performance and quality of life with lower emissions.
- Land use: Restoring just 12% of the world’s degraded lands can feed another 200 million people and raise farmers’ incomes by $40 billion a year – and also cut emissions from deforestation.
There’s also an excellent quote from the former Mayor of Barcelona, Joan Clos on the importance of good urban planning in achieving these outcomes: “…there will be no solution to global prosperity and climate change without good urbanization. And good urbanization does not come by chance — it comes by design.”
This is all very common-sense stuff for urbanists already on board with the widespread good of eco-urbanism. But for those who have trouble finding the innate environmental good in walkable cities and protected nature, know that there’s a very concrete economic benefit as well.
Image from the Atlanta Beltline website