Curbed Atlanta has a cool post today about reasonable vs. unreasonable expectations for Atlanta becoming more walkable and densely populated. They begin by pointing out the futility of comparing Atlanta to an uber-dense place like New York City and then offer the reasons for more realistic goals.
Atlanta does have a decent start, but it will be a long time (if ever) before the city can credibly be labeled a ‘walkable’ or public transit-oriented city. Does that mean we should drop efforts to help Atlanta grow in a more dense, sustainable fashion? Of course not.
I think there’s a great chance for walkable, compact nodes to develop all over metro Atlanta. They will probably never be as dense or as well-connected as those in a city like NYC, largely for the geographical reasons (Atlanta isn’t surrounded by a natural boundary like water). But they’ll be a hell of an improvement over the copy & paste, car-centric sprawl of the past few decades.
Photo of Glenwood Park by Flickr user peterlfrench
"Anti-density zoning laws represent the triumph of heavy-handed government over private property rights…imposing massive costs on the metropolitan area in terms of traffic, pollution, housing costs, economic segregation and education…suburban governments should free up housing markets from their long-standing anti-density bias and adopt more market-based approaches to housing."
— Low-Density Suburbs Are Not Free-Market Capitalism by Jonathan Rothwell | The New Republic
Jed Kolko, chief economist for online real estate search site Trulia, predicts that low home prices in the outer regions of metro Atlanta will lure urban dwellers away from the city to lower-density areas.
A quote from the AJC article:
“A lot of the search behavior we see is from the central [Atlanta] metro area to some of the smaller lower-density nearby areas.
…Realizing that by moving to the suburbs they can buy a home, many urban dwellers will also add to this future demand as they gravitate away from big cities toward suburban and smaller metros,” Kolko predicted.
Kolko is basing this on Trulia search data (apparently Trulia’s data doesn’t include info about the wretched commute for people who live far from jobs in ATL).
Until the ‘burbs have a massive re-zoning effort to accommodate the growing desire for walkable, mixed-use areas and lower commute times, I give this prediction a big thumbs down.
It’s true that walkable areas can (and will some day) exist outside the urban core via suburban retro-fitting. But not enough of them currently do to lure urbanites away. I can’t imagine giving up my pedestrian-friendly downtown neighborhood just to take advantage of a low-mortgage house in a subdivision outside the city.