Building a Better Transportation Future
By: ULI Programs Committee Members Jonathan Weidman of ASAP+ and Julie Secrist of Planners and Engineers Collaborative, Inc
The Urban Land Institute Atlanta—in partnership with Perimeter Connects and the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts—gathered local commercial real estate professionals, transportation experts and civic and business leaders on Wednesday, Oct. 2 for an early morning discussion on the future of transportation in Atlanta. So, what’s in the cards? More cooperation between the private and public sectors, with a key role for the local commercial real estate industry.
During his opening remarks, Georgia State Senator Brandon Beach (District 21) made the case for pursuing regional transportation infrastructure as a means for Georgia to sustain its competitive edge with companies who choose to do business in the state, while reiterating regional transit’s importance to advances in economic development and quality of life. Senator Beach—who is well regarded for his work on House Bill 930 that created the Atlanta Transit Link Authority—suggested last mile connectivity, high-speed rail and a multi-modal passenger terminal as the next priorities for the region. The path to these innovative transportation projects, according to the Senator, would be to rely more on local dollars instead of federal funding for vastly more efficient project delivery via House Bill 170. To close, Senator Beach introduced a collaborative effort with Chick-fil-A, Georgia Tech and the state legislature to begin funding a “cap” over the I-75/I-85 Connector, between 17th Street and North Avenue. The Midtown Connector Project joins a growing list of interstate capping projects being proposed for Atlanta – one being ‘The Stitch’ in downtown Atlanta, a project that received some advisory services from the Urban Land Institute’s HQ team earlier this year. Another being proposed is Buckhead’s ‘Hub 404’ project with potential to break ground as early as 2021.
Denise Starling, Executive Director of Livable Buckhead, then moderated a panel of experts that discussed how commercial real estate asset holders and managers can impact the “demand” side of transportation, with an explanation of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) as a means to mitigating some of Atlanta’s biggest challenges: traffic congestion and air quality.
Gerald McDowell, the Aerotropolis Alliance’s Executive Director, forecasted the next major event that could place even more demand on Atlanta’s transportation network: a swell of 3.5 million new people slated to relocate to the metro area in the next 20 years. The panel discussed how the commercial real estate industry can continue to add new housing, office and retail to accommodate Atlanta’s growth while mitigating the demand on our roads and streets. Among their ideas? Policies like unbundling parking from leases, subsidizing transit passes and building transit and trail-oriented development around MARTA stations and the Atlanta Beltline. Rhonda Tompkins, Director of Property Management at Cousins Properties, talked about the importance of educating and promoting alternatives to driving alone, as well as a new concept of bundling transit passes into leases to reduce parking demand. Stan Wall, Partner of HR&A Advisors, provided insight about how the Buckhead area’s strategy to create affordable housing that will allow employees to live close to work.
Members of the panel closed by sharing with the audience some of the exciting projects they are bringing to Atlanta. Lynn Lewis, Director of Property Management at Hines, discussed how her company is planning for the future of the 17th Street corridor to better connect neighboring districts to Atlantic Station—which is in a second phase of a major expansion with the construction of office towers, a hotel, and new retail and entertainment additions that will bring thousands more to the thriving live-work-play center. McDowell spoke of the Aerotropolis’ plans to implement an autonomous, on-demand shuttle to improve connections to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the surrounding community.
The event was a showcase for how leaders and innovators throughout Atlanta are working to improve quality of life while allowing for sustainable growth in our region.
This event is part of a quarterly series hosted by ULI Atlanta which gives special attention to ULI’s core mission to provide leadership on the responsible use of land and create sustaining and thriving communities here in the metro Atlanta region. Thank you to the sponsors of this event – Atlanta Downtown, TransitScreen, LAZ Parking, and Seven Oaks LLC for supporting our mission.
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