New town models sought as Metro Atlanta grows older

An interesting juxtaposition occurred at Thursday’s Atlanta Regional Commission board meeting.

First, new urbanism planner Andrés Duany briefed the board about the Lifelong Communities projects that his firm — DPZ — has been conducting in the Atlanta Region. The goal has been to design communities that work best for the region’s aging population.

And then, Mike Alexander, ARC research division chief, presented the latest regional snapshot showing that the metro area’s population will top 8.3 million people by 2040, roughly an additional 3 million residents.

But most strikingly will be the age of those residents. In 2005, 8 percent of the 20-county region’s population was 65 or older. By 2040, 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older.

As Alexander said, the region will shift from being a place with a relatively young population to one that’s much older with more than 1.5 million people who are 65 or older.

“The boomers are going to age early,” Alexander said.

Those figures just reinforced Duany’s message to the ARC board about how to create communities that are friendlier people who can no longer drive yet still want to be contributing members of a community.

“You are pioneering,” said Dauny, who added that it’s important for communities to measure the cost of services for suburban sprawl. He credited the Atlanta region for being on the forefront of trying to design the future of communities by addressing the needs of its aging residents.

Duany also expressed great confidence in the fact that much of future developments will be market driven — creating communities where people want to live.

“New urbanism was market driven,” Duany said. “People wanted this.”

The biggest challenge will be to create zoning and land-use codes that will permit the development of mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented communities.

“We’ve been asked to level the playing field so it becomes legal,” said Duany, adding that current codes “make suburban sprawl easy and walkable difficult.”

For more information or a copy of the final charrette report: “Lifelong Communities: A Regional Guide to Growth and Longevity,” click here.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

1 reply
  1. Don Broussard says:

    The aging of metro Atlanta is an important trend that deserves our attention. The ARC would deserve credit for its Lifelong Communities project had it had not included the politically connected Williamsburg Senior Apartments near Toco Hill as one of the sites. Williamsburg is a great senior living community right now with about 500 senior residences in this comfortable well-planned mixed use area. The Julian LeCraw Company, its owner, has had a land use change pending before the DeKalb Commission for a year that could lead to as much as a 400% change in density and open the door to its complete demolition. LeCraw put about $20,000 into the DPZ / ARC charrette and the resulting plan blows up all the existing senior housing. The site is in DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader’s district. It is just co-incidence that his wife is a planner in ARC’s Aging Services Division.
    At the time of the charrette in February, the LeCraw land use application for Williamsburg was an active case pending before the DeKalb Commission. Never in my 30 years as a professional city planner in Atlanta have I seen ARC inject itself in a pending zoning / land use issue in such a manner. It was completely improper —and possibly illegal. ARC should be holding up the Williamsburg community as a model rather than aiding the Raders and LeCraw to raze it so it can be “upgraded”. Andres Duany, who referred to elderly residents as a “mob” and to opponents as “Nimby’s” has marred an otherwise commendable career. They say everyone has their price —and we now know his.

    Don Broussard


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