Georgia Forward Young Gamechangers

September 22, 2015

Statewide non-profit GeorgiaForward named Douglasville/Douglas County as the location for its next Young Gamechangers leadership and action program. The program brings together 40-50 emerging leaders from around the state to one Georgia community to propose fresh, thoughtful solutions to some of their longstanding challenges.

To fill this Young Gamechangers class, GeorgiaForward is looking for innovative thinkers from around Georgia and from multiple sectors including business, law, public health, real estate, urban planning, the arts, non-profits, foundations and academia. Ambitious minds from any sector will be considered for the program. Young professionals between the ages of 24 and 40 who live in Georgia may apply online at Applications
are due by Friday, October 30, 2015.


Atlanta headed for 8 million people

September 14, 2015

Expect an additional 2.5 million people, bringing the metro area population from 5.5 million to 8 million by 2040, according to a forecast released today by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Back in 2011, the last time the regional visionaries of the ARC had a gander into the crystal ball, they saw a metro Atlanta of 7.8 million people in 2040.

Back then, the region was still struggling to emerge from the Great Recession. Now, economy is much better, job creation is way up and the flow of new residents from elsewhere to Atlanta has resumed.

Most of the population growth will take place in the suburbs, according to the ARC.

But “significant growth” is also expected in the core of the region — Downtown Atlanta, Midtown, Buckhead and the nearby neighborhoods that are inside I-285.

More than in previous decades of surging growth, people are choosing to live near jobs or transportation, said Jane Hayse, director of ARC’s Center for Livable Communities.

“Walkable communities” are also becoming more popular, she said. “There’s been a change in the region’s development pattern. We see this trend continuing, and even accelerating, over the next 25 years.”

The ARC predicts an additional 1.5 million jobs by 2040.

“The Atlanta region is a hub for high tech, professional services and logistics jobs,” said Mike Alexander, manager of ARC’s Research and Analytics Division. “The region seems to have a solid economic footing for the future.”

Jobs in metro Atlanta will also be concentrated in the region’s core, major employment centers and along major highway corridors. The ARC projects 44 percent of jobs will be located in these areas in 2040.


Streetcars still engines of economic development

August 27, 2015


The impact of streetcars on neighborhoods, development, and commercial districts has come up in several reports that I have come across recently.  

The streetcar trend continues across America, according to Progressive Railroading:

In just the past two years, the streetcar renaissance has led to new lines in Salt Lake City; Dallas; Atlanta; Tucson, Ariz.; and Charlotte, N.C. Cities with lines under design or construction include Los Angeles; Seattle; Detroit; Cincinnati; Milwaukee; Kansas City, Mo.; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Others — St. Louis; Baton Rouge, La.; and Minneapolis, among them — are studying the possibility of launching streetcar lines.

Dozens of US cities are now home to streetcars and "another 30 are designing or building new systems or expanding lines." Economic development is a primary motivation. "Good streetcar systems are planned along urban corridors where development is already happening or it is anticipated to happen," Michael Townes of HNTB Corp. told the publication. 

The poster child for streetcar-induced development is Portland, where an 8.6-mile system in two loops has helped to spur more than $4.5 billion in development, according to a recent analysis from Portland Streetcar. This includes 18,000 residential units and 7.7 million square feet of commercial space within a quarter mile of the streetcar. "The market value of all property in the corridor (both new and existing has increased by $11.63 billion since 1998)," according to the report. 

A substantial portion of the development (including 41 percent of residential units and 35 percent of commercial development) is attributable to the streetcar, says the organization. A quarter of the 18,000 units are subsidized affordable housing. The value of real estate within a quarter mile of the streetcar is now 17 percent of the city's total—up from 11 percent in 1998.

“While there are plenty of factors that influence investment decisions, we’ve seen that the Streetcar has had a positive impact on economic development in the Central City,” said Dan Bower, executive director of the non-profit Portland Streetcar, Inc. “By providing affordable, accessible, and reliable service, the Streetcar is a key part of what makes Portland such a livable city.”

Meanwhile, University of Connecticut engineering professor Norman Garrick recently wrote in the Hartford Courant that elimination of the streetcar was a catalyst for decline in that city.

Our research at UConn suggests that the decline of Hartford's commercial centers started with the removal of the streetcars. But now some cities around the country are reversing that trend — showing that streetcars can be a cost-effective catalyst for the restoration of neighborhood life. Look to Providence, which is well on the way to re-introducing streetcars — not simply as a transportation project, but as a way of spurring economic development and street life.

The Kansas City streetcar, due to open in 2016, is fairly typical in its impact:

"The $102 million project is already being credited with stimulating development in the area. Since the project began, about $1 billion in new investment has entered the downtown picture; about $381 million of that is due to the streetcar line, authority officials say," says Progressive Railroading.

Related Tag: Transportation


Historic Tax Credits

August 17, 2015


As Atlanta undergoes continued transformation through new developments, a move by the Georgia legislature and governor’s office has provided potential investors and other stakeholders with another investment tool.

This time, though, the focus is on buildings in peril.

The often underutilized properties that have seen better days still provide opportunities for creative and savvy developers. More prevalent than one might think, properties deemed historic are tracked by several community improvement districts, agencies and non-profits.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, for example, tracks endangered houses and buildings and serves as an advocate for these properties, as well as preservation funding and its various governing laws and policy initiatives.

Taking note of successes with other state tax credits such as the well-known entertainment and film credit, the state government has responded. While not new, the state historic tax credit (HTC) has been expanded.

Effective January 1, 2016, House Bill 308 will increase the state cap from $300,000 to $5 million. Bottom line, the state HTC goes from something that would not typically draw serious interest to something that can become a significant aspect of a developer’s capital stack.

The $5 million per project cap can be exceeded if a project can show 200 or more permanent jobs created, or $5 million in payroll. There is also a statewide cap of $25 million per year from the state, earmarked for buildings going into service in 2017 and after.

As new buildings from residential to office and others, along with the ever-evolving Peachtree Street corridor, for example, continue to evolve and emerge, it will be interesting to see how the increased state HTC will aid developers, and, thus, Atlanta, going forward.

Keep in mind, this is just the state HTC and other Federal historic credits could also factor in. Projects like Ponce City Market and the Flatiron Building have clearly benefited from the HTC.

No question that both are models that are, and will, breathe new life into their respective communities. What will become of other vacant structures or those along the Beltline, the continued burgeoning of West Midtown and other investment areas of the Metro Atlanta area and beyond?

All are indicative of Atlanta’s ability and creativity to revamp significant landmarks for positive redevelopment and community revitalization.

As the HTC gives incentives to help preserve and utilize existing structures that can still have a positive effect in their respective communities, it also will attract developers from outside the state that specialize in historic deals. This also ties into current market and demographic trends, in part due to the Millennials, to work and live in cool buildings, often in urban areas that help promote walkability to nearby dining, shopping and entertainment amenities.

Given the area’s current growth in the tech sector, numerous structures like old schools, textile mills and other places in peril suddenly come into play. New and old structures alike both contribute to places of interest, something tech firms and other creative industries have an interest in. Old structures can bring character that compliment traditionally developed new buildings. At a time when Atlanta is attracting a diverse work force of all ages, backgrounds and industries, it can only help to have product that matches a wide range of demands while preserving past character.

Related Tag: Economic Development


What Makes the Downtown Development Cycle Different?

August 3, 2015

By Jennifer LeClaire

ATLANTA—What’s the development cycle look like in Downtown Atlanta? It’s a broad question, but one that Michael Warner is well-equipped to answer.

Warner works with David Horne and Kay Younglove at JLL as the exclusive leasing agent for Peachtree Center. Peachtree Center is located at 225 Peachtree Street NE. caught up with Warner to get his take on the topic. He tells us is seems like every block of downtown Atlanta reveals new construction.

“The existing development cycle in downtown looks much different from other submarkets in the metro Atlanta area,” Warner says. “It is primarily driven by four key factors: the adaptive reuse of abandoned, old buildings; Georgia State University’s growth; the technology sector and innovation labs opening in downtown; and other attractions, driving the hospitality/tourism industry to further innovate and develop.”

Warner pointed to Paces Properties’ conversion of 250 Piedmont from office to multifamily and John Portman’s conversion of 230 Peachtree to a hotel as two of the most notable current redevelopment projects spurring further conversions. Also, he adds, many would argue the Candler Building converting to a hotel is the result of the energy in downtown and the success of the Paces and Portman conversion projects.

“As it has been for the last several years, Georgia State is extremely active, having recently acquired 55 Park Place, a former office building, for administrative and classroom space,” Warner says. “Additionally, the university is about the complete the new law school, a welcome addition for the school and for downtown.”

Of course, the development of the new Atlanta Falcons stadium leads a long list of current or recent developments of new or expanding attractions downtown. Warner points to the College Football Hall of Fame and Center for Civil and Human Rights are recent additions, along with the expansion of the Georgia Aquarium and continued expansion of the Georgia World Congress Center and AmericasMart.

“With all of the development happening downtown, perhaps one of the most exciting and important new developments is the addition of Innovation Centers and technology start-up communities,” he says. “The Microsoft Innovation Hub and the Deloitte Innovation Center, along with Michael Tavani’s ‘Switchyards’ and the business incubator for women entrepreneurs coming to the top floor of downtown Atlanta's historic Flatiron building, all illustrate downtown is a dynamo and is back. It’s a place that is authentic and appealing to America’s retreat to ‘Main Street.’” 

Related Tag: Economic Development


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