Even though all of us can find something about the Atlanta region that we would improve, most of us who live here think it’s a pretty good place to be.
That’s the feedback that the Atlanta Regional Commission received when it recently conducted a public opinion poll of nearly 2,200 residents of the 10-county Atlanta region. The responses show that people like where they live, and most plan on staying put.
More than 80 percent of respondents rated their neighborhood as good or excellent. And, 67 percent gave the same rankings to the Atlanta region as a whole. When asked, “If you could move, where would you move?” 76 percent of respondents said they would “stay where they are” or move to a different neighborhood in metro Atlanta. Only 23 percent would leave the region.
A couple of questions give us a glimpse into the future. The survey asked, “If you could move, to what kind of place would you move?” The majority (58 percent) of respondents said they would prefer single-family housing. Interestingly, however, 39 percent said they would choose mixed-use development. And, when asked, “What is the best way to accommodate growth?” 76 percent of respondents answered, “Redevelop older areas” rather than “continue to build new suburbs.”
These responses tell us that most residents of the region would like to see the region’s growth occurring in places where the supporting infrastructure, like sewer and roads, already exists. This represents a shift in demand compared to the last several decades, when our regional footprint expanded, unabated.
This new trend did not happen overnight. Beginning in the late 1990s with the assistance of ARC’s Livable Centers Initiative, investments by local governments and Community Improvement Districts began to create more walkable places in town and employment centers.
While these walkable centers were a niche market in years past, today they are attracting the lion’s share of new investment. Since 2009, approximately 60 percent of new office and retail space and multi-family developments in the Atlanta region has occurred in Walkable Urban Places, or what George Washington University research professor Chris Leinberger calls WalkUPs.
Mr. Leinberger’s recent study finds that the Atlanta region is a leader in walkable, urban development, even in the suburbs, and a harbinger for the rest of the country. In WalkUP Wake Up Call: Atlanta, Leinberger reports that “sprawl in metro Atlanta is approaching an end” and that WalkUPs will be the primary locations for economic growth here and around the country. That is good news.
So, what does all this mean? Residents feel good about where the region stands today. And, since we are already building the types of places residents and future residents want to call home, they should continue to feel hopeful about new community choices. On top of that, national experts are optimistic about the region’s economic future, telling us that metro Atlanta is in a good place and on a good path.