The city of Atlanta should prepare to grow dramatically over the next decades, with an expected population of as many as 1.3 million people by 2050.
Those numbers were the topic for discussion at a public talk entitled “How Big Can Atlanta Be?” held last week at the Central Library. The packed event was the first in a series of public meetings hosted by Ryan Gravel, originator of the Atlanta BeltLine, and the Department of Planning and Community Development’s Atlanta City Studio, according to an article by Atlanta INtown.
Dr. Arthur C. Nelson, a professor of Planning & Real Estate Development at University of Arizona, presented slides showing that on average 15 percent of a metro area generally prefer to live in the city near a mix of offices, apartments and shops. Growth predictions show the Metro Atlanta region is expected to be about 9 million people by 2050, Nelson noted. If that happens, the city can expect to add 800,000 residents to its current population of 500,000.
Now is the time to start planning for those people, Nelson said. As a former professor at Georgia Tech who lived in Atlanta, Nelson assured the audience he was familiar with both the challenges and advantages Atlanta faces in preparing for the increases in population.
One of the advantages is the Beltline project, Nelson said. As he presents to cities around the country, many of them ask how they can create a Beltline-type project, a phenomenon Nelson called “Beltline envy.”
Another advantage for Atlanta is its many strip malls, aging developments and large parking lots that are now worth less than the land on which they are built, Nelson said. Those areas are perfect to be demolished and rebuilt as mixed-use and residential areas. Most of the development could be low profile, below the tree line of Atlanta’s extensive tree canopy. This would help to preserve existing residential communities, he said. Since these developments would use existing water and sewer they would actually cost the city less per resident than it costs now.
City planning Commissioner Tim Keane and Nelson responded to questions and comments from the audience at the end of the event. Some of the most probing questions came from people asking about transportation issues with increased population and affordable housing.
Keane said the city is serious about addressing the issue of affordable housing and will devote considerable resources to coming up with alternative proposals to consider.
The next presentation is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4, at 6 p.m. at Central Library. Jewanna Gaither, spokesperson for the city, said Tuesday they did not have a final confirmation on the venue.
Portions of this story were provided courtesy of Atlanta INtown. Their website is www.atlantaintownpaper.com.