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Focus on: Urban Development

Connecting downtown Atlanta to its sprawling surrounds
A newly announced master-planned project in the heart of downtown Atlanta could dramatically reduce the city’s infamous congestion issues.

An early November announcement that an area of downtown Atlanta would become the site of a multi-modal transit hub was welcome news to anyone who has ever sat in the southern city’s many traffic snarls.

A team led by Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, with local support from Cousins Properties and The Integral Group, and close collaboration with the Georgia Department of Transportation, will take a 119-acre underutilized area of the downtown core — called the “Gulch” — and connect the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority’s rail and bus lines, as well as other regional bus systems and rail networks.

“It is very unusual for a city the size of Atlanta to have such a large space of undeveloped land available downtown,” said Emerick Corsi Jr., president of Real Estate Services for Forest City. “We will draw upon our company’s expertise in master-planned developments to create this new transportation hub that we expect will be the center of a vibrant residential, office, retail and recreational area.”

Although it’s too soon to precisely identify the components or even the cost, suffice it to say that the project will contain a mix of uses designed to leverage its proximity to the Philips Arena, the Georgia Dome and World Congress Center. Phase I will include the Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal, the location of which will be determined by traffic studies. The MMPT will have the capability for high-speed rail, inner-city rail and regional rail connecting Macon, Savannah and other Georgia cities. The team will coordinate with GDOT in a public-private partnership to generate funding support from other potential stakeholders.

Atlanta’s population is expected to exceed 8.3 million by 2040, making a project of this magnitude likely to garner strong community buy-in. “We anticipate that this project will address the congestion issues in downtown Atlanta,” Corsi said. “Investing in the MMPT and other transit projects will save commuters time and money when they are completed.”

Studies by Central Atlanta Progress reported that the new transit options would help to remove 568 million vehicle miles from area highways, reduce automobile trips by 13 million, and reduce the time commuters spend in automobiles by 77 million hours. Residents and businesses would save nearly $2.2 billion in travel costs annually as a result of less traffic on the highways.

“The big picture for this project is that it can facilitate economic development,” Corsi said. “With less congestion and greater ease of travel provided by the MMPT, it would allow for more business in the area and potentially create more jobs. The effort to improve and expand public transportation in Atlanta will help the region maintain its competitive edge.”

kfield@chainstoreage.com

 

© 2014