DThe Atlanta region was one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States in the late 20th century, reaching a population of four million at the turn of the century. This phenomenal growth brought many opportunities with it, and many challenges.
It put a strain on our limited water supply and forced small, rural communities to transform too rapidly into booming suburbs with urban problems and major infrastructure needs. With no physical boundaries to control the growth, the resulting sprawl has left us with traffic congestion, poor air quality and, in many places, very little sense of community.
The rapid growth also led to a booming construction industry that played a large role in the region’s thriving economy. With an over abundance housing product available in the region, the housing market could not withstand the global crash in 2007 and 2008, and the slowdown in that segment impacted the entire regional economy.
It is now time to face many of these challenges and determine how best to overcome them. Looking 50 years into the future, there are certainly questions about water supply, transportation, funding for infrastructure and more. However, we can’t determine answers to those questions until we can envision where we will live in fifty years and how our communities will differ from those of today.
If we are to remain an economic powerhouse and create an expanded feeling of community, we need to change our vision for the development of the region. But how? Do we bring more housing variety and density to the major job centers? Should suburban areas add more jobs and build density around them? Should there be a mix of residential uses and price ranges in the suburbs so employees in our retail establishments, medical centers and other service industries can afford to live close to work, reducing local congestion so families in high-end neighborhoods spend less time in their cars and more in their communities?
No matter our solutions, our land-use decisions will drive future transportation, water and environmental planning. How do we make these decisions? By working together and sharing our goals for the next 50 years with one another.
Come hear ULI’s Maureen McAvey, Executive Vice President, Initiatives Division, talk about the long-term implications of the current economic slump for urban development and housing markets and contribute your ideas for what this may mean for the Atlanta region.