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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Atlanta’s BeltLine serves as model for other cities

By Nadine Melo (Atlanta)

One wouldn’t usually equate parks and cultural activities with real estate investment, but Atlanta has been setting the pace for what that correlation looks like.

Since 2005, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. has used the manifesto created in Ryan Gravel’s 1999 Georgia Tech master’s thesis on architecture and city planning to put into practice a sustainable redevelopment project that will connect 45 local neighborhoods via a 22-mile loop of multi-use trails and parks.

The project, aptly named the BeltLine, stems from the idea of new urbanism, which takes a human-centric focus when it comes to designing and planning urban areas. New urbanism takes into consideration land use, transportation, and urban form to create communities that encourage sustainability, a sense of place, economic progress and historical preservation.

Since the BeltLine’s inception, more than $3.7 billion of new and private development has been generated within a half mile of it. The project has also created an influx of approximately $450 million of public and private dollars into the creation of infrastructure that helps connect Atlanta’s inner neighborhoods.  

In particular, the area of Inman Park has seen demand for creative office space as companies flock to the area to attract and appeal to the next up-and-coming workforce, millennials. As much as we hate the dreaded M-word, the fact of the matter is that millennials are impacting the real estate industry by forcing companies to not only change how they work, but also where they work.

Urban developments like the BeltLine are attractive to Millennials because it appeals to their sense of work-life balance and the market is responding to that demand. This trend is best evidenced by the Jamestown award-winning Ponce City Market project, which redeveloped a former Sears regional distribution center into a 2.1 million-sf mixed-use project featuring specialty retailers, office spaces, restaurants, and apartments – all while sitting parallel to the BeltLine.

Additionally, the project has spurred other development activities, such as the redevelopment of a new Kroger grocery store that will feature 360,000 sf of office space on a lot adjacent to the BeltLine. In fact, the influence of the BeltLine has managed to reach the suburbs, which aim to replicate the same type of growth and development that the project has initiated within Atlanta’s city limits.

The BeltLine’s success has enabled Atlanta to act as an incubator for these types of projects and a model for other cities to follow. For example, in Alabama, the City of Birmingham recently opened Railroad Park in 2010 and Rotary Trail in 2016. These projects borrow from the BeltLine concept of repurposing an old railroad bed in Magic City’s downtown area into a walkable space that connects two of the city’s major historical attractions while providing outdoor amenities for people to enjoy.

So what is it about these types of urban developments that make them so lucrative for the real estate industry? Redevelopment projects like the BeltLine help provide value to a city, making it easier for us in the real estate industry to sell, lease or manage space. They also help create a healthy economic environment that is sure to attract – and please – investors.

If you would like more information on where the BeltLine is heading next and the development projects following suit, check out BeltLine.org for more information.

(Nadine Melo is a Marketing Co-ordinator based in Avison Young’s Atlanta office. She works closely with the Atlanta office’s capital markets group.)

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