This morning the developer of Avalon - the replacement project for Prospect Park in Alpharetta - made a presentation to my Rotary club.
This is a live-work-play, walkable development of the type all of the liberals are raving about. What was interesting was that the decision to proceed on the project was made based on market principles after examining the demographic of the surrounding 7-mile radius. Transit had nothing to do with it. Altering our current housing choices had nothing to do with it. In fact, the ultimate success of the development depends on the surrounding suburban communities patronizing it. It required no subsidy or allocation of tax dollars.
Developers on this scale are not stupid. They analyze trends and the market carefully to assure the long-term success of their developments. You can bet the push to support transit has more to do with the in-town developers trying to add value to their developments to assure that they don’t lose out to suburban developers like the Avalon group. They are willing to spend $8 million to push the vote because the rail projects offer an enormous return on that investment.
Avalon continues the evolution of Atlanta as a large region of interconnected clusters, not a hub-and-spoke city.
In the Atlanta region, less than one-quarter of the population live in urban places within the region, and more than three-quarters live in places that are suburban. If we look at the growth over the last 10 to 12 years, it has distributed similarly. More than three-quarters of the growth has accumulated in the suburbs.
Individuals will make whatever decisions they want to make for themselves.
Atlanta is the least dense major city in the world (a fact presented at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation (GPPF) presentation Wednesday morning). We are probably the city that is the most suburban in character in the world. That is who we are, and what we are.
We do not need to impose an ultra-expensive technology (rail) that performs best in high density places, and worst in low density places (also part of the GPPF presentation Wednesday morning). We do not need to spend billions of dollars to try to convert Atlanta into a high density place. We need realistic, cost-effective transportation solutions that address the needs of this region and are designed to meet the needs of the low density population that we are.