Atlanta’s Westside: Where Opportunity Meets Walkability

By Sara Warden

 

2 min read September 2019 — There are 26 qualified Opportunity Zones in the city of Atlanta, with the majority of them running down west of the I-75 in the city’s Westside. The qualified Opportunity Zones were born from a fiscal effort to drive private business into low-income communities. But it is more than just tax incentives that make Atlanta’s Westside one of the city’s fastest-gentrifying areas.

“There is demand,” Avison Young Principal Casey Keitchen told Bisnow. “There’s way more capital chasing qualified Opportunity Zone deals than there are qualified Opportunity Zone deals.”

This week, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation awarded a $17.5 million grant to Atlanta BeltLine Partnership to support development of Westside Park. The 280-acre park is slated to be the largest greenspace in Atlanta when it opens, with the first phase set to be inaugurated in 2020. The donation will be combined with $26.5 million from the city.

“Westside Park is a transformational project that will set an exciting new precedent for greenspace development across Atlanta,” said John Dargle, Jr., Commissioner for the city’s Parks & Recreation department in an interview with Atlanta Daily World.

According to Arthur M. Blank, Chairman of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the aim of the project is to create a community in an area that did not have the facilities to do so. “We want these Westside communities to feel like this is their park where residents, neighbors, and visitors are connecting and gathering because that is when Atlanta is at its very best,” he told Atlanta Daily World.

In the last few years, private developers have flocked to the area to take advantage of the qualified Opportunity Zone, among other features. 

“Westside is all the rage [for] creative office. That makes sense,” Banyan Street Capital Principal Taylor White told Bisnow. “It makes a lot of sense for Opportunity Zone investors to go to that market.”

The magic of the Westside is that it is the point of crossover between most qualified Opportunity Zones and the Atlanta BeltLine project, meaning this real estate is worth its weight in gold. It can offer easy mobility, green spaces, social spaces and entertainment. Added to this is the Westside’s easy access to educational facilities, in particular Georgia Tech, which means that for developers, the sky is the limit. 

One developer that saw opportunity in the area is CrossStone Management, a firm that purchased several land parcels and is now looking to build retail, residential and commercial space. “I was attracted to the areas before Opportunity Zones were even discussed,” said the firm’s founder, Greg Todey, to Bisnow.

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://beltline.org/about/the-atlanta-beltline-project/atlanta-beltline-overview/

https://blankfoundation.org/

https://www.atlantaga.gov/residents/parks-recreation

http://www.banyanstreet.com/

Young Atlanta Forcing Real Estate Disruption

By Sara Warden

 

2 min read July 2019 — As demographics change, so does the way real estate is purchased. With a host of disruptive real estate companies entering Atlanta, such as Zillow, Redfin and Opendoor, all with their own added value, legacy real estate companies need to keep up.

 

Realogy, owner of Coldwell Banker, Century 21 Real Estate and Sotheby’s International Realty, has teamed up with none other than Amazon to tap into the younger generations and provide a new kind of real estate offering.

According to data from the 2017 American Community Survey carried out by the Census Bureau, Atlanta’s median age is 33.3 years. The largest demographic group is the 20-29 bracket, composing 21% of Atlanta’s residents, followed by the 30-39 group that makes up a further 17%. Only around 17% of the population of Atlanta is over 59 years old.

This is one reason why Amazon and Realogy chose Atlanta as one of the 15 cities to participate in the TurnKey service.

“Customers can be overwhelmed when moving, and we’re excited to be working with Realogy to offer homebuyers a simplified way to settle into a new home,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, said in a statement. “The Amazon Move-In Benefit will enable homebuyers to adapt the offering to their needs — from help assembling furniture, to assisting with smart home device set up, to a deep clean, and more.”

The Amazon Move-In Benefit refers to up to $5,000 in Amazon products that come free with the purchase of a home through the platform, depending on the value of the purchase. For Realogy, the partnership adds value to its brand – its stock price jumped 20% the day the alliance was announced after having fallen from $48/share to $6/share over the prior four years.

For Amazon, the investment is practically risk-free. Realogy shoulders the cost for the program, allowing Amazon to drive traffic to its Home Services division in exchange for Realogy’s access to Amazon’s powerful platform. “For Amazon, this is a free way to experiment with attracting customers,” wrote Brad Berning, an analyst at research company Craig-Hallum.

Other platforms also see the value in Atlanta. This month, Zillow ranked it fourth-best as a location for first-time homebuyers to invest in real estate and earlier this year announced it was looking to establish its regional headquarters for Zillow Offers in the city.

“The area checks a lot of our boxes in terms that it is a well-connected part of the region, easily-accessible, and the talent pool is strong for both real estate professionals and tech talent,” said Zillow spokesperson Viet Shelton in an interview with Hypepotamus. “It just makes a lot of sense for a venture like Zillow Offers, which is trying to redefine and make (the experience) incredibly seamless for the consumer.”

Zillow Offers, a similar concept to Atlanta-based startup Knock, aims to tap into the hassle-free aspect of moving house and simultaneously find a new home for those selling on the platform. Since it was established in 2017, Knock has raised $400 million in equity and debt funding as it aims to expand nationally based on its Atlanta success.

As the Atlanta seller’s market transitions to a buyer’s market, it seems Amazon, Zillow and the others have found the sweet spot in between that favors all kinds of investment. “Some real estate experts say that if you’re going to enter this market, 2019 is the year to get it done,” said digital media strategist Brandon Barker in a blogpost for Roofstock.

Atlanta Takes Novel Approach to Walkability

By Sara Warden

July 2019

2 min read July 2019 — Atlanta has not been known for its walkability. According to the Walk Score – a score that determines how pedestrian-friendly a city is – Atlanta ranks 21st among large US cities with a score of 49 out of 100. That is well below No. 1 New York City, which scored 89. But as the host of the 2019 Super Bowl earlier this year, the Georgia city took ownership of its connectivity issues and now has ambitious new plans.

 

Although most sports arenas are located a fair way outside a city’s core due to obvious space constraints, the 62,350-square-foot Mercedes-Benz Stadium is located just a 20-minute walk from downtown Atlanta. The stadium is within walking distance of 10,000-plus hotel rooms and 10 major attractions, which was a huge added value for the NFL when selecting its host city.

“One of the things that has made this Super Bowl special is just how walkable and compact this town is,” Peter O’Reilly, NFL senior vice president of events, told Saporta Report. “People are able to move so easily throughout the campus. It is as compact a Super Bowl campus as we have seen in recent years.”

But while the Super Bowl was a resounding success, Atlanta’s walkability is still a controversial topic. Problems plagued the Northside Drive pedestrian bridge, built specifically to safely connect the city’s downtown with the stadium. The bridge’s costs spiralled and ultimately, its usefulness was limited because it had to be closed to the general public during the Super Bowl due to safety concerns.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says she knows there is more opportunity. “We are getting better by the day,” she told Saporta Report. “While we haven’t always been considered a pedestrian-friendly city, whenever you have an event downtown, we have a walkable area.”

In April, the Atlanta City Council adopted a resolution to become a participating jurisdiction in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Centers Initiative feasibility study for the AeroATL Greenway Development Plan. The Atlanta mayor’s office pledged $20,000 to support the 1-mile pilot project, an amount that will be matched by each participating jurisdiction. The developers Aerotropolis Atlanta Community Improvement Districts (AACID) and Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance pledged $80,000. 

If all goes to plan, this will pave the way for a 48,000-acre greenway, which will cost anywhere between $100,000 to $5 million per mile, funded 70% by the government and 30% by the private sector.

“This initiative will begin the process of connecting the City of Atlanta to surrounding cities and the world’s busiest airport by way of greenway,” District 11 Councilwoman Marci Collier Overstreet said in a press release.

The plan will be interlinked with Atlanta’s Transportation Plan, adopted by the City Council in 2018, which prioritizes the construction of high-quality sidewalks and bike infrastructure to facilitate access to transportation, retail, and the community.

At the moment, the initiatives are in their infancy, but Atlanta increasingly is recognizing a need to connect in a more innovative way. Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world, with more than 107 million passengers in 2018, and with the Greenway Development Plan, it will soon be one of the most accessible by bike.

“The AeroATL Greenway Plan supports the ability to bike to schools or jobs, walk to downtown restaurants and shops, and – most uniquely – bike directly to the airport for a trip,” says the plan’s executive summary.

To find out more, visit the below:

City of Atlanta: https://www.atlantaga.gov/

Atlanta Regional Commission: https://atlantaregional.org/

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport: https://www.atl.com/

Atlanta’s health doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg

By staff writer

July 2019

As home to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta has healthcare written into its DNA. But until now, the city has focused more on control than prevention. After years of lackluster patient outcomes, Atlanta is beginning to recognize that prevention is healthier approach.

In 1990, Georgia ranked 43 among all 50 states in the America’s Health Rankings annual report. Over the years, the state has slowly climbed and in 2018 it held 39th place.

Although there is a way to go for Georgia as a whole, Atlanta is somewhat ahead of the curve. When compared to the rest of the state, metro Atlanta has some of the lowest Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) rates – the measure of premature death – even though the metro area has the fifth-largest population in the U.S. with 5.9 million residents.

In the same rankings, although metro Atlanta ranks moderately for “Outcomes” (how healthy people feel), it is has one of the lowest rankings for “Factors” (behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol and sedentary lifestyles). Although major cardiovascular diseases are the main cause of death in the state and region, Atlanta’s rates have been on the decline over the last 10 years.

“We have to get back to prevention,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, who previously served as chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, at the Health Journalism 2019 conference in Baltimore.

According to the Integrated Benefits Institute, a health research group that works with U.S. employers, poor worker-health costs amount to “60 cents for every dollar employers spend on healthcare benefits.”

Earlier this month, CVS announced an ambitious plan to open 1,500 HealthHUB stores by the end of 2021, with Atlanta named as one of its strategic locations. HealthHUBs combine a traditional CVS store layout with health services; in particular, focusing on preventive care, wellness activities and education and management of chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.

And employers are starting to see wellness costs as another business essential. The global wellness industry is now valued at $4.2 trillion – more than half of total health expenditure[CN1] , which comes in at $7.3 trillion.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle has even launched an award recognizing the Healthiest Employer. Atlanta-based Catalyst Fitness won the award in 2017 and says the key to improving a balance sheet lies in guaranteeing that staff are healthy, and that doesn’t always just mean providing an insurance plan.

“Regular exercise can significantly improve workplace health. Instances of absenteeism and staff turnover, low staff morale and reduced productivity can be alleviated with a corporate wellness program in Atlanta that energizes and motivates tired employees,” says the company on its website. “Boredom, repetitive motion injuries and workplace fatigue can only be combated with physical and mental stimulation.”

Another company founded in Atlanta is AMP Recover, which provides data that allows better outpatient care. “We have been pleasantly surprised by the burgeoning injury prevention and wellness market and love seeing providers and patients take a more proactive and preventative stance,” said CEO David Nichols in an interview with Hit Consultant magazine.

Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, told the Value-Based Care Summit hosted in Atlanta that the next step is tracking results. “We (now) have an opportunity to start documenting and cataloguing these cost savings,” Johnson said. “There are plenty of instances where we are saving a lot of money.”

Atlanta Creates Board to Boost Tech Growth, Connectivity

By staff writer

April 2019

Atlanta may be one of the nation’s leading technology hubs, but the city isn’t satisfied. Last week, it announced the formation of a Chief Information Advisory Board (CIAB) to take its tech industry to the next level while improving the city’s digital connections.

Leaders from public and private sectors who comprise the board will analyze the challenges facing Atlanta’s technology sector and overall digital connectivity. Members of the CIAB team include IT leaders from Delta Airlines, Georgia State University, Cox Enterprises, Equifax, Chick-fil-A, Southern Company, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Quikrete, Adams & Reese LLP and Atlanta Tech Village.

 “The Chief Information Officer Advisory Board will play a vital role in setting the strategic direction for innovation and technology now and in the future,” said Gary Brantley, the city’s chief information officer.  “We’re thrilled to partner with these senior executives within top companies whose deep experience will fuel our agenda and help shape the future of technology in the great city of Atlanta.”

Building the right ecosystem for a growing tech hub requires a community of entrepreneurs, tech-focused corporations and higher education institutions who can supply skilled workers. As they say, it takes a village, and Atlanta has created its own Atlanta Tech Village, the country’s fourth largest tech hub. And it’s tethered to a robust investment and business community.

The city’s goal is to create 10,000 jobs and fuel Atlanta’s rise to a top-5 U.S. tech start-up center. The Village facilitates connections between talent, ideas and capital. In addition to providing fully equipped office space, The Village offers daily interactions to spread ideas and collaboratively solve problems; mentors and advisors who guide participants through challenges; networking events and classes to create collaborations and pre-accelerator programs; discounts from partners like Google, Microsoft and Hubspot; pitch competitions; and access to talent that can help grow businesses and attract new customers.

Atlanta is also home to the BridgeCommunity, a platform developed by Coca-Cola that aims to accelerate the success of technology start-ups by connecting them to corporations, while supporting local entrepreneurship. In addition, those with ties to cybersecurity and machine learning have a robust accelerator program in Cyberlaunch.

Higher education opportunities for techies include programs at Georgia Tech and Emory University, designed to help students and non-students further their businesses and achieve greater success. They’re another critical component of the city’s high-tech plans.

“We are proud of the ever-growing tech hub Atlanta has created,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms upon announcing the new board. Its members, she said, “will serve as a great resource as we explore how we can continue to use technology in creative ways to improve our city and leverage our innovative local tech community.”

To learn more, please visit: https://www.business.org/business/startup/top-cities-for-entrepreneurs-and-startups/

Atlanta Chief Information Officer Advisory Board members include:

Eric Anderson, Egon Zehnder
David Cummings, Atlanta Tech Village
Cynthia Curry, Metro Atlanta Chamber
Martin Davis, Southern Company
Michael “Mike“ Ebrick, Chick-fil-A
Jay Ferro, Quikrete
Roy Hadley, Adams and Reese LLP
Bryson Koehler, Equifax
Danielle McPherson, Delta Airlines
Gregory Morrison, Cox Enterprises
Krishnakumar “KK“ Narayanan, Delta Air Lines
Phil Ventimiglia, Georgia State University
Tye Hayes, City of Atlanta

Atlanta’s Booming Entertainment Industry

By staff writer

March 2019

The entertainment industry is often very loyal to the areas that give birth to its craft. Nashville, for instance, is the birthplace of country music, while Detroit is the home of Motown. And the motion picture industry is no different.

From its black-and-white beginnings to the modern advancements of computer-generated imagery, the film and television industry centered in Hollywood, California is synonymous with all things visually entertaining. Yet recently, that industry has found new places in which to create its masterpieces.

Among the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the southern ridge of the Chattahoochee River is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas on the eastern seaboard — and a rising force in film and television. Besides a cultural heritage steeped in southern charm and the City of Atlanta’s diverse population, the area also has become a booming business and industrial zone.

With the average cost of creating a blockbuster surging to around $30 million, it’s no wonder investors are moving their projects to other places. And Atlanta has created everything from production companies and music studios to innovative educational opportunities meant to support the vibrant industry.  

Sensing the growing demand for cost-effective alternatives to the highly-taxed entertainment industries of California, Georgia took the initiative to create and pass the Entertainment Industry Investment Act in May of 2005. It gives a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend a minimum of $500,000 on production or post-production activities in Georgia — as well as an additional 10% credit if the finished project includes promotional material provided by the state.

This almost unheard-of financial nod to the entertainment industry not only has bolstered the area’s already-surging artistic vibe, but it has catapulted it to the top of the movie industry’s filming locations. In fact, in 2016 Georgia was the setting for more feature films than any other state.

The state of Georgia saw such massive growth in the film industry after the passage of the act that, in 2017, the Georgia Music Partners (GMP) successfully lobbied for a version of their own. The resulting Georgia Music Investment Act, which came into effect in January 2018, offers a tax credit equal to 15 percent of a music production company’s qualified production expenditure. While it’s too early to tell whether the act will have the same kind of ripple effect, proponents are hopeful that the music scene will follow suit.

Following the passage of these two incentives, colleges and universities have scrambled to create a workforce that’s both knowledgeable and invested in the entertainment business. Clayton State University, for example, has created several programs focused on developing behind-the-scenes talent.

Tim Hynes, president of Clayton State, said he has already seen his university’s investment in the film and music industry pay off.

“Eighty-six percent of our graduates stay within Georgia’s state lines after graduation, giving us an advantage in cultivating long-term partnerships with local film and television production companies,” he said. “From these partnerships, we’ve been able to establish scholarship programs for our film production students.”

Partly as a result of the state’s enthusiastic support of the film and music industries, Atlanta’s economic growth has been robust. In 2017, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced that the combined revenue created from these two industries produced a whopping $9.5 billion windfall in that one year alone.

Affordable Living

By staff writer

March 2019

By Urban Land Institute Atlanta estimates, the Metro Atlanta region needs 5,000 new units of affordable housing annually just to accommodate the area’s growth and 10,000 homes annually to start mitigating the affordability problem. To really solve the problem, it’s estimated that the area would need about 250 million units per year over a 10-year period, which is equivalent to a $2.3 billion investment to preserve and produce affordable units at this scale.

While not quite on that level, in January 2019 Invest Atlanta and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms approved millions of dollars of funding for three new affordable housing projects along one of Atlanta’s most important emerging commercial corridors and in the Westside neighborhoods of Vine City and English Avenue.

The first project, CityPlace, received a loan of $1 million from the Vine City Housing Trust Fund, which will allow developer Place Properties to build five new single-family residences with price tags ranging from $135,000 to $160,000. The second project, Urban Oasis, secured financing of $250,000, also from the Vine City Housing Trust Fund. Sims Real Estate Group plans to renovate three old homes and build a fourth in this community. The renovated homes will be available to families who earn 80 percent area median income (AMI) or below, while the new home will be offered for sale to families earning 100 to 120 percent AMI.

The third project is a 130-unit multifamily development, Hartland Station, that was approved for up to $1.3 million in pay-as-you-go grant funding from the Metropolitan Parkway tax allocation district. This development will offer 40 units for families earning 50 percent AMI and below and 70 units to those earning 60 percent AMI or below.

These three new developments underscore the efforts of the mayor and the city’s economic development arm to bring more affordability to Metro Atlanta. It’s an issue that city leaders don’t take lightly. When our team at Focus: Atlanta sat down with Mayor Bottoms last year, she pointed to several important initiatives designed to broaden the conversation about affordable housing.

“We named the city’s first-ever chief housing officer, Terri Lee, whose singular focus is developing a citywide affordability strategy, including coordinating policy initiatives with our agencies and partners and helping us reach our $1 billion affordable housing investment goal,” Mayor Bottoms told Focus:. “We also brought together our planning department, the head of the Atlanta Housing Authority, the head of Invest Atlanta and the head of the BeltLine, and what we learned is that a conversation with those leaders around the table had never happened in our city. I think this really speaks to how much work needs to be done.”

There’s no question that the affordability issue will take more than just conversations to effect real change. “Affordable housing is a passion of mine, and it’s probably a bigger problem today than it was a year ago,” Matthew Shulman, CEO and managing partner at Ardent Companies, told Focus:. “Projects like the Gulch are planning on 20 percent affordable housing, and it would be great to see a lot of development going that way. I’m hoping there can be more engagement between the public and private sectors to solve the issue of affordable housing.”

In the spirit of public-private collaboration, in January 2018 the public-private taskforce HouseATL was launched to promote a collaborative, cross-sector process for expanding the supply of affordable housing in the region. In August of last year, HouseATL set a goal of investing $500 million in public resources and another $500 million in private resources to build or preserve 24,000 affordable homes in Atlanta over the next eight to 10 years.

Some metro area residential builders are also stepping up to the plate to provide housing options at affordable price points to Atlanta residents. “We’re really excited to reintroduce the Centex brand in Metro Atlanta,” Will Cutler, Georgia Division president at PulteGroup, told Focus:. “It has not been a part of this market for about six years or so. Our newest community in South Fulton County, Princeton Village, is opening up as we speak. Centex is focused on the first-time buyer who is very conscious about price point. Many first-time buyers walk through the front door and truly don’t understand what it means to be able to buy a house. Can they afford it? That’s where the strength of the Centex brand comes into play. A lot of teachers and police officers have a hard time finding affordable homes in the Atlanta market right now, so we think it’s important to make sure that we focus on delivering a quality home that is consumer inspired to that buyer. We’re excited to bring that into this market again.”

The BeltLine could also be welcoming new below-market-rate housing as early as the summer of 2019. The Madison Reynoldstown development includes plans to set aside 116 apartments for affordable housing. This project would be the first in a private partnership between Atlanta Housing and the BeltLine.

Atlanta has a long way to go to ensure affordability and quality of life for its residents, but leaders in both the public and private sectors are taking important steps toward providing viable housing options to all. Focus: Atlanta will be keeping a close eye on these developments throughout 2019.

For more information on our interviewees, please visit their websites:

City of Atlanta: https://www.atlantaga.gov/

The Ardent Companies: https://theardentcompanies.com/

PulteGroup: http://www.pultegroupinc.com/home/default.aspx

 

Digital Transformation

By staff writer

February 2019

Esports is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and Atlanta is quickly becoming a southeastern hub. In 2017, the video game industry had a more than $750 million economic impact in Georgia, and global revenue in 2019 is expected to reach $1 billion. Georgia is currently home to more than 75 gaming companies, including Hi-Rez Studios, based in Alpharetta. Part of the reason for the industry’s staggering growth is its overwhelming appeal to younger generations.

Atlanta will soon welcome its own Overwatch League team. Until this year, the LA-based league hasn’t moved out of its hometown to host games, but the 2019 season will begin in Dallas, TX, in April and then move to Atlanta in July. Atlanta’s first-ever esports teams, dubbed the Atlanta Reign, was purchased last summer through a joint venture by consulting firm Province, Inc. and Cox Enterprises, which together formed Atlanta Esports Ventures.

“[Esports] is outpacing any other sport — traditional or not — by a wide margin,” Paul Hamilton, president and CEO of Atlanta Esports Ventures, told Atlanta magazine. “You’re seeing a huge number of eyes in a demographic that, traditionally, has been hard to reach.”

The Overwatch League copies the format of professional sports leagues and franchises teams by city, providing fans with a home team to route for. The league has a preseason, a regular season, an all-star break and playoffs, just like traditional sports leagues. There are codes of conduct for players and coaches, skilled announcers, loyal fans and primetime spots on television. The league also attracts sponsorships and doles out prize money. In fact, in 2018 the prize pool was a staggering $3.5 million.

Atlanta’s leading gaming proprietors are bullish about the growth potential of the industry and the viable investment opportunity it offers to businesses. The metro area’s higher education institutions are also supporting the industry. For example, in the fall of 2017 Georgia State University launched an esports program, which helps students make the necessary connections to start careers in the industry. And it goes far beyond just being a gamer, including areas like social media management, esports reporting, event management, game testing, team coaching, business strategy, broadcasting and more. In fact, of the program’s inaugural 350 students, only 20 percent had an interest in competing.

In 2019, Hi-Rez Studios co-founder and COO Todd Harris has plans to host SMITE and Paladins Pro League regular-season games at its gaming production studio, Skillshot Media. These games are expected to attract more than 100 professional esports players to the Metro Atlanta area. This follows the November 2018 SMITE and Paladins World Championship, which was held during the first eSports Week at global gaming festival Dreamhack Atlanta. The events spanned three days, attracting more than 31,000 spectators, while another 10 million watched online.

The global esports industry continues to see significant year-over-year growth, generating a tremendous impact for both businesses and post-graduate talent and contributing significantly to Georgia’s economy. And Atlanta is at the heart of it all. Focus: Atlanta will be keeping an eye on this exciting digital transformation in 2019 and beyond!

 

Booming Blooms

By staff writer

February 2019

More people visit public gardens annually in America (78 million) than visit Las Vegas (48 million) or Disneyland (11 million) and Disneyworld (11 million) combined. This is great news for Atlanta, whose garden tourism industry has been blossoming in the past few years.

Metro Atlanta is home to a number of beautiful gardens, including the Atlanta History Center Goizueta Gardens, Callaway Resort and Gardens, Dunaway Gardens, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and Gibbs Gardens.

 

“We’re going to be doing a lot with our gardens in 2019,” Sheffield Hale, CEO of the Atlanta History Center, told Focus: Atlanta when he sat down with our team last year. “A lot is going to open. That’s a whole other focus that people don’t even know about: our 22 acres of gardens.”

The 33 acres that comprise the Atlanta History Center campus are home to six historic gardens, each of which represents a period in Georgia’s history, from its pre-colonial settlement to the 1930s. Visitors can spend hours — or even days — exploring the enchanting gardens, woodlands and trails.

According to USA Today, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is one of the top 10 best botanical gardens in the U.S. The garden occupies a 30-acre site dedicated solely to the care and enjoyment of a variety of plants and flowers. Its 200,000 annual visitors in 2010 more than doubled to 500,000 in 2017, underscoring the growing popularity of these green attractions.

Barnsley Resort directly incorporates gardens and hospitality by connecting travelers to nature and an outdoor lifestyle. More than 3,000 acres in size, the resort offers countless hands-on learning experiences in its beautiful gardens and takes advantage of the boom in garden tourism. In fact, the attraction opened a new 55-room inn and 9,000-square-foot event space called Georgian Hall in early 2018.

The City of Atlanta has also taken note of the emerging garden tourism industry. In May 2018, the Atlanta City Council approved a $100 million expansion project within Piedmont Park that includes the botanical gardens. According to a press release from the City of Atlanta, “The expansion project will include a connection to the Atlanta BeltLine, improved pedestrian trails and access to Piedmont Park, additional open greenspace and forested land.” Piedmont is one of the most visited parks in Atlanta, and this expansion is sure to attract even more visitors.

While it’s difficult to measure the economic impact of garden tourism, there’s no doubt that visitors who come to tour Atlanta’s parks and gardens contribute significantly to the local economy. And it’s more than just at hotels, restaurants and shops but also at the metro area’s diverse offerings of cultural organizations. In fact, one research study found that the single most common denominator among cultural tourists was an interest in gardening. This is one blooming industry that Focus: Atlanta will be keeping an eye on as we move into 2019!

For more information on our interviewee, visit http://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/.