By Sean O’Toole
Transit-oriented development (TOD) is gaining popularity across America. TOD seeks to promote more walkable communities by mixing housing, office, retail and recreation space and situating it all within a half-mile of public transportation. The benefits of this kind of development are swift and pronounced. More walkable neighborhoods can lead to healthier and more community-minded residents. TOD also helps with environmental conservation by increasing public transit ridership and reducing the number of cars on the road, which simultaneously reduces traffic congestion. That last benefit is especially attractive in cities like Atlanta with a history of bad traffic.
Since 2017, Atlanta has seen delivery of 1.1 million square feet of office space located within a half mile of a MARTA station. In addition, the multifamily market within a half mile of a MARTA station experienced 68 percent growth in inventory from 2008 to 2017, compared to 19 percent in Metro Atlanta not in proximity to MARTA. With TOD on the rise, Atlantans are seeing more housing options near public transportation, and MARTA is simultaneously building its user base.
“You see transit-oriented development from the influx of Midtown, Downtown and Buckhead areas that have stations,” Arnie Silverman, president of Silverman Construction Program Management, told Focus: Atlanta when he sat down with our team in 2018. “I recently spoke to a business owner who plans to move his office so it can be next to a MARTA station in order to attract millennials.”
MARTA’s first TOD project was the Lindbergh Station, a mixed-use marvel consisting of housing, retail space and public transportation amenities that was completed about 20 years ago. Today, MARTA seeks to expand the city’s TOD footprint with even more such projects that will change Atlanta for the better in numerous ways. For one, more TOD is likely to have a positive impact on fare revenue and new ridership, which is not only good for MARTA but will also help to alleviate congestion and carbon emissions throughout the metro area. In addition, MARTA has vowed to use its TOD projects to eliminate eyesores like abandoned parking lots by turning them into vibrant, mixed-use communities. This type of development will complement other community-oriented projects already underway in Atlanta, such as the BeltLine, which aim to make the city a more interwoven, walkable community.
“A great example of transit-centric growth is the State Farm development,” Jeff Parker, CEO and general manager of MARTA, told Focus:. “Then NCR relocated and wanted to be on a MARTA stop. We have a great opportunity to provide good connectivity between businesses that want to relocate or expand in a vibrant place like Atlanta and grow with the city.”
MARTA currently has six TOD projects in the works, and although all of them are still in the construction or planning phases, a few are nearing the completion of their first stages of development. These projects are the Chamblee Station, Avondale Station, Edgewood/Candler Park Station, Arts Center Station, King Memorial Station and upgrades to Lindbergh Center Station. All of these stations will include an innovative mix of office, commercial, residential and green space and will further MARTA’s goal of upping ridership while lowering congestion.
In October 2018, Invest Atlanta announced the launch of the city’s first-ever TOD fund — at a total of $15 million — designed to provide affordable capital to support the acquisition and pre-development of workforce housing near MARTA stations and other modes of public transit. Nearly 70 percent of Metro Atlanta’s residents commute to a different county for work every day, and reducing both travel time and cost could save these commuters close to $1,000 annually.
“If we want to make the biggest impact on people’s lives,” Eloisa Klementich, CEO of Invest Atlanta, told Focus:, “we need to lower their costs of transportation and housing. We are investing in transit-oriented development opportunities with the goal of increasing people’s ability to live in this beautiful city.”
With cities like College Park considering transit-oriented zoning and MARTA’s board of directors recently giving the greenlight to a more than $2.5 billion transit expansion, we’re sure to see more TOD projects cropping up across the metro area in 2019 and beyond. Focus: Atlanta will be keeping a close eye on the developments!
For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:
Silverman Construction Program Management: https://silvermancpm.com/
Invest Atlanta: https://www.investatlanta.com/