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it’ll have to be a slow organic movement. there are already many ongoing and planned construction projects to better connect the city and improve density in major metro areas like Midtown, Downtown, and Buckhead. Streetcar investments should alleviate traffic and already there is a trend for youth to move into more urban areas. the in-town condo market in Atlanta is growing at a breakneck pace.
However, Atlanta is not like Detroit where it will retract into the center. the MARTA routes and freeways connect urban centers which are entirely separate and distinct from each other. Sandy Springs, Decatur, Buckhead, Norcross, Marietta, and many other urban centers inside the perimeter (Interstate 285 loops around the city) are too spread out to form any sort of traditional urban center.
What I see happening is MARTA will continue to connect these urban centers, like urban islands in a suburban sea, and local transit combined with urbanizing trends in the younger generations will improve urban density in these urban centers. We will get not one city, but a network of urban regions with varying size, cost, and culture.
What will be the driving force behind this trend? traffic. Atlantans, especially young professionals, hate the 1-2 hour commutes to work. We abandoned streetcars and urban planning for cars and freeways in the 40’s, but the growth has made our current system inefficient and frustrating. there are other factors, like the proximity too amenities and environmental consciousness that will drive the your to greater density, but Atlanta’s traffic problem is the biggest cause for responsible re-development.