Bleakly Advisory Group Data Helps Direct Gwinnett 2040 Unified Plan

Gwinnett County is developing a Unified Plan for 2040 to prepare for the enormous population growth projected in the county. In the next 22 years, Gwinnett's population will swell to approximately 1.5 million residents, making it the most populous county in Georgia. The Unified Plan grapples with how the County will accommodate all of those people in the diverse communities and cities in Gwinnett. Data gathered by Pond and the Bleakly Advisory Group showed stark differences in opinions about the future of the County, whether it should take a more urban form or preserve its traditional rural roots--32% in favor or urbanizing while 63% prefer Gwinnett's current suburban model.

The Unified Plan is also being framed as a guide for how to handle the County's shifting economic and employment base. Data compiled by Bleakly Advisory Group showed that while the Northern part of Gwinnett County saw employment grow nearly 20% over its pre-Recession peak, Southwestern Gwinnett's employment lagged 16.5% behind pre-Recession peaks. The industries with greatest projected growth in the County are Construction, Educational Services, Health Care and Social Assistance, and Public Administration.

 Source: Atlanta Regional Commission, Bleakly Advisory Group.

Source: Atlanta Regional Commission, Bleakly Advisory Group.

Retail Trade, the County's largest sector by far in 2015 with over 51,000 jobs, is projected to grow much more slowly over the next 22 years than it has historically, a sign of the changing retail landscape in Gwinnett and across the US. "We have incredible parts of our county, but we've really kind of gone all in on retail in some communities," said Pond Senior Project Manager Eric Lusher. "We're probably going to have to make some hard decisions about the Mall of Georgia area."

To read more about Gwinnett's 2040 Unified Plan, click here.

Bleakly Advisory Provides Key Insights for Atlanta Affordability Task Force

At a recent meeting of the Atlanta Regional Housing Task Force, Urban Land Institute (ULI) Atlanta's Executive Director, Sarah Kirsch, shared insights and results of research on Atlanta's growing housing affordability needs. The research, conducted by Bleakly Advisory Group, highlights the increasing demand for affordable, workforce housing in not just the City of Atlanta, but across the region. It also illustrates the stagnation in incomes compared to the prices of new homes and rental properties, with median income increasing only 1% per year from 2010 to 2015 while new homes jumped 3.7% year over year. Simultaneously, apartments built before 2012 increased by 4.5% per year, but apartments built since 2012 surged 9.5% year over year. According to our research, only 10% of new apartments in the five-county study area (Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, and Cobb) are considered affordable for a household earning 80% AMI (annual median income), renting for $1,000 or less per month.

 Rents in Metro Atlanta, particularly in new rental stock, have risen steadily since 2013. Source: Bleakly Advisory Group.

Rents in Metro Atlanta, particularly in new rental stock, have risen steadily since 2013. Source: Bleakly Advisory Group.

Bleakly Advisory's research also shows how affordable housing is connected to transportation costs, noting that moderate income households in the region spend 62% of their income on housing and transportation combined. As affordable housing options are increasingly located further away from economic centers in the region, transportation costs and commute times climb. Per the ULI report: "Lack of transit access to job centers means long, expensive commutes, which drive up transportation costs for moderate income working households and increases congestion and commute times for everyone." Further strategies for increasing housing affordability in the Atlanta region need to include alternative transportation and denser development around transit, as Bleakly Advisory Group reported in 2012, if affordability efforts are to succeed.

 Demand for affordable housing is high now, but will only continue to grow. Source: Bleakly Advisory Group.

Demand for affordable housing is high now, but will only continue to grow. Source: Bleakly Advisory Group.

There are many strategies for mitigating rising housing costs, including Inclusionary Zoning, which the Atlanta City Council adopted early in 2018 for neighborhoods within half a mile of the Atlanta BeltLine and on the city's Westside. While inclusionary zoning has not spread beyond the City of Atlanta, Councilmember Andre Dickens is optimistic that it will. "Housing challenges are regional, and when we create a policy in the City of Atlanta, we want to be able to share it across the region. ARC is helping us do that."

Other strategies in our research include affordable unit subsidies, down payment assistance, tax-allocation districts (TAD's) specifically to support affordable housing funds, and bond programs for affordable housing production in the region's five core-counties. To read more about our research and estimated costs of these strategies, click here.

Geoff Koski & Ken Bleakly Join Consultants, Design Professionals in Brunswick for CNU Charrette

Bleakly Advisory Group's President, Geoff Koski, and founder, Ken Bleakly, participated in workshops in Brunswick, GA at the beginning of March hosted by the City of Brunswick and the Congress for the New Urbanism. The workshops engaged Brunswick residents about the challenges and potentials for revitalizing the Norwich Street corridor, and gave context to recommendations by the consulting team.

 Map of the proposed nodes of focus from the charrette. Source: CNU Savannah.

Map of the proposed nodes of focus from the charrette. Source: CNU Savannah.

These recommendations focused on adding more affordable housing along the corridor, repurposing existing vacant structures, and identifying commercial spaces where businesses could potentially prosper. Unifying all of these recommendations is a re-design of Norwich Street to add more trees, connected sidewalks, and a separated cycle-track. This new cycling and pedestrian infrastructure would better link Downtown Brunswick to the College of Coastal Georgia to the North and Selden Park to the Northwest, crucial connections for successful revitalization downtown.

 Potential road re-design for Norwich Street. Source: CNU Savannah.

Potential road re-design for Norwich Street. Source: CNU Savannah.

 Conceptual drawing of a re-designed Norwich Street. Source: CNU Savannah.

Conceptual drawing of a re-designed Norwich Street. Source: CNU Savannah.

In addition to CNU and the Bleakly Advisory Group, the consulting team consisted of Kronberg Wall Architects and the Georgia Conservancy from Atlanta, and Symbiocity, a Savannah-based firm, among others. CNU Conducts these workshops each year in advance of its annual Congress, held this year in Savannah. Bleakly Advisory Group received a coveted Charter Award last year at CNU 25 in Seattle for our work on the Westside Land-Use Action Plan. CNU 26 in Savannah will run from May 16th-19th.

Welcoming Sara Patenaude

SaraBWSq.png

We are happy to welcome Sara Patenaude as the newest member of the Bleakly Advisory Group. Sara has been working with us on a part-time basis since August of 2017.

Prior to joining with Bleakly, Sara was an Economic Development Specialist with the City of Hapeville, where she gained experience with municipal affairs, budgetary analysis, research, and public involvement. 

Sara earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and English from Northern Kentucky University before earning her Master's in History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She then was selected as an Urban Fellow with the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth at the Georgia State University College of Law. Sara is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Georgia State University, where she is in the final stages of a dissertation analyzing public housing planning, policy, and implementation in twentieth-century Baltimore.  She is also earning a graduate certificate in Planning and Economic Development through GSU’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. 

Sara’s background and skill set is both broad and focused in just the right areas to for her to fit in perfectly as part of the Bleakly Advisory Team. We are glad she is here.

From the Founder: Gwinnett Place CID, The Economic Engine of Gwinnett County

This article was originally published on the blog of the Gwinnett Place CID

The Gwinnett Place CID area has been the commercial heart of Gwinnett County since its creation in the 1980's and 1990's. Since that time, it has seen many changes with new businesses coming and going, new infrastructure and many demographic shifts. Given these changes, Gwinnett Place CID’s board wanted to know, just how much is area is contributing to Gwinnett County’s economy. 

In the summer of 2017, they commissioned an analysis from our firm to better understand the economic impacts of the area. An economic impact analysis measures the economic activity occurring in an area from a wide variety of perspectives:

  • What do businesses contribute to the local economy?
  • How many people work in the area, in what types of businesses and what do they earn?
  • How many visitors come to an area and what do they spend during their visit?
  • How much tax revenue is generated for local governments from the economic activity in the area?
  • What is the total economic impact of the area in terms of the direct spending by businesses, residents and visitors and what are the indirect economic effects from additional rounds of spending by employees, residents and visitors and the goods and services purchased by local businesses in the Gwinnett economy?

All these elements together equal the total economic impact of the area.

From our research, we learned that the Gwinnett Place CID is a major economic engine for Gwinnett County from a wide range of perspectives. The area represents only 1 percent of the land area of Gwinnett County, yet it has over 13.3 million square feet of commercial development, the largest concentration in the County. Of that total, 7.8 million is retail space. In terms of office space, 23 percent of the County’s Class A office space is in Gwinnett Place. 

All of this commercial development results in 24,500 people who are employed in the area, 7 percent of all jobs in the County, and, contrary to the general belief, those jobs are not all in retail, with only 24 percent in that sector. Jobs in finance, insurance, management, professional and technical fields are well represented—in fact, many of the “premium jobs” in the County are located in Gwinnett Place.

Gwinnett Place has long been known as a retail destination, with more than $1.1 billion in retail sales annually, most of which comes from demand from outside the immediate market area. Restaurants are a major component of the retail sector with more than 170 restaurants offering a world-spanning range of cuisines and dining options.

The area’s 18 hotels attract over 542,000 room nights and $59 million in hospitality revenue annually.

The direct economic impact from Gwinnett Place area is $4.5 billion annually. This stimulates an additional $5.0 billion in economic activity in the Georgia economy for a total economic impact — direct and indirect — of $9.5 billion annually, making Gwinnett Place The Economic Engine of the County.

Another important contribution of Gwinnett Place is the taxes it generates to support Gwinnett County and the Gwinnett County School System. Gwinnett Place generates almost $55 million in property, sales, and hotel taxes to Gwinnett County and the School System annually. It costs the County and School System approximately $18.5 million to service the needs of residents, businesses and employees in the area. As a result, Gwinnett Place is generating a substantial annual surplus in local governmental revenues of more than $36 million per year. The County uses these revenues to support service delivery and education costs in other parts of Gwinnett County. 

Again, considering that Gwinnett Place is only 1 percent of the land area of Gwinnett County, the amount of economic activity that is generated annually from this area is most impressive.  And as redevelopment and economic growth occurs over the coming decade, the economic impact of Gwinnett Place will grow substantially from its impressive economic base.

Hopefully, this overview has given you a flavor of the many dimensions of the Gwinnett Place economy. If you would like to learn more about our firm, please visit our website at blagroup.com.  If you have any questions about this analysis, please contact Jonathan Gelber at jonathan@blagroup.com. If you’re interested in redevelopment opportunities in Gwinnett Place, contact Joe Allen at jallen@gwinnettplacecid.com.

 

 Ken Bleakly, Founder of the Bleakly Advisory Group

Ken Bleakly, Founder of the Bleakly Advisory Group

Season's Greetings from Bleakly Advisory Group

ATL Snow BAG Card@0,75x.png

At the end of each year, we like to reflect on the Atlanta region’s real estate and economic development trends that shaped our work over the past 12 months and share our insights with our close clients and friends. Before we dig into the trends, we would like to THANK YOU for being a friend of Bleakly Advisory Group as we move into our 17th year in business.

2017 was another great year for the metro Atlanta region. If 2018 is anything like it, the best is yet to come. The past year saw a continuation of quality growth trends in Atlanta, as the region maintains its position as one of America’s hotbeds for innovation in business, technology, and transportation, entertainment, as well as real estate development.

 Bustling Downtown Duluth

Bustling Downtown Duluth

While the region’s residents and companies continue to rediscover and strengthen the urban core, development momentum is not confined to the Atlanta city limits. Outlying areas are also in the midst of expansion and growth, as suburban downtowns and town centers across the region continue to reinvent themselves for new generations of Georgians seeking urban amenities outside of the regional urban core.

Since 2010, the Atlanta region added over 550,000 residents and over 170,000 new housing units—30,000 in 2017 alone. Since 2012, a third of those new units were multifamily, reflecting the persistent demand for modern, more urban housing stock, driven by Millennials as well as downsizing Baby Boomers.

The trend of mixed-use, walkable multifamily developments has not yet run its course and continues to grow. The next trend in the region, and nationally, is to find out how to make homeowners out of those Millennials with more affordable, diverse housing products.

The Atlanta region’s population and household growth is driven largely by dynamic employment growth. Since 2010 we’ve added almost 700,000 new jobs -- effectively adding as many jobs in seven years as the total number of jobs in the entire Raleigh, NC region. By winning fierce economic development battles with our peers in nearby states, we fortify our position as the undisputed capital and hub city of South.

To paraphrase: Atlanta still has something to say. Energetic new college graduates, as well as seasoned industry veterans, continue to set their sights on Atlanta as a land of opportunity for professional and personal growth. Increasingly, our region is the location of choice to make an impact on the world. Which makes us wonder - is anyone in Seattle taking note?

05Y7071s-Atlanta-GA-Skyline-at-Dusk.jpg

2017 saw the introduction or progression of many large, ambitious ideas that will fundamentally change the city and region. From plans for massive redevelopment in the Gulch and South Downtown, transformational vision of Summerhill at the Turner Field redevelopment, to the Battery in Cobb County, booming development along Memorial Drive, and a brand new town center in Alpharetta, growth and development continues at a staggering pace. The opening of more of the Atlanta BeltLine promises to bring about a continued improvement in the quality of life for Atlantans. It has become a model for the nation: investment goes in, magic begins. Moreover, the promise of further equitable development got a boost in 2017 with the city’s introduction of an inclusionary zoning provision along the BeltLine.

With Georgia's burgeoning film industry, Midtown's internationally acclaimed tech boom, and the city's changing skyline. We're confident that the growth trends will only continue in 2018 and beyond.

Bleakly Advisory Group had the privilege of working on a variety of incredibly impactful assignments in 2017. Our work for Central Atlanta Progress on the Downtown real estate market analysis was essential to the recently-approved Downtown Atlanta Master Plan, which will guide growth, investment, and development downtown for the next 15 years. Additionally, our retail market analysis for the Westside Future Fund’s Land Use Action Plan helped to get that plan ratified recently. We spent many fulfilling hours at community meetings in neighborhoods such as English Avenue and Vine City, ensuring that our work aligned with the community’s vision. Our work on Atlanta’s Westside with renowned urbanist Dhiru Thandani helped us bring home a coveted Charter Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism in May.

We also worked with many developers in the private sector to find creative solutions and products to fit the region's growing demands. Nevertheless, more must be done to meet the affordability needs of the region. In 2017, Bleakly Advisory Group assisted several organizations including the Urban Land Institute, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., and Enterprise Community Partners to turn the market towards a more inclusive, affordable Atlanta. We look forward to welcoming a new mayor, Keisha Lance-Bottoms, as she continues to make affordability a key priority and seizes the many opportunities that the city has to address this vital concern.

 Douglasville's historic town center

Douglasville's historic town center

As Atlanta changes, so too are smaller cities throughout the region changing in their own ways, often rediscovering the value of their historic downtowns and leveraging their town centers for future growth. Bleakly worked with over 20 different initiatives to redevelop these downtowns and commercial corridors into the kind of more walkable, urban places that are in high demand throughout the region. We are particularly proud of our continuing work in helping numerous Georgia cities with creating and using various economic development tools, including tax allocation districts.

2017 was without a doubt one of the busiest years in the Bleakly Advisory Group's 16-year history. Geoff Koski advanced to President, working with Ken Bleakly to continue the legacy of expertise and knowledge the firm is known for. After 10 years in Sandy Springs, we moved our office to Midtown, putting us closer to the action, and many of our colleagues and friends in the industry. Our work has often transitioned from our traditional consulting role to other development services like implementing developer agreements, which in the case of the city of Duluth resulted in around $50 million in investment. Additionally, we have expanded our market reach, with major assignments in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. We also welcomed two new research assistants, Sara Patenaude and Candler Vinson to the team.

All signs point to 2018 being another very productive year. We’re off to an early start; we are underway in developing comprehensive plans for both Gwinnett County and the City of Rome/Floyd County, as well as an exciting mixed-use market analysis for a key infill property in Greenville, SC. As the Atlanta region, and the Southeast continue to grow, we hope you have a wonderful rest of 2017 and we look forward to working with you in the new year.