In Dunwoody, Development a No-Go

 Gary Mongeon, Senior Vice President at Bleakly Advisory Group, addressing the audience on August 23rd, 2018. Source: Reporter Newspapers.

Gary Mongeon, Senior Vice President at Bleakly Advisory Group, addressing the audience on August 23rd, 2018. Source: Reporter Newspapers.

Gary Mongeon, Senior Vice President, delivered a presentation last month to City of Dunwoody officials and residents on the feasibility of proposed redevelopment along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. The conclusion, Mongeon said, was that redevelopment without formation of a public/private partnership with $10 to $20 million invested, which City Councilmember Jim Riticher believes the Council is unlikely to do, is infeasible and unlikely. Bleakly Advisory's market research supported this conclusion. Per Reporter Newspapers;

Gary Mongeon with Bleakly Advisory Group said at an Aug. 23 meeting on the PIB Study that the market study conducted by his group shows the land in the study area is valued at approximately $1.1 million per acre and that it would take more than $200 million to simply assemble the apartment complexes included in the area.

Within the Study area, there are 2,023 apartments across 188 acres, an average of 11 units per acre. While these apartments are predominantly blue collar, collectively they still generate an estimated annual income of $26.2 million, according to the Bleakly Advisory study. City Councilmember Tom Lambert said that "Now that we know redevelopment probably won't happen, we are turning our focus on other improvements, such as trails, better lighting, and better infrastructure in the area."

New Doctor Who? Congratulations to Dr. Sara Patenaude, PhD!

It is my great pleasure to congratulate Dr. Sara Patenaude on obtaining her PhD in History from Georgia State University! In addition to her involvement as a member of the Bleakly team since August 2017, Sara has simultaneously worked tirelessly in her studies of urban history, public policy, and city planning. Her dissertation, "The False Promise of Individual Choice: Residential Segregation and Policy Discourse in Baltimore Public Housing, 1940-1970," examines the ways a policy emphasis on individual choice prevented the meaningful desegregation of Baltimore's public housing and investigates the interplay between federal policy makers and local elected leaders and civil servants at the intersections of politics, public policy, and city planning.

Sara has become an integral component of Bleakly Advisory and the expertise she brings to the Group adds another level of analysis to our capabilities. We are lucky and proud to have her on the team. Congrats, Sara!

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Sara Patenaude on BeltLine, Economic Impacts, and Equity at APA 2018

 Sara with her fellow presenters at APA in New Orleans, April 2018.

Sara with her fellow presenters at APA in New Orleans, April 2018.

In April, Bleakly Advisory Consultant Sara Patenaude presented to a standing-room-only crowd at the 2018 American Planning Association National Conference. As part of the panel “Harnessing Gentrification’s Momentum towards Social Impact,” Sara presented on the opportunities and challenges resulting from the Atlanta BeltLine’s impact on nearby commercial and residential real estate. The BeltLine, which has proved a catalyst for approximately $500 million in public/private investment and $4.1 billion in private development has also sparked an intown resurgence and resulting rapid increase in home values and prices.

While private development nearby the Atlanta BeltLine has boomed, intentions for affordable housing development have thus far largely fallen short. Sara discussed the potential that other cities have to use publicly-financed amenities open to the public to revitalize neighborhoods, and lessons to be learned from the Atlanta experience to develop affordable housing to make sure such amenities remain accessible to all.

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Geoff Koski, Bleakly Advisory Group On Atlanta's Affordability Crisis

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Last month, Bleakly Advisory President Geoff Koski presented on the challenges of housing affordability in the Atlanta region at the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum. Based on research Bleakly Advisory Group conducted on behalf of the Urban Land Institute, Geoff laid out three major factors that led to the current housing crisis.

1) Job growth in the Atlanta region outpaced housing growth by more than 3:1 annually during the past three years. Beginning in 2014, the Atlanta region began adding significantly more jobs than housing units, 75,000 jobs compared to 20,000 housing units on average annually. "One of our competitive advantages, as a region, was its affordability... That's why Atlanta was able to win," Geoff said. "But we risk losing all of that," if the region loses affordable housing where people want to live.

2) The little housing stock that has been built in recent years, particularly multi-family housing, has almost entirely consisted of luxury housing, out of the range of what most living in the region consider affordable. "The lack of supply and growing demand... Prices go up, it's just that simple," Geoff stated. Bleakly Advisory figured this by looking at the costs needed for a household earning 80% of the average median household income (AMI) that spend more than 30% of household income on housing costs/rent.

One of our competitive advantages, as a region, was its affordability, but we risk losing all of that.

3) Restrictive regulations and zoning across the region limit the types and quantities of housing units developers can build, driving the housing shortage. "We have restrictive zoning and development policies that make it difficult to develop in the City of Atlanta and elsewhere," Geoff explained. "We don't have the right development policies. They are hurting us." This limit increases housing costs, sending middle- and lower-income households to the margins of the region to find affordable housing. Geoff calls this the "drive till you qualify" dilemma for residents; people will find affordable housing on the outskirts of the region only to have housing savings offset by driving costs and time.

The Atlanta Regional Housing Forum that Geoff spoke at on June 6th was covered by multiple articles on the Saporta Report by Max Blau and David Pendered. To read Geoff's full presentation, click here.

In Evans, 'The Perfect Storm' Is Brewing

"Perfect storm" is not something planners and consultants typically say at public meetings. But in Evans, Georgia, all the right factors are coming together for a new downtown center for the seat of Columbia County.

Evans, a community of 35,000, is a suburb of the Augusta metro area located on the North side of Interstate 20 near the Georgia-South Carolina state line. Since 2010, Evans has experienced 21% growth in population and is projected to grow by another 9% in the next five years--the Evans Towne Center plan is the County's strategy to prepare for that growth and shape its future.

 A draft plan for Evans Towne Center. Courtesy of WRDW (wrdw.com)

A draft plan for Evans Towne Center. Courtesy of WRDW (wrdw.com)

At a community meeting on the 14th, Columbia County planners unveiled four concepts based on the findings of the consulting team, made up of Bleakly Advisory Group, TSW, and Cranston Engineering Group. “Our consultants were tasked with a lofty goal," said Andrew Strickland, director of the Planning Services Division. "To look at the crystal ball, and really listen to what the community wants, to help us all envision what Evans Towne Center will be.”

The four concepts are all centered on the Evans Towne Center Park and the currently under construction Columbia County Arts Center, and combine a mix of uses, including over 900 residential units, 260,000 square feet of commercial space, and 365,000 square feet of office space.

Computer-generated flyover of what the completed Evans Towne Center will look like when the Columbia County Performing Arts Center is completed. (video courtesy of TSW Design)

Gelber and Bleakly Advisory conducted demographic and market analyses of the area within a 3-mile boundary of Evans Towne Center to provide insights on the mix and amounts of space for various uses, and the findings were favorable for development. With higher incomes, growing population, and strong regional employment growth, Bleakly Advisory found that the demand for denser, mixed-use, walkable development was apparent and the feedback gathered from the community session will better inform final decisions. "I've got to say, in the 20, 25 years I've been doing this, I've never worked on a job where there are more conditions all pushing in the same direction to have something absolutely wonderful happen," Gelber told the Augusta Chronicle.

Bleakly Advisory joins academics, planners at 6th Annual Atlanta Studies Symposium

Bleakly Advisory Group's Jonathan Gelber joined a panel discussion hosted by the Douglas C. Allen Institute at the Sixth Annual Atlanta Studies Symposium, "Atlanta: City + Region," held at Emory University's Woodruff Library on April 20th, 2018. In addition to Jonathan, the panel, titled "Urban Form in Gwinnett County: Evolution or Revolution?", included Gateway85 CID's Executive Director, Marsha Anderson Bomar, Jerry Miller of Fabric Developers, and was moderated by Doug Allen Institute board member and Central Atlanta Progress Vice President of Planning and Economic Development, Jennifer Ball. While Marsha discussed the evolving nature of the Jimmy Carter Boulevard corridor and Jerry discussed town center development in Duluth and other parts of urbanizing Gwinnett, Jonathan discussed the challenges and external factors at play in suburban redevelopment.

 Jonathan discussing the difficulties of redeveloping large tracts typical of Gwinnett County.

Jonathan discussing the difficulties of redeveloping large tracts typical of Gwinnett County.

The Symposium also featured Ellen Dunham-Jones, Director of Georgia Tech's Master of Science of Urban Design program as well as long-time friend and colleague of Bleakly Advisory Group, for the Cliff Kuhn Memorial Keynote Lecture. For a full look back on the Symposium, click here.