The Extended Bleakly Advisory crew had a big night out at the Atlanta United soccer game yesterday.
I just returned from a 2-day design workshop for the Evans Towne Center Master Plan in suburban Augusta. It is a truly impressive and exciting project and I am proud to be part of the planning and design team, along with our friends at TSW and Cranston engineering. Details to follow, but here is a link to a TV news report.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. If you’re interested in redevelopment opportunities in Gwinnett Place, contact Joe Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.