Strengthening Atlanta’s Commercial Corridors
By: Dr. Eloisa Klementich, President and CEO, Invest Atlanta
The future strength and equity of Atlanta’s economy depends on several key factors, one of which is how we can effectively invest in our city’s emerging commercial corridors.
As the City of Atlanta’s population is expected to double in the coming years—from 465,000 today to an estimated 1.3 million by 2050—a large percentage of these new residents will be living and working along our city’s major corridors. Therefore, we must invest in these to ensure they connect neighborhoods and accommodate growth in a way that benefits all Atlantans.
We have all heard that many of Atlanta’s driving directions include the phrase, “Go down Peachtree.” It’s our city’s most prominent street, connecting the areas with the highest employment densities in the region: Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead. Peachtree has thrived throughout Atlanta’s history, and will continue do so in the future.
But Invest Atlanta is now focused on making targeted investments along corridors in Atlanta that are in development—streets like Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and Hollowell Parkway on the Westside, and Campbellton Road and Metropolitan Road in Southwest Atlanta.
Currently, all these major avenues share similar characteristics. They are all wide, multiple-lane roads filled with high-speed vehicular traffic. Commercial properties are often small and narrow in shape and separated long distances from each other by parking lots and underutilized properties. In addition, these corridors lack the amenities found in other parts of the city, such as greenspace and grocery stores.
To be successful, Invest Atlanta and many partners are working to address these issues. Working on multiple fronts, we hope to ensure these corridors become vibrant, attractive, and equitable connectors between neighborhoods for all forms of mobility.
Improving infrastructure along these corridors is a key focus area for us. Last year, Mayor Kasim Reed and the City of Atlanta secured a $10 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive Innovation Corridor Project. The grant will fund improvements along MLK that include roadway enhancements such as synchronized traffic lights, new sidewalks, improved medians, and upgraded crosswalks.
The City of Atlanta and Invest Atlanta are both working to create more greenspace along these corridors. Near Hollowell, the Bellwood Quarry will soon be transformed into a reservoir and Atlanta’s largest park. Along Metropolitan Parkway, the Invest Atlanta board has approved funding for a Livable Communities Initiative (LCI) plan and the creation of a multiuse trail through the area’s Tax Allocation District (TAD
Invest Atlanta and our partners are also working to create concentrated nodes of activity along these corridors. We’re doing so by coordinating and reconfiguring investment through property assembly, improving the marketability to targeted users, such as grocery stores, and creating an improved “sense of place” in the process. We’re also working to activate commercial activity in a targeted away. A few years ago, Invest Atlanta provided a grant to EUE/Screen Gems with the expansion of their film studio on the former site of the Lakewood Fairgrounds on Metropolitan Parkway. More recently, our board approved a $410,000 Cambellton Road TAD grant to build the Fort Mac FiberNet that will serve residents and businesses along Cambellton Road, as well those in the Oakland City, Sylvan Hills, Venetian Hills, and Capital View neighborhoods.
And looking ahead, Invest Atlanta is working with MARTA to create an Innovation Village at the Hamilton E. Holmes MARTA station adjacent to MLK, Jr. Dr. made entirely of repurposed shipping containers. This “iVillage,” first of its kind in the city, will offer transit-accessible, affordable office and retail space to Atlanta’s entrepreneurs eager to build and grow their new businesses.
All these efforts go hand in hand with the work we do every day to support residents and business owners throughout the city through our small business loan programs and down payment assistance programs. Many of those who have used our programs live and work along these corridors.
Our approach here at Invest Atlanta will include a key focus on redeveloping our city’s most important commercial corridors. By doing so, we’ll strengthen the city’s core neighborhoods, address equity and support increased resiliency and mobility.
Dr. Eloisa Klementich is President and CEO of Invest Atlanta. Previously, Eloisa served as managing director of business development at Invest Atlanta. In this position, she worked to attract new businesses and create initiatives that promoted job growth in Atlanta. Before coming to Invest Atlanta, Eloisa served as special assistant for economic development at the U.S. Economic Development Administration in the Office of the Secretary.
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