Ryan Gravel discusses planning for the growth of Atlanta at the Central Library. (Photos by Clare S. Richie)
Ryan Gravel discusses planning for the growth of Atlanta at the Central Library. (Photos by Clare S. Richie)

By Clare S. Richie

The city of Atlanta’s population could grow to be 1.3 million people by 2050. This “big number” was revealed last night at the public talk, “How Big Can Atlanta Be?”

This is the first in a series of presentations to share work being done by Ryan Gravel, originator of the Atlanta BeltLine, and the Department of Planning and Community Development’s Atlanta City Studio on a framing document to accommodate growth – Atlanta City Design.

“What do we want to the city to be in 25 to 35 years?” City planning Commissioner Tim Keane posed to a packed Central Library auditorium of local officials – like Atlanta City Council members Ceasar Mitchell and Mary Norwood, planners, transit advocates, water advocates, Georgia Tech students, and concerned citizens. Keane emphasized that this 12-month planning process will be “very public” and “involve residents.”

Gravel followed with a message that Atlanta is going to change, but more people are better for the city if strategic planning for the growth begins now.

Commissioner Tim Keane fields questions from the audience at the forum.

Dr. Arthur C. Nelson, a professor of Planning & Real Estate Development at University of Arizona (and formerly at  Georgia Tech), then led a discussion explaining the data behind the “big number.” The Metro Atlanta region is expected to grow to 9 million people by 2050, of which 15 percent or 1.3 million would choose to be city of Atlanta residents.

Based on his experience studying other cities, Nelson introduced concepts for how Atlanta could embrace and accommodate this growth – such as focused redevelopment of aging strip centers and infill development “below the tree line,” while preserving most residential communities.

Nelson and Keane fielded question from the audience about the impact of growth on education, water/sewer, transportation, and affordability. Keane explained that he is involving others, like Atlanta Public Schools, in this planning process.

The next presentation is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m. at Central Library, One Margaret Mitchell Square. Gravel is expected to discuss Atlanta’s core values, “What Atlanta Is”, and share the preliminary design for how the city can accommodate 1.3 million people by 2050.

Collin KelleyEditor

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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