The Perimeter area needs to develop a grid of bicycle-friendly streets and walkable pathways as it continues its rapid growth over the next decades, planners working with the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts believe.

“This is by all measures the strongest office and retail market in Atlanta,” architect and town planner William J. de St. Aubin told a group gathered Feb. 8 for a report on the PCIDs plans for the next decade. “You’re operating at a global scale.”

And, he said, the pressure for new development shows no sign of letting up in the area covered by the PCIDs, which take in portions of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody and areas of DeKalb County south of I-285. The districts generally cover the area around Perimeter Mall and the intersection of I-285 and Ga. 400.

The PCIDs’ planners project that over the next decade, the area will see a demand for an additional 8.5 million square feet of office space, 5.8 million square feet of retail space and 2,850 residential units, de St. Aubin told the city officials, planners, homeowners’ representatives and residents who attended the presentation at Hammond Park in Sandy Springs.

De St. Aubin said those calculations represented projected demand, not necessarily the amount of development that will actually occur in the area.

But, he said, “if you don’t accommodate it here, it’ll move up the road. And up the road might not have MARTA, so what’s that going to do to our roads?”

De St. Aubin said future growth should circle the four MARTA stations within the PCIDs. “To improve regionally our transportation, we want much of our growth happening within a five-minute walk [of the stations],” he said.

He said there are 200 to 300 acres in the area that have not been developed yet, but that there were more than 1,000 acres that could be redeveloped and better used. The PCIDs’ planners project construction of more high-rises in the area in the coming decades.

The proposals they are developing forecast changes in the area over the next 10 to 30 years as part of a review and update of the 10-year-old Living Centers Initiative in the area. Over the past 30 years, de St. Aubin said, the area has changed from farmland to suburb to “edge city” with office and residential towers.

In the coming years, he said, the Perimeter area communities should create a grid of streets and pathways to encourage walking and should design streets and link pathways to encourage the use of bicycles, shuttles and “neighborhood electric vehicles,” which he described as small vehicles similar to golf carts. Community pathways, he said, should link parks, MARTA and shopping and working areas.

One of the Perimeter area’s problems now, he and other planners at the meeting said, is that blocks are too long to encourage walking. Communities that encourage people to walk, such as Savannah or New York, they said, have much shorter blocks.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.