By Yvonne Williams
Relax after work at an outdoor café along a vibrant boulevard filled with restaurants, shops, art galleries, live theater and other entertainment. Enjoy a concert in an outdoor amphitheater adjoining Perimeter Mall. Picnic in one of the many green spaces transformed from undevelopable spaces and asphalt parking lots.
Walk or bike to work on one of Perimeter’s network of multi-use paths from nearby upscale housing. Running errands on your lunch hour? Hop on an inter-Perimeter trolley to reach your destinations around the districts. Want to head to downtown theaters and museums or the airport? Use easy and convenient transit connections throughout the area.
This is the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts’ (PCIDs) vision of Perimeter in 2021 – a walkable, connected, sustainable livable center with a strong sense of place.
Perimeter is expected to grow significantly in the next 10 years and how we manage that growth is critical to ensuring that Perimeter remains economically strong long-term and continues to attract young, well educated “Generation Y” employees as well as Baby Boomer residents who want to downsize from nearby single-family neighborhoods.
Fortunately, the PCIDs have a map to guide them as the market grows and develops. In 2001, the PCIDs received a Livable Centers Initiative grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission to develop a master plan for Perimeter with the input of stakeholders in the area.
At that time, Perimeter was a traffic-clogged office market. However, as the PCIDs began implementing the LCI master plan, they reshaped Perimeter’s commercial corridors into the attractive boulevards you see today that accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and more smoothly flowing vehicular traffic.
The PCIDs also have completed improvements to more than two dozen key intersections including ADA ramps, countdown signals, better signage and lighting and other enhancements. These are especially important for the growing senior population.
A mixed-use environment has emerged and significant new housing has replaced outdated office parks, allowing many of Perimeter’s 100,000 employees to live near work.
Traffic officers funded by the PCIDs improve traffic flow at key intersections daily during evening rush hours. A robust system of free business-funded shuttles is connecting employment to MARTA stations. And, the PCIDs successfully pursued capacity projects such as the Perimeter Center Parkway Bridge across I-285 and the Hammond Half-Diamond Interchange at Ga. 400 to improve access and mobility in and out of the market.
The PCIDs also instituted public space standards to brand Perimeter with a quality look, installed signage and identity enhancements and have assumed maintenance of median landscaping on major streets to ensure an attractive appearance.
These infrastructure improvements have helped Perimeter become an award-winning urban center and economic engine in Georgia. They have helped attract regional growth to Perimeter.
The desire to remain successful, competitive and sustainable for generations remains strong among the PCIDs’ stakeholders as well as the community. The PCIDs have just completed a 10-year update of their LCI plan. Our blueprint for the future includes retrofitting Perimeter’s auto-sized street grid and creating mid-block crossings that are more pedestrian friendly. All successful walkable cities, such as Savannah, Portland, Barcelona and San Francisco, have a small and walkable block structure.
The creation of multi-use paths, green space and linear parks throughout Perimeter are high on our list. When asked what recreational activities are needed in Perimeter, 73 percent of the respondents to a survey we conducted said multi-purpose trails and greenways and 69 percent said pocket parks and picnic areas.
The PCIDs also are working on a plan to improve pedestrian and multimodal access to the Dunwoody MARTA station that can be a model for the other two stations in the area.
As the PCIDs complete changes for the Perimeter area with our partners, we will use sustainable design that addresses water quality and conservation, energy conservation and air quality issues. We hope to add alternative fueling stations and encourage LEED certified office buildings.
Quality of life and economic development are intertwined today. You can’t have one without the other. To continue to grow, we must develop a livable, sustainable community. As we do so, we hope to be a successful model for other suburban areas as they transition to thriving new urban centers in the future.
Yvonne Williams is president and CEO of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts.