October 26, 2005

From Contaminated Steel Mill to Trendy Urban Address

"The opening of Atlantic Station's retail and entertainment district Thursday will be the final milestone marking the nine-year trajectory of a project that transformed a former steel mill into one of the region's hottest addresses," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this month. "On land where barrel hoops were made in 1901, more than 1,000 people now live a short hop from Midtown's trendy restaurants, the funky shops on Huff Road and attractions in downtown Atlanta. On the exact site where the old steel mills spewed hazardous wastes, bank executives and lawyers peer from their office tower at a movie theater and shopping district."

Atlanta is often held up as one of the nation's worst examples of sprawl. However, Atlantic Station was designed to be a "pleasant place to walk," the article notes. "...[T]he retail district is laid out in a grid pattern, with wide sidewalks and narrow streets passing brick buildings lined with glass windows that let people gaze inside the shops. Parking is in underground decks, so streets should be mostly free of vehicles." Ah, that all-important attention to a pedestrian-friendly streetscape!

Widening and landscaping a bridge was also part of the development deal.

And while it is a largely upper income neighborhood, one-fifth of the residential units were reserved for the middle class, and some stores like Ikea are affordable for average wage-earners.

The transformation of an industrial site to mixed-use residential and commercial appears to have been good for the city's treasury. "The site paid about $300,000 a year in property taxes when it was a steel mill," the Journal-Constitution notes. "This year, it will pay about $8 million, and payments are expected to reach up to $25 million a year in 2010."

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