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Can the Pending ATL Streetcar Transform Downtown?

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Are the close-in 'hoods of Atlanta more educated than they used to be? Consider this scrumptious number: 61 percent. Between 2000 and 2009, that's the percentage increase of 25- to 34-year-olds with four-year college degrees (or higher) that came to call intown Atlanta home. Sarah Kirsch of the Urban Land Institute quoted that statistic at the recent Downtown Development Day and raised an interesting question for boosters at hand: How can the city and its pending streetcar harness this new wave of city-loving Millennials and their brethren? The initial, 2.7-mile streetcar loop should be operational in a year.

In a thorough rundown, Atlanta Magazine collected key insights from a panel of developers at the event. Regarding the streetcar system, the panel stressed efficiency. The current plan is to run streetcars every 15 minutes. A problem? Those timeworn culprits safety and homelessness were examined as detriments to development near the streetcar (note: It remains to be seen how effective the $3.1 million grant from Michael Bloomberg's foundation, the cash meant to address homelessness, will be.) As for walkable retail options, expect smaller stores with more selective merchandise.
The magazine quotes one broker on the panel opining as follows: "You've got a change in the grocery store format, where [stores] have gone from 50,000 square feet to 22, 23,000 square feet. They've figured out that people shop for 80 percent of the same things every week, so, 'Let's just carry those, and then people will drive for the other 20 percent.'"
· Talkin 'bout my generation: Downtown developers on Millennials and the Atlanta Streetcar [Atlanta Magazine]