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Atlanta’s biggest development news of 2016

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There were highs, there were lows, but 2016 proved a big year for Atlanta

Skyline of Midtown from the south.
Midtown’s skyline had an eventful 2016.
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta

With just a few days left in 2016, let’s reflect on news about Atlanta’s built environment that had a big impact on our city and lives.

While many will be glad to see this year in the rearview mirror — celebrities who’ve managed to survive it among them — 2016 has been a pretty monumental one for Atlanta.

Here are some of the biggest trends we talked about this year:

The Year of Bicycles

While it’s still a city dominated by cars, by and large, Atlanta is moving toward bicycling bliss.

In 2016, work began to bring dedicated bike lanes to Juniper Street in Midtown, while in downtown a new type of bike intersection was introduced. Georgia Tech is well on its way to the creation of a bike trail stretching south through the western side of Midtown, and there are even proposals now to bring bike lanes to Peachtree Street.

Probably the biggest boon for bike culture this year came in the summer, when Atlanta officially launched its bike share program known as Relay in downtown.

Just a few months after the program was unveiled, stations were added in Midtown. With plans to spread the program even farther, Atlanta clearly embraced rentable bicycles in 2016.

The Year of Transit Support

Since its founding four decades ago, MARTA has often struggled with perception issues, with only Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties allowing the system to operate within their borders. This year, attitudes began to soften, with a study by the Atlanta Regional Commission finding that many metro residents think MARTA expansion is a generally good idea.

In Gwinnett, some folks in power even expressed interest in allowing the system to expand, going so far as to examine transit’s role in the creation of a Comprehensive Transportation Plan.

Meanwhile, MARTA announced intentions to upgrade to a new fleet of train cars in the coming years, and relished in the sweet victory of more funding as Atlanta voters overwhelmingly approved a half-penny sales tax to fund billions in MARTA expansions.

Could 2017 even bring Cobb aboard?

The Year of Capping

As transit options became poised to expand in 2016, many in the city were exploring ways to reclaim land from cars by capping major highways.

While Buckhead first proposed capping Ga. Highway 400 at Peachtree Road last year, the plans gained traction with a design firm chosen to explore the project in more detail this past spring. By October, the theoretical park had overcome a few more hurdles and designs began to crystallize.

Meanwhile, downtown, a study for “Stitch” was revealed in August, proposing a cap over The Connector around Civic Center MARTA Station. While actual construction is a long ways off at best, the proposal added to buzz in the neighborhood and offered a glimpse at what a united downtown and Midtown could look like.

Not to be outdone, Sandy Springs recently unveiled their plan to study the possibility of a park atop Ga. Highway 400, capping the highway to connect Medical Center MARTA Station to the west.

The Year of Lofty Renovations

Traditionally, Atlanta’s been a city that finds demolition preferable to renovation. However, this year brought plans for the re-enlivening of many buildings throughout town.

One of the highest profile renovations to be revealed was the overhaul of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Plans call for the longterm, $6-billion project to spruce up every inch of the dated complex, and ultimately bring greater capacity to the already record-setting transit hub.

Also in 2016, one of Atlanta’s most coveted historic structures, the Fox Theatre, was announced as the recipient of an upcoming renovation. The theater’s roof fronting Peachtree Street will be turned into a bar for patrons, with extra space at the front of the building morphing into a Moroccan-inspired lounge.

Another rooftop bar is coming to an old Atlanta building, though this one has a slightly seedier past.

After years of delays, work on the Clermont Hotel renovation got underway this fall. A tour of the building revealed that there’s a lot of work to be done, so 2016 is only the beginning for this sorely needed restoration.

The Year of Selling High

This year, the local real estate market continued its upward trend after years of Recession-induced doldrums.

For better or worse, 2016 saw the most expensive sale ever for a one-bedroom residence in the city, with a unit at the Loews Hotel Residences capturing a staggering $750,000.

In downtown, a two-bedroom penthouse at the W Hotel residences snagged a cool $2.55 million, making it the most expensive residential unit ever sold in Midtown or downtown.

For renters, the news also brought along a price benchmark, as Atlanta was declared the most expensive southern city to rent in.

The Year of Demolitions

Atlanta’s a city on the way up in 2016, but to allow for growth, much has had to come down.

The year brought demolitions galore, clearing the way for some pretty major projects. Burned-out apartments in Old Fourth Ward were demolished for the proposed 525 North (which has since struggled with financing), while just across the Beltline, Murder Kroger had its last rites before leaving this world to allow the construction of 725 Ponce.

Nearby, the historically significant walls of The Masquerade remain standing, but its musical soul was lost this year.

In Midtown, the old Agatha’s building across Peachtree Street from the Fox Theatre fell for lilli, while just down 3rd Street, one-story mid-century buildings came down for The Standard, and a few former commercial buildings bit the dust for Coda.

After such a big year, what will 2017 hold?