The Atlanta region is a dynamic place, with a rapidly growing population that is getting more diverse and older as well, as baby boomers age and life spans increase. Residents of all ages and abilities are demanding a better quality of life. They’re seeking vibrant, walkable communities, greater access to parks and greenspace and improved housing options, including the ability for older adults to age in place.

Goals:

GOAL

Developing additional walkable, vibrant centers, that support people of all ages and abilities

Woman and son crossing the street

The Atlanta region is a collection of vibrant neighborhoods, historic communities and urban places that people and businesses call home. Making these communities even better places to live, work and play is critical to the ongoing vitality of the Atlanta region. The Atlanta Regional Commission and its planning partners are working to better connect people to their jobs, families and nearby amenities.

Action Items:

Providing services for older adults and people with disabilities

Metro Atlanta’s older adult population is growing rapidly as better health enables us to live longer. By 2030, one in four residents will be over the age of 60 as compared to one in six today. This demographic shift presents an opportunity for the region to provide services and design communities in a way that meets the needs of residents of all ages and abilities.

Services provided by ARC include:

  • Senior center operations
  • Empowerline information resource and service referral
  • Congregate and home-delivered meals
  • In-home support services
  • Transportation
  • Case management

Fostering vibrant, livable communities

ARC’s Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) is a grant program that incentivizes local jurisdictions to re-envision their communities as vibrant, walkable places that increase mobility options, encourage healthy lifestyles and provide easy access to jobs and services.

Since 2000, the LCI program has invested $254 million in over 120 communities throughout the Atlanta region, helping pay for planning studies and the construction of transportation projects, such as sidewalks and intersection improvements, to bring those visions to life. The ARC board has allocated $345 million through 2050 to fund transportation projects resulting from completed LCI studies.

The LCI program is funded with federal transportation dollars. The grants cover 80 percent of the cost of each study or transportation project, with the recipient making a 20 percent match.

ARC’s Community Development Assistance program provides critical planning and technical support to help local communities improve quality of life for residents. Applicants are selected each year in a competitive solicitation process.

Applicants are asked to utilize one or more of the following four ‘lenses’ to explain their request for assistance:

  • Equity – promoting diversity or inclusion in the community
  • Prosperity –fostering economic and cultural vitality
  • Resiliency –contributing to protection of local natural resources
  • Mobility – improving circulation and connectivity

Projects include:

  • Developing and implementing zoning overlay districts
  • Developing design standards
  • Rewriting of zoning codes and ordinances
  • Conducting audits to assist with quality growth
  • Taking inventories of housing or and/or commercial property
  • Researching best practices

Providing increased access to quality and affordable housing options is critical if the region is to maintain a strong economy and high quality of life. A number of programs and initiatives are taking place across metro Atlanta to address the housing issue from different perspectives.

Planning and providing services to help older adults remain in their communities

The vast majority of older adults want to remain in their homes and in their communities as they age. But too often, people move to more institutional settings in order to get the services and support they need – particularly when driving ability is diminished.

ARC provides comprehensive services to older adults in the Atlanta region via its role as the federally designated Atlanta Area Agency on Aging. Services that help people remain in their communities include home-delivered meals, transportation to medical appointments and shopping, in-home support services. ARC also operates the empowerline information and referral service.

There’s a financial benefit to aging in place, too. It is typically more cost-effective for older adults to remain in their homes than move to a long-term care facility.

Metro Atlanta Housing Strategy

Affordability helped fuel metro Atlanta’s growth. But housing costs in the region have been rising sharply, threatening to erode this competitive advantage and negatively impact quality of life.

The Atlanta Regional Commission has collaborated with organizations across sectors to develop the Metro Atlanta Housing Strategy to help local communities better understand their housing challenges and begin to address them using actionable and innovative strategies.

ARC works with local governments to foster vibrant, walkable communities, greater access to parks and greenspace, better housing options, and strong economies. ARC has developed a range of programs and initiatives designed to help the Atlanta region maintain a high quality of life.

ARC’s Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) is a grant program that incentivizes local jurisdictions to re-envision their communities as vibrant, walkable places that increase mobility options, encourage healthy lifestyles and provide easy access to jobs and services.

Since 2000, the LCI program has invested $254 million in over 120 communities throughout the Atlanta region, helping pay for planning studies and the construction of transportation projects, such as sidewalks and intersection improvements, to bring those visions to life. The ARC board has allocated $345 million through 2050 to fund transportation projects resulting from completed LCI studies.

The LCI program is funded with federal transportation dollars. The grants cover 80 percent of the cost of each study or transportation project, with the recipient making a 20 percent match.

ARC’s Community Development Assistance program provides critical planning and technical support to help local communities improve quality of life for residents. Applicants are selected each year in a competitive solicitation process.

Applicants are asked to utilize one or more of the following four ‘lenses’ to explain their request for assistance:

  • Equity – promoting diversity or inclusion in the community
  • Prosperity –fostering economic and cultural vitality
  • Resiliency –contributing to protection of local natural resources
  • Mobility – improving circulation and connectivity

Projects include:

  • Developing and implementing zoning overlay districts
  • Developing design standards
  • Rewriting of zoning codes and ordinances
  • Conducting audits to assist with quality growth
  • Taking inventories of housing or and/or commercial property
  • Researching best practices

GOAL

Promoting health, arts and other aspect of a high quality of life

MARTA King Station mural - Rise Above

The Atlanta Region’s Plan includes many programs, policies and initiatives that are designed to improve the region’s quality of life.

The plan seeks to encourage healthy activities such as walking and bicycling, provide opportunities for local food production, and promote strategies that increase energy efficiency and improve air quality. It also aims to improve our public spaces with public art and creative placemaking, and preserving the cultural and historical treasures that make our communities unique.

Action Item:

The design of communities can impact health. For example, access to parks and greenspace improve air quality and promote exercise. The Atlanta Region’s Plan policies seek to better integrate public health impacts into the planning process through public safety, encouraging walking and bicycling, identifying opportunities for local food production and planning for the expansion of green infrastructure.

Better options for bicyclists and pedestrians

Bicycling and walking are critical transportation modes throughout the Atlanta region, and not just for short trips. When combined with public transit, walking or biking provides a viable option for many longer trips.

The Atlanta Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan, Walk, Bike, Thrive!  , envisions the completion of a regional-scale trail network, community scale walking and bicycling networks, and first- and last-mile connections to regional transit systems. The Atlanta Region’s Plan includes funding that will help bring this vision to reality.

The Atlanta Region’s Plan also includes the Safe Streets for Walking & Bicycling plan, which provides a range of strategies to reduce serious injuries and deaths. Safety measures that local governments can take to reduce injuries and deaths include:

  • Installing medians and pedestrian crossings
  • Enhancing crosswalk visibility
  • Building and improving sidewalks
  • Building separated bike lanes
  • Changing speed limits
  • Reducing number of lanes
  • Improving and installing street lighting
  • Installing traffic calming measures

Fostering lifelong communities

Better sidewalks provide exercise, access to services and opportunities to socialize.

ARC’s Lifelong Communities initiative helps guide efforts at the local level to create communities that meet the needs of residents of all ages and abilities. A Lifelong Community is a place that offers a variety of housing types and ways to get around that appeal to individuals both young and old, such as safe sidewalks, compact, low-maintenance housing options, and convenient access to shopping and transit.

ARC works with local government planners, developers and neighborhood leaders to update policies, such as housing codes and other regulations, to remove barriers might hinder the ability of individuals to be able to age in place. ARC also demonstrates and brings best practices to the local level, such as removing zoning that prohibits the placement of accessory dwellings in residential areas.

Staff continues to research and quantify the unique needs of rapidly aging communities and educate the marketplace about the demand for various housing options, along with needed services, within established communities.

As metro Atlanta’s population continues to grow, protecting our natural environment becomes even more important to securing a healthy and sustainable future for our region.

The Atlanta Regional Commission works to ensure that our region continually improves its quality of life by protecting its most valuable natural resources: water, air and greenspace.

ARC does this by:

  • Providing planning staff for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, which develops and implements a long-term comprehensive water management program for the 15-county Atlanta region.
  • Protecting the Chattahoochee River, the region’s primary source of drinking water, through the Metropolitan River Protection Act (MRPA), which establishes the Chattahoochee River Corridor. ARC is responsible for maintaining a plan to protect a green buffer on either side of the Corridor and reviewing any development plans that may affect the area.
  • Securing an abundant supply of clean water for the Atlanta region through ongoing litigation in the tri-state water wars involving Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
  • Monitoring the region’s air quality and developing transportation and land use plans designed to reduce air pollution, in compliance with the federal Clean Air Act.
  • Encouraging environmentally sustainable communities through the  Sustainable Connections Internship Program and the Green Communities program.
  • Planning for the identification, protection and management of regionally important resources, including greenspace and cultural and historic assets, and reviewing land use activities that have the potential to impact these resources.
  • Supporting the Atlanta Local Food Initiative (ALFI), which is working to build a more sustainable food system in the region.

Arts and culture often plays an overlooked and underappreciated role in defining a community and making it a thriving, vibrant place where people want to live, work, and play. This can take many forms, such as a concert in the town square, a mural on the side of a building, and a former school turned into a showcase of local history.

Thriving communities require more than infrastructure. The region’s soul must be fed. Arts and cultural opportunities lead to a vibrant region and a thriving economy.

Since 2012, the Atlanta Regional Commission has included arts and culture as a staffed focus area. In 2019, the ARC’s board adopted a regional Arts, Culture, & Creative Placemaking Strategic Plan designed to better integrate arts and culture into the agency’s planning work.

ARC programs include Arts Leaders of Metro Atlanta (ALMA), which encourages leaders throughout the community to take an active role in solving the issues and challenges facing the region’s arts and culture community. The program brings together arts leaders and political, corporate and nonprofit supporters for five days of classes spread over a five-month period.