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Opening Atlanta’s Choked Urban Core 
Landlords and tenants become creative

For those of us who sit in seemingly endless traffic twice daily, it comes as no surprise that Atlanta now is in the top four cities for worst traffic in the country.  

The good news: Growth continues in this vibrant city. The bad news: Growth continues, especially in Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead, where many companies and their employees want to locate. The result is severe congestion. Traffic issues and the city’s dated transportation infrastructure continue to challenge businesses’ real-estate decisions.

Analyzing the problem:

Midtown vacancies are low, while demand keeps rising—along with rental rates. Atlanta is among the nation’s fastest-growing urban areas, with one outcome being that office-using employment continues on the upswing. To illustrate, in Midtown, Class A availability was a meager 11.6% [Q1 2017], and that means asking rents keep trending skyward. 

 

Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead remain appealing, yet increasingly pricey.  So companies have begun to consider attractive locations farther afield, such as the Central Perimeter along the city’s I-285 ring. But even this area is growing increasingly congested.

Commuting takes a heavy toll. In its Smart Mobility report, the Deloitte University Press confirms: “Today, traffic congestion limits and undermines mobility in metro areas across America and the world, imposing huge costs on individuals and society as a whole.” 

The effects are far-ranging and include infrastructure wear-and-tear, employee lost productivity, stress and decreased well-being, as well as environmental detriment from carbon emissions. To put a number on it, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution [citing the Texas Transportation Institute] estimated the city’s 2015 congestion expense at $3.1 billion; and that amount can only have grown with population increases since.

More workers driving more cars equal less parking. In Atlanta, legacy Downtown buildings offer undoubtedly desirable locations. But parking options are limited…and becoming fewer. The parking spaces that do exist come at a price, averaging approximately $150 per month each.

Implementing mobility solutions to overcome obstacles

Properly addressing the transportation issue allows companies in Atlanta to expand, without requiring additional parking.  They can also avoid being limited to core locations or rapid transport-adjacent buildings.

Ride-hailing services, such as Lyft and Uber, offer one option. These services can eliminate pain points, such as limited parking or lack of public transportation. Benefits to employees may be in the form of a monthly subsidy, or perhaps a mobility credit on commuting passes for those needing rides from public transport.

Sam Bond, General Manager of Lyft in Atlanta, notes his company’s experience in Silicon Valley, Chicago, Washington DC, and now Atlanta, with clients who provide ridesharing. He adds that in densely populated areas, innovative employers are viewing mobility as a variable in their leasing arrangements.

 

There’s also 21st-century carpooling. Corporations are embracing affordable new software for enterprise ridesharing such as SPLT, rideamigos, and Comovee. With these, old objections to carpooling are mitigated since the software enables more customized, convenient and highly efficient rides. Companies report satisfaction with lower costs, improved social responsibility through reduced CO2 emissions, and even an enhanced company culture.

 

Addressing mobility creatively is a win-win. For businesses that have grown past their parking accommodations, it can help prevent a costly, disruptive move. For companies negotiating for new space, it provides more flexibility in choice of location. Plus, it can be turned into a money-saving lease option, where potential parking charges are used to cover transportation subsidies.

All employees benefit by avoiding the outlay for a car purchase or lease, as well as the attendant maintenance, fuel and insurance expenses. Importantly, the mobility perk is an appealing recruitment tool, especially for millennials who want to live in the city center near restaurants and entertainment.

The combination of job growth, lack of office supply, increasing density within a company’s footprint and the congestion in Atlanta are forcing companies to look at transportation in a whole new light.  By evaluating the new technologies more thoroughly, organizations can solve for the issue at hand, and, most importantly, have another solution for war on talent.

•  Brookings Data Now projects millennials will represent 75% of the workforce by 2025.

•  Atlanta was ranked among the “2017 Best Cities for Millennials in America,” according to Niche.com. 

To remain at the forefront, it’s imperative to anticipate and meet the requirements of this talent pool with location selection.

Addressing immediate or future needs

Savills Studley offers a range of data-driven services. With the support of high-quality analytics, we can assist clients in identifying the most viable, cost-effective options—now or for a targeted date. For more information, see our Tenant Representation, Workplace Strategy, Workforce Strategy, and Site Selection services.


Sources

Viechnicki, Dr. Peter; Khuperkar, Abhijit; Fishman, Tiffany Dovey; Eggers, William D. Smart Mobility, “Reducing congestion and fostering faster, greener, and cheaper transportation options.” 18 May 2015. 

Kanell, Michael. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Traffic becomes a factor for Atlanta businesses.” 7 May 2015. 

Niche, “2017 Best Cities for Millennials in America.” 

Dews, Fred. Brookings, “Brookings Data Now: 75% of 2025 Workforce Will Be Millennials.” 17 July 2014. 

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Robert "Bo" Keatley

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