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Central Perimeter Bracing For More Congestion To Follow Employment Boom

On any given Monday, Ann Hanlon expects things to be backed up in Central Perimeter.

But given the prospect of more than 2M SF of new commercial projects in one of Atlanta's corporate hubs, Hanlon's organization — the Perimeter Community Improvement District — knows that the infrastructure fixes underway won't completely keep up with all the commuters, shoppers and residents who will fill those spaces.

Vehicles heading toward Interstate 285 along Peachtree-Dunwoody Road from Pill Hill in Central Perimeter

“We know it's going to keep coming and coming, and the traffic we have now will be exacerbated by the construction of [Interstate] 285 and [Georgia Highway] 400,” said Hanlon, Perimeter CID's executive director.

Already the PCID is drafting a new list of infrastructure projects that will address regional planners' expectations of growth in Central Perimeter through 2028, including another overhaul to the heavily used Ashford-Dunwoody Road overpass that was transformed in 2012 into a converging diamond, Hanlon said.

“We are actually starting to look at the next iteration of that,” she said, noting that it was built for a 10-year outlook. “These projects are not meant to be permanent fixes.”

Hanlon will be a speaker at Bisnow's Central Perimeter's Booming Market event Tuesday, May 1, at The Summit.

Perimeter Community Improvement District Executive Director Ann Hanlon

In just the past five years, Central Perimeter has seen strong corporate growth, including becoming home to the under-development State Farm campus as well as Mercedes-Benz's North America's corporate headquarters. With that growth has come an explosion in the number of workers commuting to the area.

In 2011, 100,000 people commuted into the submarket daily. By 2016, that number had risen to 253,000 employees, according to the PCID. Those numbers do not distinguish what mode of transportation workers take, but thousands of cars have been added to some major Central Perimeter arteries.

Along Ashford-Dunwoody Road, average daily trips have risen from 18,000 vehicles a day in 2014 to 19,500 vehicles a day in 2016, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Transportation. During the same period, average daily traffic counts jumped from 26,400 to 29,300 along Hammond Drive Northeast, 28,800 to 32,000 along Peachtree-Dunwoody Road near the intersection with Hammond, and 23,400 to 29,100 along Glenridge Drive near the intersection with Johnson Ferry Road.

Those numbers don't yet reflect the impact State Farm, Mercedes-Benz and other new corporate tenants will have going forward. Today, Central Perimeter is home to 33M SF of offices and 5,000 companies. Within 25 years, companies could need an additional 15.2M SF of corporate office space, according to PCID's projections in its annual report.

Leveraging both PCID and public funds, the organization has already spearheaded a number of traffic improvement projects, including the $6M Ashford-Dunwoody converging diamond, the $18M Hammond Road Half-Diamond Interchange and the $38M Perimeter Center Flyover Bridge.

And other major projects are underway, including future express lanes on I-285 and a major redesign of the I-285 and GA 400 interchange. But mitigating the future impact of congestion is going to take more than just roads, Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal said.

“Yes, [congestion] is a concern, without a doubt. I don't think there's any overall one solution,” Shortal said. “You have to mitigate it piece by piece.”

While Central Perimeter is home to three MARTA stations, it also has two major bus services operating in the area as well as more than a dozen shuttle services feeding various office parks and buildings.

Shortal said the city is eyeing plans for pedestrian trails through the area, and Dunwoody, in partnership with the PCID and other cities and counties that make up the Central Perimeter conglomeration, has synchronized more than 100 traffic lights.

“Congestion has always been an issue with Central Perimeter, so it's nothing new,” Parmenter Managing Principal John Davidson said.

The congestion has led to micro-office submarkets within the larger submarket, largely influenced by where company decision-makers and the bulk of their employees live, Davidson said. For instance, Parmenter's 900 Ashwood and 200 Ashford Parkway buildings are home to many companies whose employee base comes from Dunwoody and other northern Metro Atlanta suburbs, he said.

That is because those buildings are closer to Mount Vernon Road and Spalding Drive — corridors that pipe into those regions without having to tangle with I-285 traffic. But that comes with a caveat for Parmenter: Companies whose employees rely on 400 especially will likely not consider those properties.

“We get eliminated usually in those searches,” he said.

MidCity Real Estate Partners President Kirk Demetrops

MidCity Real Estate Partners President Kirk Demetrops said the area's congestion is a consideration for companies, but given that traffic is a common issue throughout all of Metro Atlanta, it doesn't hamper his firm's competitiveness in luring companies.

“I think it's an issue to track closely,” Demetrops said. "But I think it's happening everywhere. It's not exclusive to Central Perimeter."

Hear more from Hanlon, Demetrops, Shortal and Davidson at Bisnow's Central Perimeter's Booming Market event 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at The Summit office building at 5550-A Peachtree Parkway in Norcross.