Atlanta may not be Manhattan, but it’s catching the eye of investors and consumers. It has recently been added to Urban Land Institute’s list of top ten 18-hour cities. And, the Institute, which is known for its scholarly urban and city planning research, list the rise of the 18-hour city as it’s number one emerging trend in real estate.
What does that mean and why did Atlanta make the cut? The 18-hour city has developed as something between a 9-5 city and a 24-hour city. While many real estate investors have flocked to the 24-hour city, such as NYC, for many years, the emergence of the 18-hour city is a recent emerging trend. It is mostly characterized by its tangible focus on live, work, and play environments, such as Alpharetta’s Avalon and Atlanta’s Atlantic Station.
As the Urban Land Institute puts it in their recent report, the 18-hour city is “the model that has demonstrated that the right urban mix bolsters occupancy, that density raises values, and that vibrancy attracts investment capital.” These cities are basically re-emerging downtown areas, with combined key ingredients of housing, retail, dining and walk-to-work offices. It is this downtown revitalization that is overcoming the decades of downtown’s being abandoned after work hours by workers who commuted to their homes in their suburbs. Now, those workers walk to their home, or head upstairs to their second floor loft above the shop.
The 18-hour city embraces the excitement and opportunity of the large city, but with a quiet respite for a few hours to remember the days gone by. This mix of the old and new is what is attracting its top demographic: millennials and baby boomers.
Most of these cities also have a lower cost of living and lower cost of doing business compared to the 24 hour cities. And in an interesting phenomenon, jobs are actually chasing people to these areas, as opposed to the other way around. Jobs are almost an after thought to the demographic. The driving force to the millennial and the baby boomer is the lifestyle of the city.
Just as the American consumer has embraced this new trend, developers and government officials must continue to embrace mixed use, higher densities, and walkable communities. That is the key that has driven Atlanta and some surrounding suburbs to this enviable emerging position, and has driven an unprecedented investment in the 18-hour city throughout the country.