May 14, 2024 - News

Downtown Atlanta is making a comeback

Bar chart showing percent change in downtown visits in select U.S. cities in February 2024 compared to March 2023. Minneapolis had the largest increase in visits, with 45% more downtown visitors over the course of the year. Chicago and Louisville, Ky. had the next largest increases while San Francisco, San Antonio and Forth Worth, Texas had the largest decreases. In Atlanta, downtown visits changed by 7.4%.
Data: University of Toronto; Note: Downtown defined as the central location with the highest concentration of employment in each metro area; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Downtown Atlanta appears to be slowly gaining more foot traffic as stakeholders continue to invest into the heart of the city.

Why it matters: The area is primed for more than $6 billion in public and private investment after the coronavirus pandemic hindered downtown activity nationwide.

Driving the news: Visitor activity in Downtown Atlanta grew by 7.4% between March 2023 and February 2024, according to new University of Toronto data.

State of play: Atlanta wants to breathe new life into Downtown amid an era of remote and hybrid work.

  • Millions are expected to visit Atlanta while it's hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
  • Corporate leaders want to build and open a $100 million science museum by 2028.
  • Tech entrepreneurs are building coworking spaces and housing in South Downtown.
  • Atlanta's government is trying to convert the 2 Peachtree Street office tower into the city's tallest residential building.
  • MARTA wants to spend more than $200 million on an overdue overhaul of Downtown's Five Points station to create open space and new opportunities for more retail and activities.

By the numbers: Last year, 71.3 million visitors ventured to Downtown Atlanta, according to Placer.ai, which tracks and analyzes foot traffic.

  • By comparison, Placer.ai data shows Downtown Atlanta had 52 million visitors in 2022.

What we're hearing: Research from Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District shows 1,500 affordable homes could be built by converting vacant offices downtown.

  • That could bring more people into the neighborhood. But it would require a $48 million public subsidy.

How it works: Researchers at the University of Toronto's School of Cities are using anonymized mobile device location data to estimate visitor activity in the downtown areas of dozens of North American cities.

  • They define "downtown" as the location in each metro area with the highest job concentration.

The bottom line: Everyone wants to see Downtown Atlanta's transformation because, as usual, Atlanta influences everything.

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