People often don’t associate nature with revenue. But I just read an op-ed that shows how green can generate green.

It was written by Alexander Stewart, associate principal for Perkins+Will – the architecture and design firm overseeing the Beltline project. In the article he wrote for Curbed.com, he talks about how much economic development potential there is in Atlanta by investing in the Chattahoochee River and Freedom Park. He proposes a linear park along the river, as well as other improvements to Freedom Park.

Atlanta has become one of the most successful business cities anywhere in the country. Our big draws early on were our airport and our low cost of living. Companies moved here because they could pay their employees less, and it was easier for their executives to travel on nonstop flights to major cities throughout the country and Europe.

It is a different story today. We cannot rely on our low cost of living, mostly because it isn’t that low anymore. A recent Forbes article listed Atlanta as one of six cities along with Denver, Eugene, Ore., Nashville, Tenn., Portland, Ore., and Seattle where the cost of living is surging. With that in mind, economic development leaders across the metro area decided a long time ago that we would need to step up our game. If folks are going to move here, they need here to be not just inexpensive, but a great place to live as well. In some ways, Atlanta has been through a Renaissance over the last 20 years with cities just outside of Atlanta, and neighborhoods within Atlanta, investing heavily in walkable downtown centers and natural amenities like trails and parks.

I always talk about the Beltline. But that’s because it’s a glaring example that people want to be outside and connected, and businesses want to be where people want to be. Everywhere the trail has been laid, there are businesses and new development. And everywhere the trail is scheduled to be laid, there are developers working to buy land. And this isn’t just an intown phenomena.

Since former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle-Isle unveiled plans for a multi-use path throughout the city called the Alpha Loop, developers have been searching out any available chances to build something along it.

Well before that, Roswell Mayor Jere Wood was one of the biggest advocates anywhere for trails and parks. During his tenure the city developed a trail along the river that included a large park used for concerts throughout the summer, and a trail that heads north, connecting with Alpharetta’s Big Creek Greenway – which runs through the city to connect to Forsyth County’s Big Creek Greenway.

Today, projects are cropping up all over the metro area. Vine City is building a 16-acre, $45 million park. Buckhead is building a 5.2-mile greenway through the heart of Buckhead called Path400. It is the first step in an initiative to implement the Buckhead Collection, a planned network of 106 acres of parks and trails. Just west of Atlanta, a 100-acre park has been proposed for the old Bellwood Quarry. Developers have already drawn up plans for multiple mixed-use developments to go around it. And last May, the Atlanta City Council voted to spend $20 million to purchase three acres that would expand Piedmont Park.

As land becomes more expensive, and building of new homes becomes more-dense, homeowners are getting much smaller yards than they used to. I live in a house built in 1987 in Roswell with almost an acre of yard. Today’s homes are lucky to have a quarter-acre. Which points even more to people needing to go outside their neighborhoods to get out and play.

Businesses and developers are looking for places that are investing in green space. And in this way, you can see how green can grow more green.

MORTGAGE BANKER – NMLS#1043587

Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases. *The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group.

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