121119_MNS_BBA_Wakhisi Kofi Wakhisi

Kofi Wakhisi, senior principal planner for the Atlanta Regional Commission’s transportation access and mobility group, addresses the Buckhead Business Association Dec. 5 at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Buckhead.

Buckhead remains one of metro Atlanta’s most attractive areas to live and work in because of its growth in jobs, housing and development, a leader with the Atlanta Regional Commission said.

“Upper Buckhead ranks fourth in the office net new space (category) since 2010 and Midtown leads the way,” said Kofi Wakhisi, senior principal planner for the commission’s transportation access and mobility group, adding the city of Atlanta, which includes Buckhead, leads the metro area in building permits issued over the past nine years.

Wakhisi spoke on a variety of topics regarding metro Atlanta trends at the Buckhead Business Association’s weekly breakfast meeting Dec. 5 at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Buckhead. The commission is the regional planning and intergovernmental coordination agency for the 10-county Atlanta region.

In an interview after his speech, Wakhisi said Buckhead’s high-end residential neighborhoods, shopping district with Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls and the Atlanta Financial Center make it attractive to residents, visitors and businesspeople alike.

“Kofi has in his little finger more knowledge about what’s happening in the development industry than every Realtor in this room,” said Rick Hamilton, a Realtor and the association’s vice president of public safety, jokingly said while introducing Wakhisi.

With Buckhead having seen a surge in residential development, especially apartments, since 2012 (the Buckhead Coalition has estimated that about 17,000 housing units have been built, are under construction or are planned in that time), Wakhisi sees the area expanding in another area.

“Our forecast – sort of the ‘ah hah’ – is an increase in commercial real estate,” he said.

Regarding Sandy Springs and the larger Perimeter submarket it’s a part of, Wakhisi said that area will continue to lead the way in healthcare jobs due to the three hospitals located there: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital and Northside Hospital.

“The healthcare industry will be the dominating group in the next 30 years, but tech jobs are right behind it and then your traditional finance service jobs like lawyers, insurance. That will also see growth,” he said.

Wakhisi reeled off a list of development projects in Buckhead and other parts of metro Atlanta, including Hub404 (formerly the Park Over Georgia 400) and the Path400 Greenway Trail, which will extend into Sandy Springs.

On the statewide level, Wakhisi said Georgia’s gross domestic product is the 10th in the nation and the state ranks fourth in job growth over the past nine years.

“The metro area’s population is currently at 5.8 million, and we’re supposed to be adding nearly 3 million between now and 2050,” he said. “We’ve got a relatively healthy job growth as well.”

He also talked about transportation trends and projections, including the Georgia Department of Transportation’s plans to add express lanes to 400 and Interstate 285.

Electric scooters, also known as e-scooters and dockless mobile devices, have presented a challenge for the metro area’s cities, especially Atlanta, where three individuals have died this year while riding them, prompting new regulations from the city’s government.

“There’s a state committee looking at (enacting) a statewide regulation on these things at the upcoming General Assembly. Up until now it was total chaos with looking at how they parked these,” Wakhisi said, pointing to slides of illegally parked e-scooters. “… There’s a higher demand for e-scooters and Uber and Uber Eats, getting lunch delivered (to) a curb. We know there’s a demand for what happens on that curb. Who gets priority?”

He also mentioned autonomous vehicles are coming sooner than you might think.

“The main benefit of autonomous vehicles is safety but another benefit is improved traffic flow,” Wakhisi said. “That means data management, real-time data. That’s a whole industry science that will benefit from that type of industry deployment. … Autonomous vehicles will improve safety by 90% and up.”

Air taxis are another transit option Atlanta could see in the future. Wakhisi showed a video featuring Uber’s version of a drone that could carry passengers without a pilot; it’s being tested out in New York.

Last year Mercedes-Benz unveiled a similar one, called a Volocopter, when it opened its Lab1886 Atlanta entrepreneurial incubator in Buckhead.

While Wakhisi had his own ideas about the metro area’s future, the commission, through Dec. 13, is seeking public input for The Atlanta Region’s Plan (www.atlantaregionsplan.org/update). The plan is a long-range look at the investments that will be made in the metro area over the next 30 years to ensure the region’s future success and improve its quality of life. Residents can submit comments by emailing opinion@atlantaregional.org.

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