A game plan to change development patterns in Gwinnett County, Georgia

Downtown Suwanee in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Photo by Smart Growth America.

Located just outside Atlanta’s Perimeter beltway, Gwinnett County stands at the crossroads of change. Long known as a low-density bedroom suburb, Gwinnett today is a diverse county of more than 800,000 people with and rapidly increasing jobs base.

But Gwinnett County is quickly bumping up against the limits of suburban development. Older retail and jobs centers are changing rapidly and some are in decline. As is the case everywhere in metropolitan Atlanta, traffic congestion is overwhelming. The County and its business leaders have sponsored several transit plans for the I-85 corridor in recent years, but the defeat of the recent transportation initiative has made it unlikely that rail transit will extend to Gwinnett County anytime soon. In a few cases – the City of Suwanee in particular – new development has taken on a different pattern. But most of the county is still stuck in the problems of suburbia.

Technical assistance

Smart growth awards honor projects helping strengthen Long Island's downtowns

Downtown Huntington, Long Island. Photo by Smart Growth America.

This past Friday, several hundred people – including elected officials, developers, bankers, preachers, business executives – gathered in Melville, NY for Vision Long Island‘s annual smart growth awards luncheon. Vision Long Island, an ally of Smart Growth America, confers the awards to plans and projects using smart growth strategies to strengthen Long Island’s unique collection of downtowns.

Although Long Island grew quickly after World War II as an archetypal auto-oriented suburb, it still has dozens of small downtowns from the prewar era, each with a commuter rail station nearby. And while plenty areas on Long Island have prospered, many have struggled. For every Brooklyn neighborhood that has seen a spectacular revival, there’s a village in Nassau County that is struggling with population loss and a faltering downtown.