Atlanta has biggest "urban footprint" growth in the country. That's bad, right?



As pointed out today by the Atlantic's excellent Cities blog:

Atlanta saw the largest absolute increase in its urban area between 2000 and 2010, growing from 1,962 square miles to 2,645, an increase of nearly 683 square miles.

Okay, that makes sense, right? It's suburban (and exurban) sprawl. No news there, not in a city of only 420k but in a metro area with 5.5 million. But I also wondered, what does "urban" mean exactly? Can something like the development of the city's westside be considered new "urban" land, because it has more density now? Or is what they count as "new" urban land just formerly unincorporated areas that now have roads and such?

Someone who helped me get my head around this is Patrick Kennedy, a Dallas-based urban designer and planner currently doing work in Atlanta. (Dallas, you'll see from the chart on the linked post above, gained the second-most urban square miles, and there are many similarities between the two cities' growth patterns.) This got us into a discussion whether such sprawl can possibly be good for an area. On the jump is some of our exchange.

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