Fifteen years ago Gwinnett County northeast of Atlanta was one the country’s fastest growing places—a center of ravenous suburban expansion—widening boulevards and parkways, strip shopping centers laced along gasoline alleys, disconnected office parks, residential subdivisions off dead-end cul de sacs, and swaths of blacktopped parking spaces. Local officials blocked extending the Atlanta MARTA subway system into the county, ensuring car dependence while consciously setting up transit barriers from poor sections of the metropolitan area to the south.

So today in Gwinnett commercial development activity is nil. The most familiar signs at entrances and driveways to local office buildings are either “space available” or “for lease”—take your pick.  A CEO client I visited on Friday dragged in late “after being stuck in traffic for an hour.” He’s contemplating moving the office closer to the core or at least the original I-285 perimeter. But he confronts a familiar local problem—there is no central location anywhere that can satisfy the commuting needs of any group of employees, who live scattered in often far-flung areas off a spider web of roads.

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