There aren’t many cranes in the air over Atlanta, but when projects pick up—and locals are confident they will—seeking approvals and permits will be much easier.

In October, the Atlanta City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance to reform the permitting process, including consolidating related functions into one department and laying the groundwork to create a fast-track process for interior projects. And in December, Mayor Kasim Reed signed into law legislation that created separate tracks for small, medium, and large projects. That bill also enables registered applicants to get permits online in 10 business days.

“The City of Atlanta has removed a long-standing barrier to economic development by reworking the construction-permit process,” says Manuel Cadrecha, AIA, design director for Perkins+Will’s Atlanta outpost.

While development has stalled in the ATL, the multifamily, university, and build-to-suit sectors are seeing some activity. “There is no, I repeat, no spec development happening here, and there isn’t likely to be anytime soon,” asserts Bob Mathews, president and CEO of Colliers International’s local office.

The 10 Terminus Place project is a high-profile example of the multifamily building trend. The 19-story, 155-unit condominium tower sits on top of the Piedmont Road parking deck and features a window wall composed of both low-E vision glass and insulated spandrel panels.

Though known as a sprawling metroplex, Atlanta boasts a downtown with a pretty pastiche of small neighborhoods and tree-lined streets. Water continues to be a significant infrastructural challenge as the population grows, and transportation is a key concern.

In response, planners in Atlanta and its suburbs are taking action. “Efforts to plan smarter, denser development, and to consider mass transportation in a more regional way, are being made,” says Joe Greco, AIA, principal and president of local firm Lord Aeck & Sargent.

The Atlanta Beltline project, for example, will connect 45 neighborhoods along a mostly abandoned rail line. And there’s LAS’s three-story Southface Eco Office, a 10,100-square-foot commercial office building, training facility, and green-design and -construction demonstration center. The LEED Platinum facility records both energy and water performance and features a green roof.

A destination city, Atlanta has several projects under way that appeal to tourists and locals alike. Case in point: the 75,000-square-foot College Football Hall of Fame, located in the museum district and adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park. The exterior skin of the features a dimpled metal scrim.

Despite the low project volume, Atlantans remain bullish. “We’re bumping along the bottom like a lot of other cities,” Mathews admits. “But I think we will come out of this beginning in 2013 and see more development activity and job growth that will build demand for commercial space. In five years, it should be fantastic.”