A time of transition for Atlanta Development Authority: New CEO, perhaps new offices
By David Pendered
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed welcomed the city’s new chief of economic development on Wednesday and suggested that the Atlanta Development Authority move to the building that once housed The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
ADA President and CEO Brian McGowan attended his first ADA meeting since taking office about two weeks ago.
McGowan, who is fresh from service with President Obama’s administration, outlined his vision for furthering the city’s growth. He spoke after Reed’s comments about relocating the ADA.
Reed, who chairs the ADA board, said the ADA should consider moving to the former AJC building. The AJC donated the site to the city and it now is being converted for reuse by various city entities. About 150 city workers are now assigned there, Reed said.
“I do believe we could exit this arrangement and move over there, and we may have spaces that are much more worthy of economic development,” Reed said. “You should give some consideration to that.”
The ADA now is housed in an aged brick building at Underground Atlanta. Its address is 86 Pryor Street and it’s located a block north of Fulton County Superior Court.
The headquarters is located between a busy Quizno’s sandwich shop and a shuttered precinct of the Atlanta Police Department. Next to the precinct is a restaurant once fashionable with state lawmakers and lobbyists, which now is closed.
The office space within the ADA headquarters was at one time called trendy or even funky, in the 1980s sense of providing bare bricks and exposed beams. At best it could be considered Class B space.
Reed said the AJC building is being remodeled by a team of world-class architects and engineers. The ADA could benefit from being in that caliber of office space, Reed said.
The former AJC building is located between the State Bar of Georgia and a barren block that leads along Marietta Street to MARTA’s Five Points Station. The structure was built in 1972 and last remodeled before the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
“We’re trying to help our partners [ADA] have a core function and be more conducive to sending a real signal of how serious we are [about economic development], Reed said.
Atlanta Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd said she endorsed the idea of considering the relocation. But she wondered what benefit it would provide to the city.
ADA’s current office space is owned by the city. That means there’s no rent to be saved by moving the ADA offices.
“That has to balance out, too, whatever the cost is,” Sheperd said. “I love the idea. I just know from asking myself and my colleagues [that there will be questions about costs].”
Reed responded that if the ADA does not act soon to move to the former AJC building, all available space may be taken.
McGowan began his remarks by saying: “I’m very happy to be here.”
McGowan noted he had “options to go other places” and chose Atlanta because “I believe Atlanta has amazing opportunities.”
McGowan touched on some of the big vision themes that are part of Atlanta’s past and which he clearly intends to be part of Atlanta’s future.
“Atlanta has to see itself as a major global city, a ‘global gateway’ is the word that comes to mind,” McGowan told a crowd of nearly 50 persons. “We have to see it that way, and act like that, and believe like that.
“We have to be concerned about our image and the way we act,” McGowan said. “Our web space, our office space – we have to step up what we’re doing.”
McGowan comes to Atlanta from his post as a deputy assistant secretary/COO in the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration. He worked on the disaster recovery in the Gulf of Mexico, in addition to devising economic development policies for cities in Serbia and Bulgaria.
McGowan said his next immediate steps are to attend a major bio-conference in Washington. He didn’t mention it, but a proposed bio-science research facility is at the heart of current plans to redevelop Fort McPherson after the military vacates the property on Sept. 15.
After the conference, he said, he intends to visit with former colleagues at a White House luncheon to discuss ways to invigorate U.S. cities.
“Thank you for welcoming me, and I’m very happy to be here,” McGowan said.
McGowan succeeds Peggy McCormick, who served former Mayor Shirley Franklin as head of the city’s development arm.
The ADA has functioned under an interim leader for 15 months. The authority is slated to receive $1.9 million in the upcoming fiscal year, its first funding from the city in three years.