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Atlanta BeltLine not ready to name new CEO; approves $5 million to study new streetcar projects

By Maria Saporta

The board of Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (ABI) met Wednesday morning, going into executive session, to discuss who will be its next CEO among the five already disclosed finalists.

But once they called the public back in the room, it became quickly obvious that little new information would be shared.

The Atlanta BeltLine board, however, did take action on four resolutions that could determine the future streetcar projects for the city.

As for the search, ABI Chairman John Somerhalder, who is CEO of AGL Resources, said the process is continuing.

“We have five good candidates,” Somerhalder said after the meeting. “We agreed on a process to finalize the information we need to make a final decision, and we will have to do that in an open session We don’t have a defined time (to make that decision).”

Somerhalder said that could include some follow-up discussions with the candidates about questions of timing and availability.

The five finalists are as follows: Lisa Gordon, chief operating officer for the Atlanta BeltLine who has been serving as the interim CEO since August; Tad Leithhead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, Paul Morris, former deputy secretary of transit for the North Carolina Department of Transportation; Aundra “Drew” Wallace, executive director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority; and Tom Weyandt, senior policy advisor for transportation for the City of Atlanta.

Although Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is on ABI’s board, he did not attend Wednesday’s meeting. But Somerhalder said that the mayor has been involved in the interviews and he’s met with all the candidates.

“When we bring this final information together, we will make sure he’s involved in that process,” Somerhalder said, adding that all five finalists are still in the running. “We have good out-of-town candidates, and we have good in-town candidates.”

For more information about the candidates, please read an earlier SaportaReport story on the search.

The ABI board did approve four resolutions to position the city to be ready to accept federal funds for future possible streetcar projects.

The first resolution authorized the organization to begin negotiations to execute a contract, not to exceed $2 million, for an “environmental assessment” for the Atlanta BeltLine East and Atlanta Streetcar Expansion Strategy.

The second resolution authorized ABI to enter into negotiations and enter into a contract,  not to exceed $1.8 million, for “design services” for Atlanta BeltLine East and Atlanta Streetcar extensions.

The third resolution authorized ABI to enter into negotiations and executive a contract, not to exceed $950,000, for project management support.

And the fourth resolution approved an agreement with the City of Atlanta for ABI to provide services for various transportation-related projects.

In short, the various projects that are to be included in these various studies and assessments include:

  • extending the Atlanta Streetcar under construction on the east side from Ebenezer Baptist Church to BeltLine’s Eastside Trail;
  • developing a new streetcar route along the Eastside Trail from Irwin Street to Ansley Mall;
  • developing a streetcar route from Irwin Street south towards Grant Park;
  • extending the Atlanta Streetcar on the west side from Centennial Olympic Park north towards Georgia Tech; and
  • developing a new East-West streetcar line along North Avenue from the Eastside Trail to Maddox Park.

Although money to actually build these various streetcar lines has not currently been identified, Nate Conable, ABI’s director of transit and transportation, said that by spending between $5 million and $6 million on these environmental and design studies, the city would be in a better position to accept federal dollars if they should become available.

The money for these studies will be coming from the Atlanta BeltLine, the Westside Tax Allocation District and the Eastside Tax Allocation District. Because a segment of the proposed streetcar line along North Avenue is outside one of the TAD districts, the city and the BeltLine still need to come up with about $1 million in funding to complete the studies for that corridor.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Bernie31 May 9, 2013 1:32 am

    This is one Giant BOONDOGGLE of a PLAN! The operating Costs Alone will be its ultimate DOOM!Report

  2. Matthew C Cardinale May 9, 2013 9:54 am

    This is absurd, Maria.  It’s no longer about “the Beltline”; Beltline, Inc. has become a new unaccountable planning department for the City of Atlanta.  I believe our City Departments should be doing this planning.Report

  3. arctk2011tj May 9, 2013 2:15 pm

    Bernie31 @Matthew C Cardinale  – since when are public infrastructure improvements in the form of these types of transit options “boondoggle” plans? So many  people are crying out for improved transit access and expansion. The Atlanta Beltline and Streetcar projects are becoming more feasible options for getting people where they need to go within that “last mile” concept. Which is one of the larger criticisms of Atlanta’s transit system- getting where people need to go. 
    Why should visitors, residents, and even business people have to drive and park from one monstrosity of a parking deck to another to get to a place 1/2 mile away when they could have transit options? These are the types of projects that have the power to redefine Atlanta’s planning and zoning guidelines to create a more cohesively connected metropolis. The Beltline and Streetcar projects are already improving even the lives of those that don’t live within the city- you’re just too blind to see just how much of an impact these projects have already have had on the economic development of the region.Report

  4. Immovable Media May 11, 2013 3:53 pm

    Seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgrpf6jXO-E is a Video Construction Update of all 2.7 miles of the Atlanta Streetcar from 4/26/13. I created this video for everyone who would like to see the construction progress 1st hand without ever having to go Downtown. Enjoy!Report


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