Atlanta seeks ideas to cash in on public domain in busy parts of city

By David Pendered

Atlanta city officials are to meet Tuesday with vendors to begin the process of monetizing the public space in order to generate up to $5 million a year.

Boston will make $21 million over 20 years through the sale of advertising on street furniture, according to an Atlanta report. Credit:

Boston will make $21 million over 20 years through the sale of advertising on street furniture, according to an Atlanta report. Credit:

The idea is for Atlanta to collect fees for allowing private companies to install “amenities” in commercial areas. Boston is cited as one example of the concept, for its $21 million, 20-year contract for advertising on street furniture.

Atlanta has issued a request for information and has scheduled a pre-conference Tuesday to answer questions from companies interesting in participating. Responses are due to the city by Feb. 4.

The city doesn’t have a definite vision for the program, according to the RFI. Instead, the private sector is to submit ideas, and the best concepts are to be included in a formal request for proposals that will be crafted by Mayor Kasim Reed’s Office of Innovation Delivery and Performance.

The RFI contains 14 examples, including:

  • SEPTA, the transit agency in the Philadelphia area, sold naming rights of the Pattison Station to AT&T for $3 million and agreed to change every reference to Pattison throughout the system and online. Credit:

    SEPTA, the transit agency in the Philadelphia area, sold naming rights of the Pattison Station to AT&T for $3 million and agreed to change every reference to Pattison throughout the system and online. Credit:

    “Advertising supported street furniture;

  • “Activation strategies for the Atlanta Streetcar’s stations and cars;
  • “Public WiFi;
  • “Beautification/public art with a marketing component;
  • “Sustainability amenities (i.e. recycling, heat island mitigation, storm water drainage, solar, etc.).

The list contains several money-making concepts once offered by advertising guru Joel Babbit when he worked for then Mayor Maynard Jackson, as Atlanta’s first chief marketing and communications officer.

In the run-up to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, Babbit suggested Atlanta sell advertising in public spaces and naming rights on public facilities to raise money and attention for Atlanta.

The current initiative was recommended in the June report from Reed’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Waste & Efficiency in Government. The committee was co-chaired by Atlanta Councilmember Howard Shook and Delta CEO Richard Anderson.

San Francisco street furniture

San Francisco has agreed to allow 113 advertising kiosks that are back-lit, 17 feet high and located in busy parts of town. Terms of the deal were not immediately available. Credit:

The committee had two main objectives:

  • To identify sources of revenue that could be used to maintain roads, bridges and other infrastructure without raising property taxes;
  • To create an operating model for the city that is more competitive and fiscally sustainable.

The committee recommended eight concepts that it viewed as “game changers,” which are viewed as strategic reforms in operating practices that will take several years to implement. Atlanta stands to collect up to $40 million a year if all eight concepts are implemented by Fiscal Year 2017, which begins July 1, 2016, according to the committee’s report.

To support the notion of what the report calls a, “Comprehensive Municipal Marketing Strategy,” the report names five examples of cities that are making money through similar programs. Including Boston, the cities and their programs are:

  • “Philadelphia: $3 million for naming and advertising rights for Pattison Station sold to AT&T for 5 years;
  • “San Diego: $20 million generated since 1999 through their Corporate Partnerships Program;
  • “Cleveland: $12 million (one-time) naming rights along Cleveland’s ‘Health Line’ BRT [bus rapid transit];
  • “Huntington Beach: $6 million for a 10-year exclusive vending contract.

The committee also recommended four concepts that are viewed as “quick fixes.”

The transfer of the Cyclorama to a suitable entity was listed as one “quick fix” that Atlanta has already implemented by transferring the historic Civil War painting to the Atlanta History Center in exchange for a licensing agreement and other benefits.


David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

6 replies
  1. PriscillaPadron says:

    Say it isn’t so. We’re already bombasted with ads on the MARTA buses, stations and trains as well as billboards everywhere. There’s no place to rest the eye or ears, for that matter.  I can see ads all over the walls and walks of Centennial Olympic Park. We’ve got the Chick Fil-A Bowl instead of the iconic Peach Bowl. I just read that the New York City Ballet is performing at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. How awful — not just invasive, but political.  At least the High Museum has its roots in property and history.Report

  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ PriscillaPadron
    Koch pledged in 2008 $100 million over 10 years to update the theater and provide an endowment for operation and maintenance. This amount dwarfs the recent Woodruff $38 million pledge to the High, most of which is contingent on matching gifts. I think Koch was very generous, and shame on you for injecting politics. Would you reject a $100 million pledge from George Soros?Report

  3. PriscillaPadron says:

    Well, David Koch can afford to buy the whole country, for that matter, and he’s in the process of doing so. At least the Woodruff grant is local, and as far as I know apolitical.Report

  4. Burroughston Broch says:

    PriscillaPadron You neglected to answer the question in my last sentence, so I remind you.
    Koch is estimated by Forbes to be worth $40 billion and Soros $24 billion, so they are peers.  You couldn’t buy this country with 500 Kochs, so please spare us the hyperbole.
    You are naive if you believe the Woodruff Foundation is apolitical. It only states it does not fund politicial campaigns or lobbying; it also states it does not fund endowments but the recently announced pledge to the WAC is going to fund endowments, so take their statements with a grain of salt.
    The trustees and staff are hardly apolitical.Report

  5. PriscillaPadron says:

    I don’t follow George Soros.  In fact, I haven’t seen anything in the press about him for quite a while.  Does he insist that every contribution he makes be rewarded by renaming the venue or building in his honor?  With people like you lurking out there hoping to start a big fight, it’s not fun to post.  My bad.Report

  6. Burroughston Broch says:

    PriscillaPadron I don’t follow Mr. Soros either but know he is a patron of the political left. You brought up the subject of politics so you shouldn’t be surprised when someone disagrees with you. I don’t consider this a fight, so why do you? Just because I don’t agree?Report


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