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.
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:
“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.
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.