Entries by Maria Saporta

Brian McGowan: BeltLine a catalyst to making Atlanta more equitable

Three hours after being named as the next president and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine Inc. Wednesday morning, Brian McGowan was having lunch at Ponce City Market with Ryan Gravel, the visionary who first proposed the BeltLine concept in his Georgia Tech Master’s thesis.

“I’m optimistic he will be able to take the BeltLine in a direction it needs to go,” Gravel said of his Wednesday meeting with McGowan. “I’m always excited about the opportunity to shift the leadership so the project can reach the potential we have been talking about all these years.”

Paul Morris out, Brian McGowan in at Atlanta Beltline

Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (ABI) is replacing President and CEO Paul Morriswith a former top executive with Invest Atlanta and the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Following an executive session Wednesday morning, the Beltline’s Board of Directors voted to elect Brian McGowan as the agency’s new president and CEO. Morris is stepping down from the position effective Sept. 11.

Paul Morris exiting as CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, following board meeting Wednesday morning

Paul Morris, president and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine Inc., is on his way out.

The board of Atlanta BeltLine Inc. met in executive session Wednesday morning for less than an hour, when it decided that there would be a change in leadership.

Morris has been under fire for the past month, largely because the BeltLine has not fulfilled its goals for affordable housing along the 22-mile corridor.

Forget the symbols of the Confederacy; instead let’s preserve our African-American heritage

It makes no sense.

As the nation and our region ponder whether to erase Confederate history by removing monuments and renaming streets, we are letting our precious landmarks of African-American history crumble to dust.

Where is the passion and dedication to save the pillars of U.S. black history? Let’s begin with Gaines Hall, built in 1869 and the second oldest building in the city of Atlanta, and the place where W.E.B. DuBois wrote the mind-changing book: “The Souls of Black Folks.”

New Auburn Avenue co-working space aims to foster big ideas

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on August 4, 2017

An Atlanta developer is planning an innovative co-working space along one of Atlanta’s most historic streets — a project that’s already lured high-profile investors including top Home Depot executives.

Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate plans to open Constellations, a $2 million project that will offer “culturally-inspired” workspace with the hope of bringing together great minds who care about making a difference in the city.

Retired Home Depot CEO Frank Blake: ‘I really don’t like Amazon’

Frank Blake, the retired chairman and CEO of the Home Depot, is not a fan of Amazon – a company that is disrupting the retailing industry.

“Amazon is a dark star,” Blake said. “I really don’t like Amazon.”

Blake was the guest speaker Monday at the Rotary Club of Atlanta, where he was asked about the impact of e-commerce on retailing.

Column: TOUR Championship aims to become premier Atlanta sporting event

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on July 21, 2017

A concerted effort is underway to elevate the annual TOUR Championship as one of Atlanta’s premier sporting events.

As evidence, the TOUR Championship has hired Bob Williams, former president of the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, as its executive chairman who will work on building stronger relationships between the TOUR and Atlanta’s business and hospitality community.

Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration issues response to latest Maria’s Metro column

Note to readers: Here is a press release issued Wednesday by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration in response to a Maria’s Metro column that appeared this week. At SaportaReport, we strongly believe in being as fair as we can be, and we are publishing Reed’s response in its entirety. Naturally, there is tension between public officials and journalists. Obviously, my relationship with Mayor Reed is no exception. Despite what the mayor says, I do my best to provide accurate information in my stories and columns. When I do offer a point of view, it is based on facts, journalistic standards and my love for Atlanta. Also, please know that as a reporter, I have never endorsed any particular candidate. It was true in 2009, and it is true today. I will continue to call things as I see them. I’ve  been a reporter for 37 years, and I’ve developed a tough skin and will not be bullied or intimidated. Thanks for reading SaportaReport. Maria

Westside’s At-Promise Youth Center seeks to be a game-changer

The tagline says it all: “Our Youth are At-Promise, Not At-Risk.”

The At-Promise Youth Center in English Avenue officially opened after a warm ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 1 – the culmination of dozens of partners in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

The $2 million-plus facility will be a place to divert young people from having a possible experience in the criminal justice system. Instead, it will be a place that will seek to get to the root causes of juvenile-behavior issues and be a place to their lives around.

Mayor Kasim Reed may award key employment contracts before leaving office

With less than six months remaining before he leaves office, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is working on all cylinders trying to accomplish as much as he can in the precious time he has left.

But all this activity has a downside.

The next mayor of Atlanta could inherit a City Hall where major policy moves, government contracts and personnel decisions will have been decided before he or she takes office.

New Friendship Baptist Church opens its doors – looking forward, not backwards

Friendship Baptist Church has its own home once more.

After three years of being in temporary quarters, the historic congregation of Friendship Baptist Church held its first service in its new home on Sunday.

At the first service, there were songs of rejoice and an uplifting spirit – following feelings of displacement, dissension and disorientation.

Atlanta BeltLine CEO Paul Morris could be on his way out

During a talk at the Atlanta Commerce Club, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed implied he might be making a leadership change at Atlanta BeltLine Inc., the city’s arm in charge of development along the 22-mile corridor.

In response to an attendee’s question about affordable housing along the BeltLine, Reed said there was going to be more funds available to improve equity along the corridor.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will keep its roof closed until later in the fall

Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay looked up to the partially-closed roof of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium during a tour on Tuesday with board members of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

“Not one drop of water can come in,” McKay said. That is the requirement of the NCAA when a Final Four tournament is played in a facility.

Mayor Reed and key city council folks are at odds over closing Eastside TAD

Invest Atlanta provided financing to a record number of developments at its board meeting July 21 – projects that will add a total of 493 units of affordable and workforce housing – a top priority of Mayor Kasim Reed.

But a reason there was such a rush of projects was due to the possible closing of the Eastside TAD (Tax Allocation District). And Mayor Kasim Reed supports closing the TAD.

Column: Mercedes-Benz USA going strong as it marks two years in Atlanta

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on July 14, 2017

Mercedes-Benz USA moved its headquarters to metro Atlanta exactly two years ago (in July, 2015), and the luxury car company has been going non-stop ever since.

“It feels like we’ve been here forever,” said Dietmar Exler, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA and the regional head of North America, which includes Canada and Mexico.

South Downtown project moves forward

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on July 14, 2017

German real estate company Newport US RE is moving forward with ambitions to redevelop portions of eight blocks and up to 750,000 square feet of South Downtown’s historic buildings.

Newport has filed plans with the Eastside Tax Allocation District, where it will seek up to $12 million in public funding for the project — one of the largest ever proposed for downtown.