By David Pendered
Another game-changing proposal to renew a portion of metro Atlanta is coming out of Georgia Tech and it is to be presented to the public Wednesday.
A dozen students studying for their masters degree in Tech’s School of City & Regional Planning have proposed a 12-page set of recommendations intended to improve neighborhoods within a mile radius of the future Falcons stadium. Officials with Invest Atlanta are reviewing the report and may use some of it to write the first draft of a community benefits deal.
Students at Tech already have produced ideas that have remade the face of Atlanta. Atlantic Station and the Atlanta BeltLine are two that may be the most dramatic, and therefore the most widely known.
The students’ final report is to be complete in early December. Recommendations for the stadium neighborhoods are divided into four categories:
- Transportation, defined as walking, bicycling, transit, roads, and parking;
- Jobs, community development, and housing;
- The environmental framework, including topography, storm water, soil conditions, health impacts, and opportunities for parks and green space;
- Land use and urban design, including walkability, active uses along major streets, historic and cultural celebration, and public safety.
The current document from Tech students is one of five reports that Invest Atlanta intends to use to create a community benefits deal, according to Ernestine Garey, executive vice president and COO of the city’s development authority.
This deal has to be approved by the Atlanta City Council before the city can sell any bonds to provide the Falcons with the $200 million in construction costs Atlanta agreed to fund.
The other reports that will influence the community benefits deal include:
- A survey that created a preliminary ranking of proposed projects;
- A planning study of the Vine City/English Avenue neighborhoods conducted by APD Urban Planning and Management;
- A planning study of the Castleberry Hill neighborhood;
- Comments from community members.
“We will take all of that into consideration as we draft the plan,” Garey said at the Oct. 23 meeting of the Community Benefits Plan Committee.
The document that’s become known as the “Tech study” or “Tech report” is described as “a synthesis of 12 students’ current thoughts.”
Recommendations range from the obvious – provide access through the stadium property from the neighborhoods to downtown and Centennial Olympic Park; to the aspirational – require that at least 30 percent of food expenditures by the Falcons and stadium tenants to be spent on food grown within 100 miles of the stadium.
The studio project is being overseen by two instructors – Mike Dobbins, a professor of practice at Tech and former Atlanta planning commissioner; and Bruce Gunter, a co-founder and CEO of Progressive Redevelopment, Inc., which has closed after once being the state’s largest nonprofit owner and developer of affordable housing. Guanying Li is facilitating the studio’s work as a graduate research assistant.
Tech graduates have long played a major role in Atlanta’s development.
In another example of a game-changing development, Tech grad Paul Duke led the planning in the late 1960s for Technology Park/Atlanta. The office park in Peachtree Corners was envisioned as a place that would attract companies that could employ Tech grads who otherwise had to leave metro Atlanta to find a job in technology fields.
Now Tech students, as well as graduates, are playing a role in the region’s development. Both Atlantic Station and the BeltLine were topics of masters theses.
At Fort McPherson, Tech students offered ideas for the master plan to convert the property to civilian uses that now are being reviewed as the original master plan is reconsidered in light of current market conditions. The ideas include creating dense developments near the two MARTA rail stations that border the property.
Another Tech student came up with an idea that helped shape the interchange of Ga. 400 and I-85. An initial plan of the state Transportation Department would have significantly impacted a neighborhood, and a Tech student suggested that a flyover bridge could be built and a park installed for no additional cost.