By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Oct. 24, 2014
Atlanta real estate developer Jamestown is preserving 12 acres along the Chattahoochee River as part of its Riverview Landing development in Cobb County – planning to make the river the centerpiece of an 82-acre mixed-use project that it hopes will transform that stretch of the river.
But Jamestown’s investment is being made on faith that adjacent developments will share a similar respect for the Chattahoochee and public access.
Now a new organization is being formed to help make sure development along the Chattahoochee is not be left up to chance, happenstance or a developer’s whim. Chattahoochee Now – a coalition of preservationists, environmentalists and developers – will hold its first major event on Oct. 29. The event is being called “An Invitation to Imagine” – and it is described as an evening to dream big about the future of the river.
Chattahoochee Now is trying to raise nearly $200,000 to embark on a year-long blueprint process with the Georgia Conservancy so the organizations can develop a Chattahoochee River master plan along a 53-mile stretch from Peachtree Creek to Coweta County.
“We are trying to make sure everyone is at the table,” said Steve Nygren, chairman of Chattahoochee Now and founder of Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills. “Preservationists don’t talk to the developers, developers don’t talk to the environmentalists.”
Chattahoochee Now’s board reflects that broad representation plus a younger generation of leaders, including John Anderson Lanier, the grandson of the late Ray Anderson who is now running the foundation named after the environmentalist and Interface Inc. founder.
Walter Brown, a senior vice president of Jamestown and co-chair of Chattahoochee Now, proudly shows off the dock that has been built at Riverview Landing – opening up that section of the river for organized activities. The company is planning to soon start construction on a community center, and then it will begin to build the residential areas.
“We are just a little piece of a much larger puzzle,” Brown said. “This could be a greenway going for miles. That’s what the master plan will determine. It will identify where does development make sense and where it does not make sense. If we have a larger regional plan, then everybody could just relax.”
Chattahoochee Now has hired an executive director, Shannon Kettering, who worked with Nygren on the Chattahoochee Hill Country Master Plan. She has been bringing together the multiple stakeholders so they can coordinate their efforts. There were nine governments – five counties and four cities; and seven founding partners – the Atlanta BeltLine Inc., the Conservation Fund, the Trust for Public Land, the Georgia Conservancy, the National Park Service, the PATH Foundation, and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.
Chattahoochee Now is convening the major landowners on the river to try to get buy-in from those with a vested interest in the future of the Chattahoochee – those include family landowners as well as industrial and commercial users.