Muhtar Kent, President and CEO of the Coca Cola Company, recently suggested “the current global economic crisis gripping much of the world is not, in fact, an insurmountable setback for local leaders but rather an opportunity to be seized.”
Today, Atlanta’s leadership is ardently searching for an opportunity to solve our transportation issues and jump start our economy. Indeed, some proposed changes in Federal transit policy present just such an opportunity.
The Obama administration has recently allocated $13 billion dollars for a national high speed rail initiative which has Atlanta centered at the confluence of two major corridors.
The administration also has begun implementation of plans for a national infrastructure investment bank that would provide $60 billion in transportation financing and support up to two million jobs and $35 billion in new economic activity.
These Federal transit and development funds can provide a catalyst for the city of Atlanta and its partners to address simultaneously a critical portion of its transportation issues and accelerate the development of our evolving center city – the area inside the Beltline’s boundaries – by leveraging them with the funding for the various projects within and including the Beltline project.
This strategy relieves some the current pressure on the state and local transit funding budgets by using federal resources that are earmarked for just these types of projects.
For example, leveraging the Beltline project, a $2 billion transit-oriented development, and major projects within the Tax Allocation Districts (TADS) downtown, Midtown and the adjacent neighborhoods, creates a significant and measurable economic impact that clearly meets the legislative intent and public policy objectives of these programs.
This strategic approach to transit-oriented development would involve creating a shared vision among the various stake holders of the center city projects, including the Beltline, which results in a public-private initiative that creates a multiple amount of dollars in development for every federal dollar awarded.
Atlanta’s center city provides a clearly defined physical space with enough existing transit assets and transit-oriented projects to build a highly competitive proposal.The resultant investment of the billions of dollars required to successfully increase the accessibility both into and around the center city will generate new jobs, new tax revenues as well as other economic activity such as affordable housing and international commerce.
Here are a few examples of where and how leveraging the federal funds would work :
The “Gulch”: The redevelopment of this downtown site, the proposed location of the Multi-Modal Transit Station, which will serve as the hub for the proposed rail lines, could establish a multi-billion dollar international business and trade center featuring the scale, density and amenities such as well designed sidewalks, thoroughfares and art that characterizes a global urban center. With the proper design standards and business mix, the area could become the Shanghai of the South.
The “Arts Village“: The proposed expansion of the Woodruff Arts Center’s Midtown campus is an almost a half billion dollar project that will surround the Arts Center MARTA Station with world class cultural, residential and commercial development. A substantial amount of investment has already been committed. Federal transit funding could assist in completing this critical component of Atlanta’s cultural community.
The Georgia World Congress Center: Currently the GWCC campus hosts a number of world class sporting, entertainment and cultural events like the Super Bowl but the facilities are aged and our competitors are outpacing us by developing larger and more attractive convention facilities. Atlanta could significantly expand the campus by improving its accessibility with enhanced pedestrian amenities in addition to building newer buildings to house events like the World Cup and international trade shows and conventions.
Atlanta was founded as a regional transit hub. My vision for the future is Atlanta’s center city becoming a modern, global multi-modal transit hub that uses its assets to provide a sustainable urban environment.
Is this approach ambitious?
Yes. But Atlanta is a city that has been driven to greatness by the ambitious vision and plans of leaders like Billy Payne, Bernie Marcus and Andrew Young.
So Atlanta let’s follow the admonition of the famous architect and urban planner, Daniel Burnham, and make no small plans.