By Maria Saporta and Dave Williams
Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (ABI) is replacing President and CEO Paul Morris with 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.
McGowan, currently a principal in the Atlanta office of the global law firm Dentons LLP, previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and, before that, as CEO of Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency.
“The ABI is very fortunate to have Brian McGowan as its new leader,” ABI board Chairman John Somerhalder said. “Brian brings a wealth of experience to the organization, and I am confident that he is the right person to continue to guide the Atlanta Beltline into its next phase.”
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.
At a recent Commerce Club luncheon speech, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed alluded to a possible leadership change when he said: “You’ve got to have a leader of the Beltline that is committed to affordability as a first thought and not an after-thought.”
In a statement after Wednesday’s vote, Morris expressed confidence in the Beltline’s future.
“I have been extraordinarily honored and humbled by the opportunity I have had for the last four years to have worked for this project,” he said. “At the end of the day, the Beltline has never been about me or any one individual but has required the leadership of the mayor, the ABI board and the successful efforts of several partners for the Beltline to have come as far along as it has.”
Reed expressed gratitude for Morris’ accomplishments.
“Under his leadership, the Beltline has activated a $43 million extension of the Westside Trail and Eastside Trail southern extension, adding over four miles to the project, and became the most visited attraction in the city of Atlanta with 1.4 million annual visitors,” the mayor said.
The BeltLine is a multi-faceted urban redevelopment initiative that includes multi-purpose trails, parks, development and eventually transit.
Morris was named president and CEO of the Atlanta BeltLine in June, 2013.
Dave Williams covers government for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.