For the past few days, I’ve been spending time with my parents. Although they have been gone for more than 20 years, their spirits shine brightly in Atlanta and within me. Two recent events really solidified that ...
by SaportaReport Contributor Jamie Clements, a leader at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, recently shared his perspectives on the fascinating world of Broadway-bound productions and theatrical investing. Jamie, the Alliance’s director of development, brings both professional and personal passion and knowledge to theatre, and has watched numerous shows originally produced at the Alliance Theatre continue on to successful Broadway or off-Broadway runs. He generously fielded our questions to help others better understand this intriguing world. 1. Jamie, would you explain the Alliance’s history of sending productions to Broadway? a. Since its founding in 1968, the Alliance has premiered more than 100 original productions, launching important American musicals to Broadway, including the Tony Award winners The Color Purple; Aida by Elton John and Tim Rice; and Alfred Uhry’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo. Because Atlanta has helped us create such a remarkable venue, and helped support us attracting and hiring incredibly talented designers, costume artisans, set builders and theater run-crews (the people who actually make the shows work each night behind the scenes), the Alliance is in an elite group of less than a dozen theaters nation-wide who specialize in large-scale, pre-Broadway, world premiere partnerships. We have sent nine shows to Broadway and have quite a few in the line-up for future projects, including two hopefuls (Becoming Nancy and Maybe Happy Ending) in our current season. 2. How does the Alliance Theatre partner with investors and producers? a. It is not common knowledge that every show on Broadway is actually a for-profit company, and like most successful companies, the producers who originate these shows like to have a “beta test” or trial run to test their product before scaling it up to Broadway. Your favorites – Wicked, Hamilton, The Color Purple, The Lion King, etc. – all had one of these “out of town try-outs,” as they are called in the theater business, in big regional, non-profit theaters like the Alliance. During these trial runs, the shows change dramatically in rehearsals, and as the producers and directors hear and see the reactions from the audiences during what are called “preview performances.” A pre-Broadway show will often have 10-12 previews before Opening Night at the Alliance, with the show changing every single night until it “locks in” on Opening and remains the same for the remainder of the run. Because of this iterative process in previews, the producers are every bit as interested in our audiences as they are in our staff. The Alliance is a standout in the competitive world of pre-Broadway partnerships because of our diverse, engaged and invested patrons. 3. Does the Alliance Theatre profit when shows they produce go big? a. A wise Broadway investor once said “investing in a Broadway show is the most fun money you will ever lose!” When we enter into an agreement with Broadway-bound shows, the Alliance becomes an investor in that show, but we are most interested in sharing a great new story with Atlanta before the rest of the world sees it. Because we go to great expense to help build, costume and run a show, we do share in a small percentage of the profits after the show hopefully goes on to Broadway, national tours, and sometimes even when it is licensed to grace the stages of high schools, colleges, or community theaters around the country. Any money we receive in royalties is invested directly back into the work we do on our Atlanta stages and in hundreds of classrooms around the state of Georgia. We are always looking to be partners on high-potential shows, not only because they are great fun while they are in Atlanta, but also because we get to help export a great cultural product from Georgia that will then pay dividends we are able to reinvest in our city and community. 4. How have shows performed on Broadway? Any Tony Awards or other accolades? a. The Alliance has been incredibly fortunate with all of our Broadway-bound partnerships, but we are of course very proud of our three Tony Award winning shows (The Color Purple, Aida, and The Last Night of Ballyhoo). These shows were some of the reasons why The American Theatre Wing chose to award the Alliance Theatre itself with a Tony Award for artistic excellence in 2007. The Prom, which premiered at the Alliance in 2017, recently concluded 300+ performances on Broadway and received seven Tony nominations during this past awards season. In total, world premieres from the Alliance have garnered 30 Tony nominations and six Tony Awards. More than anything, the remarkable people attached to these shows – designers, actors, musicians, artists – all form incredible bonds with our patrons, staff and our city, so we see that as one of the best rewards each time we host a pre-Broadway partnership. 5. Have you seen any on Broadway? a. I was fortunate to see The Prom in the final week of previews on Broadway, just days before it had a fabulous Opening Night. It was the first show I’ve been able to see from “beta test” version here at the Alliance, all the way to scaled-up nationwide attention and fame. Selections from The Prom also kicked off 2018’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which was a proud moment to watch. 6. What’s your favorite thing about Becoming Nancy? a. One reviewer noted that this is a “life-positive” show, and I couldn’t agree more. It is alive and energetic and exhilarating and funny and heartwarming. Exactly what I want from a great night at the theater. Becoming Nancy is currently running on the brand new Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre until Sunday, October 6. For more information, visit alliancetheatre.org. Featured photo: Jasmine Rogers, Nicole Medoro, Sally Ann Triplett, Zachary Sayle, Jessica Vosk, Lizzie Bea, and Matt Hetherington in the Alliance Theatre’s 2019/20 world premiere production BECOMING NANCY. Photo by Greg Mooney.
Construction Finance Closing Marks Beginning of Community Development, Affordable Housing Efforts By MARTA Place Properties and H.J. Russell Company, MARTA’s development partners for the King Memorial Station transit-oriented development (TOD), closed on financing to begin construction. With $6 million in grant funding from Invest Atlanta, the $62.5 million project is a collaboration that will create 100 affordable housing units of 300 total units and complement development efforts occurring along Memorial Drive and the surrounding historic community. Located on approximately 4.4 acres of underutilized parking space on the south side of the station, the King Memorial TOD, which seeks to increase riders at a station with the second lowest ridership system-wide, is a part of MARTA’s broader TOD initiative. The development plan also includes ground floor retail and an arts project for the Grant Street Tunnel. “The King Memorial Station development will offer affordable housing alongside the public transit-focused lifestyle TOD seeks to facilitate,” said Jeffrey Parker, MARTA general manager and CEO. “We are excited about the partnership with Place-Russell and Invest Atlanta. With one-third of the units being affordable, we have been deliberate about supporting the Mayor’s affordable housing goals.” “We’re going into the new year with the prospect of bringing 100 affordable housing units and 10,000 square feet of retail space to the King Memorial Station. That’s exciting,” said H. Jerome Russell, president of H.J. Russell & Company, one of the city’s largest and oldest minority-owned development and construction firms. Cecil Phillips, Place Properties CEO, agreed, “This is a transformational development for MARTA and this part of the city. It is indeed a project that we can all be excited about.” “Adding affordable housing along Atlanta’s transit lines is a key part of economic mobility by providing easier access to employment centers and reducing transportation costs for more city residents,” said Dr. Eloisa Klementich, President and CEO of Invest Atlanta. “On average, 63 percent of a family’s income is spent on housing and transportation. Making an impact on this through transit-oriented development like at King Memorial station helps to drive investment while decreasing a family’s spend, allowing them to focus on other family needs.” The site is conveniently located between the neighborhoods of Old Fourth Ward, Grant Park, Downtown and Cabbagetown. The station, just two stops from downtown Atlanta, is in the historic Grant Park neighborhood and due west of Oakland Cemetery. The station serves the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and Ebenezer Baptist Church. It is approximately three blocks south of the Atlanta Streetcar. This marks the second multifamily development project financed this year on MARTA land with set asides for affordable housing. The Link development at Edgewood-Candler Park station was the first.
By Gregg Simon, Senior Vice President of Economic Development, Metro Atlanta Chamber As we move forward into a new decade, it is a perfect time to reflect on the economic state of metro Atlanta. Our region continued to enjoy significant economic growth in 2019 across our 29-county metro, across multiple industries. Before highlighting success stories, I want to emphasize the spirit of collaboration in economic development in our region. I recently attended a meeting with a business and their consultant as they visited Atlanta to evaluate our region against others for a new operation. A senior official from another organization explained to the visitors that economic development is a partnership in Georgia: when you speak to one of our organizations you speak to all of us. As someone who has promoted this collaboration for years, that comment was music to my ears. The strong partnership between the Georgia Department of Economic Development, utilities, local chambers, governments and development authorities, universities, the private sector and the Metro Atlanta Chamber is a strong team that continues to drive success. Layer onto this tactic partnership regional efforts including the Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership and the Regional Market Alliance of the Atlanta Regional Commission and we are fortunate to be a region rich in economic development resources. A key economic driver for our region continues to be our significant population growth. Consider that our regional population is around six million people, making metro Atlanta the ninth-largest metro in the U.S. From 2017 to 2018, the population of the Atlanta MSA (29 counties) increased by an estimated 75,702 people, ranking fourth metro area in the nation for numeric increase in population. The Atlanta Regional Commission forecasts the 20-county Atlanta region will add 2.5 million more people by 2040, bringing the population to more than 8 million. This population growth has led to an influx of businesses and investment in our region. Notable projects announced in 2019 include: CarMax – This Richmond, Virginia-based automotive company selected a building in Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County for a 300+ person customer experience center. Chick fil-A – Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A decided to build its first company-owned distribution facility in Cartersville in Bartow County. The facility will employ over 300 people. Invesco – The Atlanta-based financial services leader that acquired Oppenheimer Fund is moving 500 jobs to Atlanta and recently broke ground on a new 300,000 square foot headquarters in Midtown Atlanta. Stitch Fix – A San Francisco-based e-commerce apparel company that offers online personal style assistance selected Lithia Springs in Douglas County for a 900-person distribution facility. These four projects are a sampling of the 83 companies that selected Metro Atlanta in 2019 for new or expanded operations that will employ more than 11,000 people over the next few years. In addition to the businesses selecting Atlanta for new or expanded facilities, real estate developers are partnering with communities across the region to create new residential, retail and office communities. A sampling of notable projects under construction or planned now include: Centennial Yards in the City of Atlanta, Halcyon in Forsyth County, the Mill on Etowah in Cherokee County, Pinewood Forest in Fayette County. Halcyon in Forsyth County is a 135-acre mixed use development that includes retail, residential and office space. The project features 250,000 square feet of office space that is already almost entirely leased before delivery. The Mill on Etowah in the City of Canton in Cherokee County recently received the Deal of the Year award from the Georgia Economic Developers Association and the Regional Redevelopment of the Year at the Metro Atlanta Redevelopment Summit. A former denim factory, the property is being redeveloped plus and additional 350,000 square feet into apartments, retail and office. Pinewood Forest in Fayette County is a new community for the creative class. Across the street from Pinewood Studios, the development under construction calls for 1,300 residences, along with a movie theater, a fitness center, pocket parks – and an entire town center. These developments demonstrate the strong investment in our region. We see continued growth in industry sectors such as logistics, digital health technology, cybersecurity, digital media, financial services/technology, software, smart cities/mobile technology and manufacturing. Layer in our 292,000 enrolled college students, world’s busiest and most-efficient airport, large concentration of headquarters of global brands, and a region that embraces diversity – you have the ingredients for continued growth. In summary, 2019 has been another great year for Metro Atlanta’s economy. Thank you to our statewide, utility, local chamber, local government and development authority, university, and private sector partners.
By S. Kelley Henderson, Chief Executive Officer, Action Ministries According to recent headlines from popular business sites, the United States is currently experiencing the longest period of economic growth in history at over 122 months. The last stretch of similar proportion was from March 1991 – Mar 2001 (CNBC). This expansion has created wealth, jobs, and massive GDP growth over the past decade. This is clearly a feat unmatched in our country, and one that assumes everyone has benefited. Unfortunately, a higher tide is not raising all boats in our harbor of prosperity. This week we will look beyond the numbers to see who might be left behind and explore opportunities to remedy the imbalance. In May of this year the non-partisan Brookings Institute reviewed the economic expansion in depth, across the globe with some interesting findings. Overall income equality has improved since 2000, with significant upward mobility being recognized by the 50 poorest countries. The opposite was true in 34 of the most advanced economies, United States included, where income inequality worsened (Brookings, Is inequality really on the rise?, May 2019). Income inequality is measured by something called the Gini Coefficient or Gini Index, where 0 is perfect equality and 1 is perfect inequality. According to the Census Bureau, who has been tracking the index since 1912, we are at 0.4845 as a country…Georgia is 0.4822, and Atlanta at an alarming 0.5728 as a comparison. Over the same 10 year period of economic growth, this index actually worsened by 3% in Georgia (US Census Bureau, Data Table B19083). It can be tempting to conclude that the economic expansion only benefited the top earners, and perhaps some exploration into a disproportionate benefit is needed. Income concentration is only one factor, although it does make for a good headline. One culprit that often gets away without penalty is our “point of view.” We live in a world of instant data, instant decisions, and unfortunately an insatiable demand for instant solutions. The reality is that income inequality is not a new phenomenon and it continues to worsen due to an infatuation with policy solutions that are are more concerned with a big splash during the next election cycle, without consideration of the investment needed to sustain upside for the next generation. Rhetoric that offers “free _____ for _____”, or “universal ______” (fill in the blanks) does little to address the systemic challenges facing families living in poverty. At that same time, cuts to social safety net programs for the sake of saving a few bucks in taxes are equally misguided. Some how we must find a way to meet immediate needs as a first step, without ignoring the structural reforms that empower opportunity at a longer trajectory point. Poverty and income inequality are related, and we can say that income inequality is a factor in poverty. Balancing the proverbial ledger may not be the lasting solution we need to address all of the long-term struggles though. Shifting our “point of view” to look beyond the numbers may reveal some real, albeit not headline worthy, solutions that begin to address the inequalities naturally developing in our community. Perhaps it is time we find a measure that helps define success with “human development” in addition to economic development. The United Way of Greater Atlanta is attempting to tackle this for our region with its Child Well Being Index, using data to determine where we should focus our efforts. This has been a valuable tool for my organization, as we work smarter to address the inequalities and systemic challenges facing our community. At Action Ministries, we try to work to address both immediate and long-term needs, with a focus on engaging families for the future. Where we provide food resources to communities, trust is established, leading to financial literacy programs involving the entire family. Rental assistance may offer a budget reboot for a family, but community is built through workshops that introduce families to each other and repair the social safety nets lost during displacement. None of this work is flashy, or will break in the evening news, but it is worthy. Taking the long view means that we may not witness the real impact of the work on the next generation, but we just might change the trajectory of a family’s future for the good. To learn how you can help, go to https://actionministries.net/ehp/
by Jim Durrett, executive director, Buckhead Community Improvement District James Ryan, the President of the University of Virginia, my alma mater, included the following paragraph in his letter in the most recent UVA alumni magazine: “Our world is also facing enormous challenges. Democracy faces pressure both at home and abroad. Political polarization is rampant. Climate change presents a genuine existential threat. Income inequality is staggeringly high. Rates of anxiety and depression are at record-high levels. Trust in established institutions continues to dwindle. Data and technology remain a blessing and a curse, at once connecting and separating us.” Pondering these and other challenges for a while now, I have become fervent in our vision for creating a world-class, green, gathering place in the heart of Buckhead. A place to take cover among the trees and recover from the laborious work in filing cabinets called office buildings. We call it HUB404 because like a wheel, it can become the focal point for meaningful dialogue, discourse and decompression. Two recent books have greatly influenced my focus of the HUB404 Atlanta GA park project. The first is Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg. After devouring his book, I believe that figuring out how to heal the divisions in our society is one of the most important undertakings to pursue. A park is a playground for the soul to solve these existential problems that require distance to get closer to the solutions. Klinenberg argues convincingly that the most important thing necessary to allow divisions to be bridged is what he calls “social infrastructure.” By this he means places and institutions that allow people – all people – to come together – be that libraries, schools, sporting venues, plazas, neighborhood organizations and parks. Think of HUB404 as a big park bench—a place where we can sit and communicate with nature, with our hearts, with our colleagues, and with the patient pace of nature. If you find a quiet park bench where you can ponder our purpose, you’ve had a beautiful day. HUB404 can be an important piece of this social infrastructure, not just for Buckhead, but for the entire city of Atlanta. Making the case that it WILL be and why it is important is a priority for the Buckhead CID and the HUB404 Conservancy. Not only the fact that we will be creating the nation’s first Transit-Oriented Park, but I also believe that through our physical connection to MARTA and the imaginative and inclusive programming that will take place at the park, we will create the opportunities to bridge current divides. The second book is The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams. This book does a marvelous job of explaining how science is proving the substantial beneficial physiological and neurological effects that nature has on people, and how lack of exposure to nature in urban environments has detrimental effects on our lives. The “biophilia effect” is a big part of the mechanisms of human/nature interaction, and I happen to have a good bit of experience and relationships with leaders in the field of biophilia and biophilic design. Contrast this design space with the cubicle, more aptly spelled “cubikill” because these boxes snuff out our freedom to think. The park is the best laboratory for your imagination. HUB404’s landscaping will be selected and designed with this biophilia effect principle in mind. One of the finest landscape architects in the country is working with us to achieve the project, and we are fortunate to have begun to forge a partnership with the Atlanta Botanical Garden to collaborate on the creation of the park’s natural elements. Our park will help us to address the challenges outlined succinctly and well by UVA’s James Ryan. Our goals with HUB404 are grand, but very attainable. Our hope is that this little respite reconnects us with not just another place but our true home. As William Shakespeare wrote, “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” Atlanta needs HUB404 because if we want to protect, inspire and grow inside, we need to go outside. Stay tuned to the latest project news by visiting hub404.org or by following the project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Sheba Ross, HKS Design and ULI Atlanta mTAP Chair (2020) Leadership is a team sport. There has been a shift in the past decade where much momentum has been gained in the realm of action in comparison to just planning. And the reason is because initiatives have been propelled to action, not by solitary thinkers, but by teams of diverse experts who have diminished the distance between ‘think’ and ‘do’. It is evident that programs like the Center For Leadership (CFL) by the Urban Land Institute’s Atlanta District Council (ULI Atlanta) are a primary contributor to this momentum. One of the vital facets of CFL is the Mini Technical Assistance Panel (mTAP) where the participants are assigned to smaller groups for their capstone project. When 34 multi-disciplinary emerging leaders, hand-picked in diligence, pool their talent and expertise to advise on a land-use challenges posed by public agencies and nonprofit organizations, the outcome is compelling. You can read a testimonial and success story from a client who stated that it “changed the way they looked at their property and formed a foundation for its development”. For the Class of 2020, I am chairing the mTAP program which cultivates my urban design and story-telling lens as Vice-President of the architecture firm, HKS. Marc Brambrut is the vice-chair, who brings a different proficiency of real estate to the table, even as he practices at Fairfield Residential as a Vice-President of Development. mTAPs seek geographically diverse organizations and received interest from close to 20 project leaders. Twelve of those projects were shortlisted and the clients were invited to ‘pitch’ to the class by sharing both the profile of the land-use challenge and the anticipated impact of the technical assistance. The class then voted for their preferred projects through which 7 projects were selected that will receive advice and recommendations from the teams. The teams have been matched with CFL Alumni Advisors to ensure alignment with ULI’s mission of providing leadership in the responsible land use and in creating and sustaining thriving communities. The current advisors are: Amber A. Pelot (Alston & Bird LLP), Joseph R. Stryker (Ware Malcomb), Andrew Pearson (Seven Oaks Company, LLC), Kenwin M. Hayes, Sr (Atlanta Housing Authority), Mason Ailstock (The University Financing Foundation), Ryan Mills (CohnReznick) and Sara Haas (Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.) These seven selected projects can be characterized by distinct action words that describe the possibilities of a program like the mTAP and speak to the power of making actionable plans: 1.TRANSFORM | 2. REIMAGINE | 3. ACTIVATE | 4.VALIDATE | 5.STIMULATE |6.INTEGRATE | 7. ENVISION The seven projects are described in detail below – and the class will embark on these projects from now until April 2020. The projects range in scope from activating a transit-oriented development at a MARTA station, to more place-based project aimed at re-connecting a Southwest neighborhood (Mechanicsville) to the rest of Atlanta. FIVE POINTS MARTA STATION: TOD Transformation The charge for this project is to explore the development potential and define the future of the Five Points Station redevelopment. The streets and blocks around Five Points are experiencing significant investment and revival. This study will determine how best to make this a station that works exceptionally well for transit riders, creates a more vital place in the city through its relationship to the surrounding buildings and streets, creates TOD opportunities and is a refined place of civic architecture. Client: Marsha Anderson Bomar, MARTA STRANGER THINGS MALL REDEVELOPMENT: Gwinnett Place Mall Re-imagined While this project draws its title from hosting the set for the ‘Stranger Things’ show, it not strange that within the spectrum of commercial real estate, no property type is confronting as many profound challenges as regional malls. Hence, the CID has requested the mTAP to re-imagine the famed Gwinnett Place Mall by developing an innovative framework that researches the future of retail and provides a matrix of uses that will position the study area for a resurgence. Client: Joe Allen, Gwinnett Place CID DOWNTOWN TUCKER ALLEY ACTIVATION: Tucker Northlake CID In order to address the lack of public spaces in Downtown Tucker, the CID is requesting recommendations for how best to activate alleys and initiate a more walkable, accessible, and pedestrian-friendly city center. From green infrastructure considerations to public art and branding possibilities, this project provides a distinct platform for advice and prospects. Client: Beth Ganga, Tucker-Northlake Community Improvement District BROOKHAVEN ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT: Validate potential at Apple Valley The City of Brookhaven has approached the mTAP to review the viability of establishing an entertainment zone on Apple Valley Road, define the best and highest use, and outline the likely economic impact that such a zone may have on the City. The City is dedicated to capitalizing its distinctive assets such as the MARTA station, the buildings on Apple Valley Road, and the already robust business scene on Dresden Drive in the creation of this entertainment district. Client: Shirlynn Brownell, Economic Development Director, City of Brookhaven STIMULATING MAIN STREET: FCS Historic South Atlanta Redevelopment The task is to identify obstacles and measure the feasibility of a small mixed-use, mixed-income, commercial corridor for Historic South Atlanta by identifying land use options, inter district mobility and connectivity to transit. FCS is a ‘repeat Client’ and has successfully adopted and acted upon several recommendations from the CFL class of previous years. With the approaching South Side BeltLine development, FCS is feeling the urgency to acquire and develop as much affordable commercial property within their targeted neighborhoods and is leaning on the mTAP program for guidance. Client: Jeff Delp, FCS Ministries ATLANTA’S NEXT UNICORN NEIGHBORHOOD: Integration of Mechanicsville The essence of this project is to recommend ideas to spur development, particularly with the public landowners, in a way that will revive & re-connect Mechanicsville to the rest of Atlanta. While positioned just minutes from downtown, Mechanicsville is largely disconnected from adjacent neighborhoods by two major highways and an active industrial rail-line. The neighborhood is seeking a Life-Cycle approach to explore ideas for dynamic development …
by Teri Nye, Park Pride Project Manager At the beginning of each year, I take stock of the park planning projects in the year ahead. Atlanta is a small, small point of the planet, but with news of each storm, flood, drought, and raging fire around the world, I see that Park Pride’s work in parks and greenspaces must support the critical role that nature plays in maintaining our quality of life. Even without this pressure, 2020 is an ambitious year for Park Pride. Not only are we playing a role supporting the public engagement effort for the City of Atlanta’s Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Master Plan, but also: the Nature for All – Atlanta initiative will launch in earnest, in partnership with Trees Atlanta and the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (with the support of the Turner Foundation), and the first wave of the three year pilot of the Atlanta Community Schoolyards Initiative (which will open schoolyards in “park-poor neighborhoods” when school is out of session) will wrap-up, and we will kick off a new round of school projects. This project is done in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, Urban Land Institute and Atlanta Public Schools. Everyone deserves access to nature has emerged as the unofficial theme of Park Pride’s focus in 2020. For this reason, we decided to officially make nature the focus of the 2020 Parks and Greenspace Conference under the title The Nature of Our City. For many, urban parks are one of the few places to escape the bustle of city life and to experience the regular, and replenishing, joys of nature. Unfortunately, throughout history, parks have too often been considered a “nice to have” amenity: a luxury for boom times, but typically first on the chopping block during economic downturns. During those downturns, the maintenance of many parks is whittled down to essentials only; sometimes, the “essentials only” approach to maintenance remains a lingering challenge even as budgets rebound. We now realize that parks and nature are essential elements of a healthy city. Just as we know that access to parks and nature help people cope with their lives by providing emotional and physical benefits, they also help cities cope with daily stressors. Parks are vital infrastructure and offer public services: they control floods, relieve our sewers, replenish our water reserves, and stabilize our soils. They are, in fact, as essential to our cities as clean drinking water, medical care, and reliable sanitation. Parks also preserve habitats for a complex mix of resident and migrating wildlife. Park Pride’s conference will approach our exploration of The Nature of Our City through several lenses: Parks and health Access to nature Parks as natural infrastructure Parks as habitats Parks as reflections of a city’s character We have several amazing keynote speakers lined up who will give us a holistic understanding of the important role that nature plays in creating, maintaining, and defining a city. Diane Jones Allen, D. Eng., ASLA, RLA Program Director for Landscape Architecture, College of Architecture Planning and Public Affairs, University of Texas, Arlington. Principal Landscape Architect and Owner, DesignJones, LLC. Diane Jones Allen’s research and practice is guided by the intersection of environmental justice, identity, and sustainability in cultural landscapes. She is also dedicated to helping cities develop resiliency in the face of climate change and climate-related stressors. In 2017, she participated as a member of the ASLA Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resiliency. Diane also serves on the Board of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), contributing to the diversity and climate change sub-committees. David G. Haskell, Ph.D. David Haskell’s work as a writer, scientist, and sound recordist reminds us that life’s substance and beauty emerge from relationship and interdependence. His first book, The Forest Unseen, was finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction and received numerous other honors. Haskell’s latest book, The Songs of Trees, examines the life-giving links between people and trees. Drew Lanham, Ph.D. Drew Lanham is a professor of wildlife ecology at Clemson University. In his teaching, research, and outreach roles, Drew seeks to translate conservation science to make it relevant to others in ways that are evocative and understandable. As a Black American, he is intrigued with how culture and ethnic prisms can bend perceptions of nature and its care. His research focuses on songbird ecology, as well as the African-American role in natural-resources conservation. Lanham is an author and award-nominated poet; The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, was published in 2016, and Sparrow Envy in 2017. Kristine Stratton, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) A staunch advocate for environmental conservation and equity issues, Stratton believes strongly in NRPA’s mission to advance parks, recreation and environmental conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people. Her belief that everyone has the right to clean water and a healthy environment aligns with NRPA’s vision that everyone deserves a great park. Mark your calendar. The 2020 Parks and Greenspace Conference will be held at the Atlanta Botanical Garden on Monday, March 23. Early-bird registration is now open. I hope you’ll join us to be inspired by these keynotes and help ensure that, over the next decade, nature in Atlanta becomes accessible to everyone!
By John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Operation HOPE, Inc. Earlier this month, I visited the set of CNBC’s Squawk Box as a guest to talk about capitalism and free enterprise. We covered a lot of ground during our conversation, but I left thinking that it was a good day for everyone who aspires to go from the bottom to the top. The topic of capitalism is personal for me. I grew up in Compton, California. Without capitalism, and a banker coming to teach me financial literacy at nine years old, I wouldn’t be who I am today. This definitely wouldn’t have been the case had I grown up under communist systems, like China or Russia. It’s amazing that America, with all of her intense problems and challenges, is still remarkably different than most parts of the world — where you don’t succeed based on your aspirations and ability. Where you don’t speak your mind, and hear your own authentic voice. And we didn’t pull punches or take short cuts either. There are always ways for America to be better. The country could benefit if wealthier citizens’ tax dollars were allocated toward massive internship and apprenticeship programs. This would effectively create a gateway towards upward mobility for other Americans. Operation HOPE strives to close that gap and bring financial dignity to everyone. Click HERE to read the piece about my recent Squawk Box appearance. Share, comment, and engage. Also, contact my team at Operation HOPE to learn more about our mission and how we’re empowering others with financial dignity.
By Dr. Eve Byrd, Carter Center Mental Health Program Director Access to mental health care is a basic human right. As we enter a new decade, we are heartened to see global mental health disorders gain the attention and resources needed to be on par with the human and economic toll they cause around the world. One in four people will experience a mental illness at some point, and the World Health Organization (WHO) names depression as a leading cause of disability. Mental health and substance use disorders are associated with significant premature deaths. Recent WHO data cites mental illness as responsible for 30% of nonfatal diseases worldwide. Yet, many countries are not prepared for this neglected and misunderstood challenge. The tide is beginning to turn. In the last couple of years, there has been an unprecedented interest in global mental health. Health ministers from all 194 countries committed their nations to specific objectives and targets in the WHO Mental Health Action plan. Business leaders are becoming more aware of the economic losses caused by mental health problems in the workforce. Mental health is higher on the agenda at key United Nations meetings and the annual World Economic Forum. Globally, leaders are realizing the benefits of placing a higher priority on well-being. Many countries are also starting to integrate mental health into their national health plans, but we have a long way to go for nations to fund behavioral health on par with other equally debilitating illnesses. Liberia is an example of a country constructing a mental health infrastructure. In 2010, building upon nearly two decades of fostering peace and democracy in Liberia, The Carter Center Mental Health Program launched in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) an initiative to help create a sustainable mental health system in Liberia. At that time, the country had just one psychiatrist, no national plan to address the mental health needs of a population recovering from civil war, and no laws to protect the rights of persons with mental illnesses. Photos of recent class of clinicians who began specialized training in mental health. This training is the result of a partnership between The Carter Center and the Liberia Ministry of Health. The Carter Center, the MOH, and its partners began training clinicians in mental health. Now there are over 250 mental health clinicians trained, with more than 100 specialized in the needs of children and adolescents. Their services are integrated into the primary care health care network across the country. Clinicians focused on children and youth provide mental health and psychosocial care in schools, clinics, and other child- and youth-centered settings. Liberia has a behavioral health services plan and has passed the country’s first mental health legislation protecting the rights of persons with mental illness. Additionally, the Center works with about 20 Liberian journalists to help educate them on mental health and debunk some of the myths still surrounding mental illnesses. The silence around mental health helps perpetuate stigma and misconceptions. Last year, Rosalynn Carter and the Rev. Bill Jallah, a mental health advocate in Liberia, wrote an op-ed titled “We are at the beginning of a global mental health revolution.” Jallah, who lives with a mental illness, heads up a Liberian advocacy group for people living with mental health conditions called Cultivation for Users’ Hope. This group, supported by The Carter Center, is instrumental to destigmatizing mental illness and working to help change policy as Liberia implements its first mental health law. Jallah attended a Global Ministerial Health Summit in Amsterdam in October 2018. At this conference packed with leaders, he shared his story to shine the light on his condition and give others hope for recovery. The time has come for millions of people affected by mental illnesses to have their voices heard and for policymakers to ensure that persons with mental illness receive quality care and support so they too can have the hope of living a happy and healthy life. There is no health without mental health. —— Don’t miss Conversations at The Carter Center: Atlanta’s Role in the Global Mental Health Revolution, January 14, 7-8:15 p.m., a public discussion featuring global mental health leaders from The Carter Center, The Center for Victims of Torture, United for Global Mental Health, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. For free tickets, register here. ATTEND OR WATCH LIVE WEBCAST. Georgia’s Center for Victims of Torture is a member of the Georgia Global Health Alliance.
By Kate Sweeney It seems like a simple concept: Build neighborhoods that can accommodate people across all stages of life — from toddlers, to twenty-somethings, to those past retirement. Regional planners call them “lifelong communities.” Too often though, neighborhoods in metro Atlanta fail to live up to this promise. Many communities lack the sidewalks and transportation options needed by those of us who don’t — or can no longer — drive. And few offer the mix of housing types and price points needed to appeal to a broad range of incomes — much less adaptive features like ramps and wide doorways to accommodate wheelchairs. This challenge is often framed as an issue specific to aging — (lifelong communities are also sometimes called “age-friendly”) — and so it’s of little surprise that it’s gained traction here in metro Atlanta, where one in four of us will be 60 or older by 2030. But neighborhoods that are pedestrian-friendly, affordable, and accessible to public transportation? These are hardly just an “aging” thing; rather, they’re booming in popularity among all age groups these days. Read on.
By Sharon A. Gay, Office Managing Partner, Dentons This fall I want to highlight something outside the usual legal realm: How the NFL—and the Pittsburgh Steelers no less—have played a key role in making Dentons a nationally recognized leader in diversity. You may have heard of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which was created by the late Dan Rooney and is now supported by his son, Art Rooney II, president of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rooney Rule requires every NFL team to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach vacancies. In the years following its implementation, the number of minorities hired to fill head-coach roles doubled. The Rooney Rule inspired Diversity Lab, an incubator for innovative ways to boost diversity and inclusion in law, to adopt a similar Mansfield Rule for the legal field, named after Arabella Mansfield, the first woman admitted to the practice of law in the US. Dentons piloted the inaugural version of the Mansfield Rule in the summer of 2017. This fall, we achieved Mansfield Certified Plus status for 2019 after completing the Mansfield Rule 2.0 12-month certification program. The new certification measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered at least 30 percent women, lawyers of color and LGBTQ+ lawyers for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities and senior lateral positions. The goal of the Mansfield Rule is to increase the representation of diverse lawyers in law firm leadership by broadening the pool of candidates considered for these opportunities. The “plus” part of the certification indicates that, beyond meeting or exceeding the pipeline consideration requirements for certification, Dentons successfully reached at least 30 percent diverse lawyer representation in a notable number of its current leadership roles and committees. Ensuring that lawyers from under-represented groups have opportunities for career growth and advancement—and the support to seize those opportunities—is a priority for me personally. This latest certification is another sign of the value we, as a firm, put on creating and sustaining a rich and vibrant workplace that reflects our clients and communities.
Introduction by John Ahmann, President & CEO, Westside Future Fund Our guest columnist this week is Tracy Techau, Scout Executive/CEO of the Atlanta Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. Last month, we were fortunate to host Tracy along with a panel of Scout leaders and community partners as the featured presenters for the September 6th Transform Westside Summit. In case you missed it, you can read a recap and catch a replay of the Boy Scouts’ presentation on our Facebook livestream I am grateful to Tracy because he leads by showing up! Although he has metro-wide responsibilities, Tracy and senior members of his team have been regular attendees of the Transform Westside Summit. Thanks to Tracy’s leadership, they have made special efforts to stand up Scout Troops on the Westside. Read more about it below. I am also appreciative of David Moody’s leadership, last year’s Council Board President. A graduate of Morehouse College, David is the founder/CEO of C.D. Moody Construction Company, Inc. David is also the author of “Fighting Through the Fear: My Journey of Healing Through Childhood Sex Abuse”, and through his powerful testimonial seeks to help other victims of childhood sexual abuse recover. Thank you Tracy and David for modeling the Scout Oath in word and deed! Be sure to register and join me at the next Transform Westside Summit on Friday, October 18. What do Hank Aaron, Ivan Allen and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., share with the Westside? Scouting. Contributed by Tracy Techau, Scout Executive/CEO, Atlanta Area Council, Boy Scouts of America “Outdoor leadership” is a phrase rarely used to describe Atlanta’s Westside. But the Boy Scouts of America, which started programs in Metro-Atlanta in 1916, is playing a pivotal role in Westside revitalization efforts, and in building leadership skills among Westside youth. Over 15 Scouting programs serve the Westside community. Through our Scoutreach initiative, staff members called Program Specialists serve as the leaders for some Packs and Troops implementing the weekly leadership program. Scouts are provided with handbooks, supplies, and funding for activities and camp, at no charge to the family. Scouting has touched the lives of many of our city’s great business and political leaders, civic activists, educators, and even Hall of Famers, and many of them have served Scouting. Ivan Allen, Sr. was a founding member. Ivan Allen, Jr. served as a Council President, as did Ivan Allen, III. Maynard Jackson grew up as a Scout at Friendship Baptist Church. Hank Aaron was a Scout in Mobile, Alabama and says Scouting taught him skills through the Scout Oath and Law. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Scout at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The Boy Scouts of America will continue to thrive and provide character building and training to our children through Atlanta’s great leadership. Our mission is critical. Children today are faced with obstacles that were not a challenge before – they want and need loyalty, trust, and kindness in their lives. They need a village to teach them to always strive to do their best and to serve their community. They need access to learning outside of school – training that sparks interests in future careers. Scouting allows children to try different things in a safe and controlled environment, a place where they can fail and learn. Failure in Scouting may have consequences, they might be a little wet and cold on a campout, or be a little uncomfortable in a leadership role, but they learn how to overcome challenges and lead confidently. Our mission may be lofty, but with the help of volunteers and community partners, we create leaders out of young people – and I think we would all agree that we need more leaders in our world. Our goal is to give every child the opportunity to be a Scout, no matter their background. Mike Dubose, President of Thermo Fisher Scientific, and VP of Scoutreach on the Council’s Board of Directors, leads the Scoutreach team that works to remove barriers that might prevent a child from participating. “In some neighborhoods, it is tough to find volunteers, especially among families who are struggling to make ends meet,” says Eagle Scout Dubose. “All children should have access to Scouting, especially those who have challenges at home.” “Scoutreach support is available to any Scout in need, but we have found that if we can go deep into certain neighborhoods like South Cobb, Marietta City School District, and the Westside, then our resources go further, and our impact is greater,” Dubose says. Dave Moody, President and CEO of C.D. Moody Construction, and past Council Board President, helped to launch the Westside Scouting Expansion in 2017. “Scouting has been in the Westside for decades. Through the generosity of our donors and the vision of our Scoutreach leadership we now provide over 15 programs at many of the churches, at Bellwood Boys & Girls Club, City of Refuge, KIPP, Community Concerns, Ashview Heights, the At Promise Center, and M. Agnes Jones,” says Moody. “Scoutreach is impactful, but it is also more costly than the traditional volunteer led model. Our paid Program Specialists bring consistency and hope to these young people. They show them how to do their best, serve their community and be leaders. To me, that sounds like one of the best investments someone can make,” Moody states. The Scouting ideals are found in two precepts that every Scout recites and lives, the Scout Oath and Law. Individually, the words are simple, but collectively they become words to live by. These principles make Scouting more than what people do, but rather who they are—and what they will be. The Atlanta Area Council, Boy Scouts of America is grateful for the 9,200 volunteers that serve our 32,000 youth, and the many donors who invest in Scouting to help build our children into future leaders. For more information on the Westside Scouting Expansion, visit www.atlantabsa.org/westside or call 770-956-3178 for information on how to support a Scout in need.
By Paul Jennings, Event Script Writer and Content Manager at United Way of Greater Atlanta There is a magnetism that emanates from Rashad Robinson. In a matter of seconds, he has filled a once dull auditorium with the sounds of a revolution. “If we are not using the Census to build power, then we are not using it right,” says Robinson. “Racial justice is strategy, not charity.” Robinson is President of Color of Change. He, alongside several other keynote speakers, took the time to speak on the issue of Black representation in the United States Census at an event convened by United Way of Greater Atlanta in September of 2019 – an issue of great concern in our country. It’s an issue that Geoffrey Streat, director of Place-Based Initiatives at United Way of Greater Atlanta, wanted to have people talk about. That’s why he organized the event. The gathering represents another chapter in United Way’s lively dedication to equity-oriented work in its 13-county region. In August of 2019, the organization hosted one of its “InForum” conversations that focused on incorporating equity into education. The following day, there was an equity workshop that United Way of Greater Atlanta tasked a representative from the National Equity Project to facilitate. There have been ongoing “State of the Children” conversations hosted by United Way of Greater Atlanta, where senior members of the organization have talked to community residents about the Child Well-Being Movement — a relatively new, data-driven framework that United Way adopted in 2017. The Movement has committed the organization to making Greater Atlanta a community where every child, their family and the communities that surround them, can thrive. In order to reach that thriving community though, there needs to be an understanding of who is actually in the community. After all, data from the Census provide the basis for distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to communities across the country to support vital programs — impacting housing, education, transportation, employment, health care and public policy in a huge way. On an even larger political level, data from the Census are used to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts. This information is also used to determine the number of congressional seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Without a proper count, many communities are in serious danger of missing out on the very resources meant for their benefit. And improper counts aren’t as uncommon as you might think. According to the United States Bureau of the Census, Black males have historically been undercounted in previous Census reports, sometimes by more than 10 percent. In a report sent out by the United States Bureau of the Census in 2012, post-Census analysis revealed that the “non-Hispanic white alone population” had been overcounted by 0.8 percent. Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau in 2012, stated, “because ethnic and racial minorities disproportionately live in hard-to-count circumstances, they too were undercounted relative to the majority population.” “Hard-to-count” circumstances are those described as conditions that make individuals hard to locate, contact, persuade or interview. In 2016, Dr. William O’Hare, previously a senior consultant for the KIDS COUNT Project at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, developed a report on the reasons why certain populations were classified as “hard-to-count.” Among those reasons, he included: home addresses not being included in a Census address roster, a fear of government and privacy, language issues, complex household relationships and highly mobile populations with multiple addresses. One speaker from the United Way event, Cliff Albright, spoke passionately to some of the issues that more directly affect the Black community. “A Black undercount is not a new thing,” says Albright. “This country was founded on a Black undercount… From the moment that they [the government] decided they would only count us as three-fifths of a person, a Black undercount was built in. It makes no sense to treat our folks, that are skeptical of this process, like they’re crazy.” Albright called on attendees to listen to the lived experiences of individuals who are currently wary about filling out the Census and to ensure that those who are reaching out to these populations are speaking to the fears that they might hold. And these hard-to-count populations are no small matter in Georgia. Ed Reed, program director for Faircount, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that every Georgian fills out the 2020 Census, says approximately 22 percent of Georgia’s residents live in areas that are classified as hard-to-count. “Georgia has roughly 1.6 million Black men and research indicated that 67,000 Black men are at risk of not being counted,” says Reed. Reed also indicated that between 76 to 100 percent of those hard-to-count residents live in the middle and Southern parts of Georgia, which is where his organization will be directing most of its outreach efforts for the upcoming 2020 Census. Tamieka Atkins, executive director of ProGeorgia, believes her organization can help refine some of those efforts. “If we are going to reach people to get them to complete the Census, if we are going to reach hard-to-count communities, then we have got to rely on the trusted messengers, who have already been calling, texting, knocking on doors and sending neighbors to households of color,” says Atkins. Atkins’ organization combines the strength of existing nonprofits to improve civic engagement and, subsequently, change the policies of Georgia. Combined, these speakers are shedding light on the overlooked parts of Georgia. And, hopefully, they can encourage an audience to get the message about the importance of the Census out beyond these doors. It’s just one more way that United Way of Greater Atlanta is activating residents across the region to join in and help improve the well-being of 250,000 children by 2027. To learn more about United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Census work, please consider attending the upcoming January InForum Partnership Engagement Breakfast on January 30th, 2020. The Breakfast will feature a conversation with leaders who are working diligently to increase …
Emory’s research funding in 2019 reinforces a record of successful innovation and seeks to unlock the mysteries of the human condition. On a perfect spring day in 1985, Craig Washington woke up with swollen lymph nodes. A good friend verbalized his deepest fears. “He told me I was experiencing the first sign of ‘it.’ I knew he meant AIDS, and I remember feeling this bolt of terror,” Washington says. It was the same year that Rock Hudson died, the first high-profile fatality from a disease that was then considered a death sentence. Today, Washington is not only alive but says he’s living his best life. The Atlanta resident credits much of his active lifestyle to drug treatments that have helped HIV/AIDS patients live longer and better: Treatments such as Emtricitabine, which was approved for use in 2003. Emtricitabine was developed at Emory by chemistry professor Dennis Liotta, pediatrics professor Raymond Schinazi and then-researcher Woo-Baeg Choi; it is now used by 9 out of 10 HIV patients in the United States to treat their condition. Additionally, Emtricitabine is increasingly being used for HIV prevention; currently, more than 130,000 people take it in a medicine for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. Not one to rest on his laurels, Liotta remains deeply invested in looking for new remedies for HIV including ones that are longer-acting. Like Liotta and Schinazi, hundreds of research faculty and students at Emory are focused on solving the critical problems of our time and collaborating with peers around the globe to tease out the next potential blockbuster innovation. Pediatric hematologist Wilbur Lam, a faculty member at Emory and Georgia Tech’s jointly run biomedical engineering department, has worked with a graduate student to develop a novel smartphone app to detect anemia. The non-invasive tool, which uses fingernail pictures to measure hemoglobin levels in the blood, will be released at the app store in the next few months. At his lab, Lam, a recipient of several federal grants including a recent $5 million emerging investigator award, harnesses research across domains – math, medicine, biology, physics – to provide real world solutions for improving patient care. Much of Liotta and Lam’s work is made possible by the sizeable investment in research from a variety of sources, most notably federal agencies. In fiscal year 2019, more than half of Emory’s total $689.1 million in research funding came from the federal government, the university’s largest sponsor. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) remained the single-largest contributor, accounting for close to 85 percent of funds from the sector. “Emory is extremely proud to partner with the federal government. Federal funding is important not only for its size, but also for its breadth, encompassing such disparate fields as social sciences, the arts, as well as the physical sciences and medicine,” says Deborah Bruner, senior vice president for research. Emory has also upped its commitment to discovery, increasing funding to $53 million; this includes infrastructure investments that enable researchers to be competitive. Emory seeded two new $5 million initiatives, each aimed at catalyzing and nurturing growth in research across domains. “Emory’s scientific enterprise has been well funded by government agencies and foundations, but as university leaders, we wanted to emphasize Emory’s commitment to university-wide fundamental research partnerships and to support that commitment through institutional funding,” says Jonathan S. Lewin, executive vice president for health affairs. Support from private entities and industry continued to be robust, contributing $157 million and demonstrating that academic work has real world impact. “Innovation and discovery are building blocks of the DNA of Emory,” says David Stephens, vice president for research at Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center. “The strong collaborative research environment and the network of interdisciplinary research programs and cores link Emory schools and centers, and facilitate innovation and discovery across the campus and with key affiliates.” More than 2,800 research proposals were greenlighted this year – slightly more than last year – and indicate that the pipeline for new research at Emory is strong. Over the last five years, Emory’s funding for research has increased by more than 20 percent. So, why are these annual research funding totals important? Click here for details on game-changing discoveries at Emory made possible through investments in research. ###
By Blythe Keeler Robinson, President and CEO, Sheltering Arms By 2025, more than 60% of jobs will require some form of post-secondary education, according to Learn4Life’s State of Education in Metro Atlanta Report. That can be alarming when you consider the fact that two out of every 10 students in the metro area are dropping out of high school. These children may be the ones we will depend on to take care of us in our later years or the ones who will defend our country or the ones who will lead our communities. What does this mean for our future, and what can we do to help them get prepared? Let’s first take a step back. Much of what we need to succeed in life is established before we even enter kindergarten. From the time a child is born, the brain is immediately in developmental overdrive. From as early as six weeks of age, quality early learning programs begin working with children to build their cognitive skills – the foundation for reading, math, science and academics – and character skills, gross-motor skills and executive functioning. Kindergarten, though, begins at the age of 5 or 6 for most children, after major brain development has occurred. By the time many children get there, they are not prepared. For decades, researchers have concluded that children who attend quality early learning programs are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, earn higher incomes and avoid criminal activity. In 2018, only 25% of metro Atlanta’s kids attended this type of program. This is why it is essential that we invest in Atlanta’s earliest learners now. If we don’t, we pay the high costs later – through the criminal justice system and lost productivity in the workforce. Fortunately, Georgia has early learning champions and advocacy organizations like GEEARS (Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students) that work diligently to push policies that could help make quality early childhood education accessible and affordable. Our mission at Sheltering Arms is to make sure they are more than ready when they leave our program and enter elementary school. Children are, indeed, our future. As we prepare them today for success tomorrow, we help create a better, brighter Atlanta. To learn more about Sheltering Arms, visit shelteringarmsforkids.com.