By Terri Lee
We began Day 2 with an agenda that looked at “The Role of Government” and how it has shaped our lives and the manner in which we conduct business. Leading the discussion were prestigious alumnus of the ULI Leadership Institute who represented a myriad of organizations that have a significant role in shaping Atlanta’s community and economic fabric. With expectations mounted, Ed Jennings, HUD Regional Director, started the discussion by acknowledging what we all knew and felt through our everyday professions, “that the economy is in its worse state and that the collapse of the housing system has led to one of the worst recessions since the great Depression”. In determining the effectiveness of the federal government’s response to the housing crisis, Ed shared several programs that have focused on helping homeowners retain their homes through refinancing assistance; and rebuilding communities littered with vacant properties through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. To no surprise, Ed left the class with an arsenal of information and a well-developed framework for the need of government but also the need for private investment. As we continued our journey, David Green provided a historic perspective of the role of City planning and how it has shaped the world and forced the question “what kind of City do we want to be”.
In keeping with the tradition of the ULI Leadership Institute, we collaborated in a colorful group discussion on James O’Toole leadership book The Executive Compass. The focus of the discussion was understanding the premise of values-based leadership and reflecting upon your personal leadership “compass”. A lively interactive discussion occurred as the class separated into the four values of leadership identified on the compass: liberty, efficiency, equality, and community. Through this interactive, exercise we found that the Class of 2013 leadership characteristics weigh heavily towards the values of liberty and efficiency.
As we entered into the afternoon session, David’s question of “what kind of City do we want to be” lingered in the air. With the recent demise of the TSPLOST, Atlanta continues to be a City of traffic congestion with no clear solution in sight. Given this bleak reality, our discussion centered on initiatives taking place in Atlanta that may be catalytic in starting to resolve the problem but definitely not the answer in its entirety. The multi model passenger terminal project was presented by Jim Richardson (Forest City), Derrick Cameron (GDOT), Kwanzaa Hall (City of Atlanta, Councilman) and Ken Bleakly (Bleakly Advisory Group). The multi modal project is a public private partnership that includes a significant partnership between the City and the State government. The project will create a centralized location for all transportation modes and will hopefully expand to include Amtrak’s rail services. The project is located in an area known as “The Gulch” and will serve to jumpstart the revitalization of economically depressed neighborhoods that surrounds its existence. As we looked at the impact of the Multi Modal Passenger Terminal, we could not help but talk about Atlanta’s most exciting project since the Beltline: The Edgewood Streetcar. The Streetcar is scheduled to come on line by 4th quarter 2013 and again showed the impact of a public private partnership in the planning efforts of the City. The discussion was led by Tom Weyandt, Policy Analyst for Mayor Kasim Reed, Jennifer Ball with Central Atlanta Progress and Perkin & Will’s David Green. The Street Car is envisioned to connect the tourist attractions near Centennial Park to the MLK Historic District in the Edgewood/Auburn Avenue communities. As we discussed the project and its potential benefits to the City of Atlanta, we were asked by the panel to take a deeper dive and determine the impact of several critical issues confronting the project: regulations, infrastructure, funding, collaboration/public outreach, branding, benchmarking and tracking. Each group was requested to determine the context of the issue and provide a solution/action plan for implementation.
Day 2 provided important information on the projects that are shaping the City’s future. However, the significance of the day was truly understanding the significant role that government can have when it engages the private sector to assist in effectively addressing and resolving problems. Both the Multi Modal project and the Street Car are significant efforts that will serve as economic catalyst for the resurgence of community transformation in the Downtown Atlanta area. These projects are testament to the City that we are becoming.
Thank you to our day sponsor: Troutman Sanders!