ULI Atlanta Blog

Lessons in Leadership with Mayor Riley

by Matt Bertram

The built environment in Atlanta has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and most Atlanta residents are proud to brag about some of the new outdoor amenities available to them.  Whether it is the Atlanta BeltLine and connected greenspace, Mercedes Benz Stadium, SunTrust Park and the Battery, or the opening in 2019 of the first phase of the new Westside Park, there are more opportunities than ever for locals and visitors to connect to local culture and enjoy the outdoors.

As an active member of the Urban Land Institute (“ULI”), I am happy to say they both promote and are thoughtful about smart growth and development.  One of their key initiatives is the 10-minute walk campaign.  They believe that everyone, regardless of their financial situation should live within a 10-minute walk of a park or other green space.

Atlanta leadership has had the opportunity to learn from other successful examples throughout the country, but notably, from a neighboring city right here in the Southeast.  Under the leadership of Mayor Joseph Riley from 1975 to 2016 Charleston had the foresight to aggressively pursue smart land use and long term urban planning. Mayor Riley was diligent in the acquisition and development of public space and public art that would benefit all citizens, rich or poor.

Under Riley’s leadership, parks were built throughout the city, but notably, the city emphasized building parks in the poorest areas of town, giving all residents equal access to greenspaces.  All new development in the city was graded on the “50-year rule”, meaning land use and design were expected to withstand the test of time. All great cities could use Charleston as an example of how to manage urban planning and public land use for the benefit of all of its citizens over the long term.His most notable accomplishment is the Charleston River Dogs Stadium named in his honor, which sits on the waterfront in one of the most beautiful areas of the city.  It took years of finagling to secure the land for the project, but Riley believed that the stadium was vital to protect the city’s waterfront land for the use of its citizens.  The ballpark, hiking and biking trails, and parks now preserve this waterfront into perpetuity.

The Urban Land Institute is giving everyone the opportunity to learn from Mayor Riley’s example and experience.  Join ULI the morning of September 26 for a fireside chat between Mayor Riley and Tim Keane, Atlanta’s Commissioner of City Planning.  You are certain to hear about the development of parks and stadiums, affordable housing, the value of architecture in development, art in public space, and giving a lifetime to public service. For more information on the event, or to register, please click here.

This article originally appeared in the Saporta Report from the week of September 18, 2018

Matt Bertram is Founder of Capital Slack and a member of ULI’s Programs Committee and Center for Leadership Alumni (Class of 2010).

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