By: Sheba Ross, co-chair of ULI Atlanta’s mTAP program
The Center for Leadership (CFL), a program of the Urban Land Institute’s Atlanta District Council (ULI Atlanta), has a mission to cultivate leadership and life-strategy skills by teaching emerging leaders in real estate and land use how the Atlanta region gets built. One of the pivotal aspects of CFL is the Mini Technical Assistance Panel (mTAP) which is essentially a capstone project. Here, participants are divided into smaller groups to offer free technical assistance to public agencies and nonprofit organizations that have a specific land use or real estate problem within ULI’s mission of providing leadership in the responsible land use and in creating and sustaining thriving communities.
This year, the mTAP program is chaired by Ann Carpenter who is a Senior Community Development Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. She is assisted by Sheba Ross who focuses on Urban Design and Campus Planning as a Vice-President at the architecture firm, HKS.
In addition to the chairs, the program offers an opportunity for CFL alumni to serve as advisors to the different teams. The current advisors are: Marc Brambrut (Fairfield Residential), Jason Snyder (Gensler), Derrick Holland (Trinity Development Partners), Andrew Pearson (Seven Oaks Company, LLC), Inga Harmon (Harmon & Harmon Realtors, Inc.), Ryan Mills (CohnReznick), Julie Secrist (Planners and Engineers Collaborative, Inc.), Cory Gibson (The Brookdale Group, LLC), Heather L. Hubble (TSW) and Kathy Logan (Cooper Carry and Associates).
In response to the call for projects, 10 prospective “clients” made a pitch to the class by presenting the background and anticipated outcome of a land use challenge. The participants then voted for their preferred projects and 7 multi-disciplinary teams have now been formed to work together on the 7 selected projects for the next 5 months.
Project: Atlanta Land Trust (Site Selection Tool)
The Atlanta Land Trust seeks to work with Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and other partners to create new permanent affordable housing around the BeltLine. It has established a goal of creating 1,000 units within the next five years. The mTAP team is charged to develop land acquisition criteria for specific sites within targeted communities for maximum impact.
Project: Focused Community Strategies (Gateway Development)
FCS has a vision to create a small mixed-use, mixed-income, multi-family development. The property is located within the BeltLine TAD and the challenge to the mTAP team is to help identify obstacles and measure the feasibility of this project. As a developer of affordable housing, FCS is looking for more options for long-time residents to remain in their communities and thrive.
Project: Historic District Development Corp. (Henderson Place Apartments)
Henderson Place Apts. is a 58-unit rental complex near the MLK, Jr. Historic District in the Old Fourth Ward for low-income, long-term residents. Today it continues to serve with low rents and social services but needs major rehabilitation. HDDC is seeking options to increase the density of the site and provide larger units. The rehabilitation is critical to the ability of the complex to service its original target population and create housing opportunities for the anticipated Howard Middle School families who will soon need a place to live.
Project: Clark Atlanta University (Park Street Church)
Amidst the transformation around the westside, the future of Park Street Church is being envisioned beyond a building restoration project. Clark Atlanta University would like to leverage the architecture and engineering study as an opportunity to reconsider the ultimate use for the restored Church, capitalizing on it as a southern “gateway” between the Atlanta University Center and the surrounding city. The urban planning, market analysis and real estate expertise required to develop such a plan are the areas in which assistance is being sought through the mTAP program.
Project: City of Douglasville (Old Mill Site)
The General Western Cotton Mill in east Douglasville was destroyed by fire in May of 2012. The structure, which dated back to 1897 had been abandoned and is in derelict condition for many years but is in a prime location for future development. A recently completed environmental study has determined the necessary cleanup initiatives needed even as this area could potentially serve as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the Old Mill Village area and downtown Douglasville. Hence the client has approached the mTAP to review the Old Mill property site and provide the best and highest use for the area.
Project: University CDC (Atlanta University Center Gateway)
The former site of the eastern half of the Harris Homes public housing complex (now known as CollegeTown) is part of a key focal point of the Atlanta University Center (AUC), but has been vacant and largely under-utilized. Based on its location and size, the site has the potential to serve as a grand gateway for the AUC, equally benefiting students, faculty, staff and community residents. The subject parcel is owned by Spelman College which has reserved it to expand the footprint of its campus in the future. UCDC is seeking the assistance of the mTAP to identify possible intermediate land uses that would reactivate the site until a formal plan is in place. They are also seeking recommendations for inventive long-term land uses that Spelman College could act upon to further their mission to create sustainable communities.
Project: Finding the Flint (State Farmers Market District)
The ad hoc district around the Flint River is one massive, continuous impervious surface, and all its stormwater runoff impacts the headwaters of the Flint, which is a critical resource for Georgia agriculture. A committee of the Georgia State House of Representatives is currently studying the revitalization of the state-owned Atlanta State Farmers Market (ASFM). But the challenges mentioned are not limited to the 150-acre ASFM property. Hence the task is to imagine a district collaboration and align the plans for the market, the Flint River, Aerotropolis, and Clayton County’s redevelopment plans by identifying district-scale solutions for connectivity, branding, and green infrastructure.
The mTAP program is a rewarding experience and serves as a platform to bring diverse expertise together, thus crafting an opportunity to look at our city through a myriad of lenses. It also provides best in class analysis by identifying land use solutions from emerging leaders. Since 2010, CFL participants have led over 60 mTAP projects in the Atlanta region. For more information on the CFL program, or to see past mTAP projects, please visit: https://atlanta.uli.org/leadership-initiatives/center-for-leadership/
Sheba Ross is Vice President of HKS, is the current co-chair of the mTAP program, and is an alumni of ULI Atlanta’s Center for Leadership.
This article originally appeared in the March 12, 2019 edition of the Saporta Report