ULI Atlanta Blog

ULI Atlanta CFL mTAP Team Honored

Through the ULI Center for Leadership mini-Technical Assistance Panel (mTAP) program, Todd Addison, Jacoby Development; Michael Howell, Lincoln Property Group; Bill Mealor, Patterson Real Estate Advisory Group; Jake Von Trapp, Columbia Residential and Christina Byrnes, tvsdesign; came together to serve Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety (PEDS) by offering professional guidance and recommendations on specific issues identified by PEDS.

PEDS advocates for changes to the sidewalk ordinances within the City of Atlanta for the benefit of pedestrians and betterment of the communities. Presently, the taxpayers within the City of Atlanta have to shoulder the burden of city sidewalk maintenance and repairs resulting in the long-term disrepair of city sidewalk infrastructure. PEDS believes that the most compelling way to get the Atlanta City Council to consider changing the ordinance is to illustrate how it fosters the inefficient use of capital resulting in an unsafe, disjointed and poorly connected sidewalk infrastructure.  The team was charged to define financial waste of the current structure and identify alternate ordinance and enforcement options.

There is a tremendous amount of “waste” involved when taxpayers, instead of the City of Atlanta, are left in charge of sidewalk maintenance and repairs. Forms of waste include legal settlement expenses brought about by accidents on sidewalks that are in disrepair and piecemeal installation by taxpayers as opposed to larger scale installations and a long-term maintenance plan, just to name a few. PEDS requested that the team specifically focus on quantifying the waste of capital that is inherent in the current sidewalk ordinance in hopes that the teams findings will aid their efforts going forward as they continue to advocate for a change to the sidewalk ordinance in the City of Atlanta.

The team began their research with understanding the importance of pedestrian connectivity, including the economic benefits, health benefits, and the environmental benefits of sidewalk connectivity.  They then researched the City of Atlanta Ordinance and the national landscape for sidewalk repair and maintenance.  Five different peer cities were studied, revealing that most cities put the burden of sidewalk construction, maintenance and repair on property owners and that with internal resources, cities can develop successful programs that share the burden with the property owners.

The most revealing part of their research was based on their case study analysis of sidewalks in the city.  The case studies helped them to examine the cost differential between piecemeal repair and economies of scale and long term causes of sidewalk disrepair.  Ultimately, the findings showed that;

  • tree roots are the main cause of sidewalk destruction prior to the end of normal useful life of sidewalks
  • the lack of retaining wall installation, where slope warrants one, leads to erosion and undermining of sidewalk sub-bases,
  • improper compaction of water meter boxes undermine sidewalk foundations, and
  • historic sidewalk materials, such as bricks or pavers, allow for greater ability to infiltrate the sub-base.

Using the trends related to the history, age, and demographics of the neighborhoods and the analysis of how the trends correlated to the condition of the sidewalks within the neighborhoods, they then developed a pricing methodology and a financial model by which PEDS can advocate for alternative means of financing mass sidewalk repairs.  Analysis of the financial models of each type of sidewalk and the considerations surrounding each sidewalk led us to the conclusion that piecemeal installation of sidewalks is an inefficient use of capital resulting in unsafe, disjointed and poorly connected sidewalk infrastructure. Their recommendations to PEDS included financing alternatives for city-run replacement programs, financing alternatives for property owner replacement programs and other special funding and resources that can be utilized.

“Our mTAP served as ‘ammunition’ for PEDS’ argument that the City of Atlanta sidewalk ordinance should be changed.” says Christina.  “After the research and analysis, we shared our research and final conclusions with members of the Atlanta City Council.  Our participation in the CFL program helping PEDS made us all aware of the benefit of aiding non-profit organizations through partnering professionals with those in the non-profit sector to achieve common goals. We were grateful to be honored by PEDS with a Golden Shoe Award for our efforts in research.”

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