Atlanta Urban Renewal ap human Geography Atlanta's Olympic Park Plan Reveals The Complications of Urban Renewal

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Atlanta Urban Renewal

AP Human Geography
Atlanta's Olympic Park Plan Reveals The Complications of Urban Renewal

By PETER APPLEBOME Published: December 19, 1993

Midway between Atlanta's surprise designation as the site of the next Summer Olympics and July 1996, when perhaps two million people will descend on Atlanta for the Games, time is running out for the grand dreams of urban renaissance that the Olympics fostered here.

And nothing to date has brought home the political, economic and racial complications that come with trying to mount an event as big as the Olympics in an American inner city as a proposal to bulldoze a ragged, 72-acre swath of downtown Atlanta for a park that could provide the focal point for the Games.

Supporters say the $100 million project would provide a much needed public gathering place for the Olympics and would generate new development that would transform a largely seedy part of downtown. Skeptics see the project as a dubious quick fix that would drain money from needy neighborhoods and leave behind a forlorn park and an inner city as poor after the Games as before. Much at Stake

At the least, however, the proposed Centennial Olympic Park is a reminder of how much is at stake in the Olympics, which are expected to have a $5.1 billion economic impact on Georgia, and how widespread are the fears that Atlanta is in danger of failing to capitalize on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity 944 days away.

"The Olympics are like a flying saucer that's landed in the midst of a community," said Lyn May, an Olympic spokeswoman. "It's done exactly what you would expect in terms of raising expectations and creating fear and loathing. And the ultimate fear is that the flying saucer will take off and leave only scorched earth behind."

Organizers bill the Games, the 100th anniversary of the Olympics, as the largest single event in American history, one comparable to six Super Bowls a day for 17 days. But despite the boom they mean for the region around Atlanta, the Games will be held in the middle of a city that is 70 percent black, accounts for only 400,000 of the 2.7 million people in the metropolitan area, and is one of the poorest in the country.

Atlanta's successful bid for the Games set off widespread expectations of dramatic urban revitalization. Now, almost everyone agrees those expectations were wildly inflated.

"There was a sense the Olympics could do everything for everybody," said Billy Payne, President of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, known as ACOG. "Of course it was an over-expectation, because we have governments which financially are unable to help. But I don't think ACOG can even be remotely accused of not addressing our civic responsibilities."

From the start, Mr. Payne has stressed that his committee planned to raise $1.6 billion in private donations for the "inside-the-fence" aspects of the Olympics -- the competition sites, buildings and resources needed to put on the Games. The "outside-the-fence" aspects like road improvements, downtown renewal and refurbishing low-income areas adjacent to the Olympic sites were left to public bodies.

So far, the inside activities are roughly on schedule. And Olympic officials say they will leave behind $500 million in projects paid for with private money, including the $211 million Olympic stadium, athletic sites at the historically black Atlanta University Center and student housing at Georgia Tech and Georgia State University.

But outside, there are only glimmers of progress, like a $38 million Federal grant for the rehabilitation of a housing project that is between the Olympic Village and the proposed park. Political Overtones

Most of the obstacles are financial, caused by the city's small size and tax base and a public climate hostile to the spending of tax money to support the Games.

But the slow pace also has roots in politics and race, and the desire of the City of Atlanta to control Olympic-related development despite the suburban roots and largely white leadership at the organizing committee. The result was Mayor Maynard Jackson's establishment of the Corporation for Olympic Development, which was designated as the agency in charge of development plans. The agency has drawn up a list of $220 million in possible projects, most of them in 15 low-income neighborhoods near the Olympic events.

But the development corporation has no money and as a city venture it lacks the political clout of a broader metropolitan or statewide body. Mayor-elect Bill Campbell said one of his main priorities was to come up with money to further the agency's agenda. A bond issue or sales tax increase is possible but both face political obstacles.

"My challenge and the challenge of the city for the next three years is to try not to let any more time go by without rebuilding our infrastructure and improving our neighborhoods," he said in an interview. "It's going to take a commitment that will be unyielding for the next three years."

Amid growing concerns about the slow pace of development, Mr. Payne last month unveiled his $100 million plan for the park, which would be financed by businesses and foundations. He called for bulldozing 72 acres of downtown that now consists largely of rundown buildings and dingy warehouses. After the Olympics, about 20 acres would remain as a park and the rest would be developed.

For the Olympics the park has impeccable logic, replacing an eyesore between the Olympic Village and major arenas with a green oasis. Supporters include Atlanta's political leadership and its most powerful business interests.

But there are doubters as well, most conspicuously the operators of businesses in the area who would be displaced by the park.

"I feel such sorrow in my heart about this," said Thelma Grundy, owner of Thelma's Kitchen, a popular home-style restaurant that would be displaced. "When I first heard about it I almost fainted." Effect on the Poor

But many others who have seen the Olympics as an engine for neighborhood development see the park as both a competitor that will consume resources and a confirmation of fears that poor neighborhoods and their residents are more likely to be displaced than helped by the Games.

"Nobody's pulling for the neighborhoods," said Douglas Dean, President of Summerhill Neighborhood Inc., a development group in the low-income area near the stadium. "And let me tell you, if anyone thinks we can sponsor this Olympics by '96, and we don't change the quality of life for the underclass, they're going to be surprised. The underclass has gotten sophisticated enough, that if they don't get some help, they know how to irritate people who have got something."

The park proposal has such powerful interests behind it that few prominent people are willing to express reservations. But privately some are unconvinced that a downtown park would become anything other than a haven for the homeless. And many see in the plan, both in the way it was hatched and in its broad-brush urban renewal approach, a reminder that Atlanta's political leadership may have changed from white to black, but the real power has not.

"It's a vision sort of dropped from on high, another big fix," said Tom Weyandt, a former Atlanta Commissioner of Planning and Development. "But I think the soul of the city and the real vision of the city is in a lot of little things that this will distract us from and draw money away from."

Mr. Payne said Atlanta could do both.

"I will refer you to a moment in time when we started bidding for the Games, and people said, 'What is this crazy idiot out there doing, espousing an idea so big,' " he said.

Almost every Olympic city at some point finds itself anxiously pondering whether it is going to get everything done on time. But Atlanta's commitment to put on the Games without public money and the high aspirations that the Games would bring social uplift along with sport, pose particular hurdles to Atlanta. And everyone agrees that two-and-a-half years is not much time for all the things, including the park, that Atlanta wants to do. Even the park, which would be built on land now owned by almost 200 different people, is viewed a difficult task to accomplish.

"The time has already passed to use the Olympics as a stimulus for some of the things we've talked about," said Joe Martin, a local developer. "Plans are great. But plans without implementation mean nothing."

Revive communities by designing new Falcons stadium on a human scale

By Maria Saporta Date: March 17th, 2013

Part Two: A new football stadium and the surrounding communities

If the first time you don’t succeed, try again.
When the Georgia Dome was developed 23 years ago, setting aside $10 million for the adjacent community — including an $8 million housing trust fund — was seen as a way to address the area’s multiple problems.
But two decades later, the situation has only gotten worse. Population has declined from about 9,000 to 3,000. Nearby blocks that used to be filled with homes are now boarded up or vacant lots, some victims of flooding that could have been caused by run-offs from downtown developments including the convention center and the Georgia Dome.
And yet these neighborhoods are the treasure chests of Atlanta’s richest history. It is here — Sunset Avenue — where Martin Luther King Jr. and his family lived when he was assassinated.
It is here — within a two-mile radius — where there is the greatest cluster of historically black colleges and universities in the South if not the nation.
It is here — only a few blocks away from the Georgia Dome — where one of Atlanta’s most influential black businessmen—Alonzo Herndon — lived and where his home still stands.
And within walking distance is the historic gathering place for the Civil Rights movement — the now vacant and boarded up Paschal’s Restaurant and Motor Lodge on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
That is the backdrop awaiting plans to build a new $1 billion retractable roof stadium for the Atlanta Falcons just south of the Georgia Dome.
The challenge is to not only avoid the mistakes of yester-year but to create a vision and a plan that will leverage the best we have to offer by transforming the communities west of downtown into thriving and compelling destinations for our region.
From the sky, a golden triangle emerges. If one can connect the Atlanta University Campus with Georgia State University and Georgia Tech, this Atlanta triangle can become an unrivaled center for higher education, research, innovation, creativity, recreation and discovery.
But at eye level, there’s little life on the streets.
Bill Bolling, founder of the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the Regional Atlanta Housing Forum, has seen it all before.
“We’ve been in this conversation since 1988,” Bolling said. “It feels like we are on the cusp of a new time. We are rebuilding a new community. It’s hard to do. It’s even hard when everyone means well.”
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who is the driving force behind replacing the Georgia Dome with a new stadium, has pledged to do right by the community.
In a deal that is making its way through government channels, $50 million in stadium-related infrastructure improvements are included. And the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has pledged $15 million to be invested in the communities surrounding the stadium — Vine City, English Avenue and Castleberry; and that is being matched by another $15 million from Invest Atlanta’s Westside Tax Allocation District. (The Westside TAD currently has $53 million).
So now Atlanta has a second chance (or is it a third or fourth chance) to actually create something special, something magnificent in a part of town that has seen disappointment after disappointment.
“We know the history of stadiums in the United States, and the impact on communities has been highly overstated,” said Penny McPhee, president of the Blank Foundation. “We know that building stadiums is not enough. We want to be part of a much larger vision. Mr. Blank…wants to invest in a cohesive plan that can have a generational impact.”
Councilman Ivory Young, who represents the district, echoed that sentiment.
“We want to do big things that are transformative,” Young said. “We don’t want to take big bags of money and throw it away.”
Take the stadium itself. When the Georgia World Congress Center Authority unanimously approved the deal on March 15, it added a representative from Invest Atlanta to its conceptual design and construction team. That means the City of Atlanta will have a voice in how the stadium will relate to the neighborhoods.
“We don’t want a monolith of a building that is cut-off from the community,” said Brian McGowan, president of Invest Atlanta. “There are great stadium designs around the world that are very open and feel like they are part of the neighborhood. It’s really about integrating the stadium into the fabric of the whole community.”
McGowan went on to say that “design can be used to feel like it’s connected to Centennial Olympic Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Castleberry, Vine City, English Avenue and the multimodal station.”
Former Atlanta City Planning Commissioner Michael Dobbins has been arguing that point for years. He would like to see a stadium that works on a human scale connecting both towards downtown and to the neighborhoods.
Benjamin Flowers, a Georgia Tech professor of architecture, told City Council: “Don’t put the stadium in a sea of parking.” That’s a mistake that was made at Turner Field, and it is a mistake that is being repeated when facilities are built in the suburbs.
“You have a unique opportunity to develop around the urban core,” Flowers said.
Dobbins, who also teaches at Georgia Tech, envisions turning Northside Drive into a boulevard that connects east and west rather than acts as a divider.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also has a similar vision.
“My goal is to make the Martin Luther King corridor the most attractive Martin Luther King corridor in the country,” Reed said at a City Hall press conference announcing the deal.
The City of Atlanta actually has the tools in its tool box to advocate for world-class design. The Atlanta Urban Design Commission and the Department of Planning can be reinvigorated to help the mayor achieve his dream of a beautiful city at street level and above. Turning the Northside and Martin Luther King roadways into iconic boulevards is a good place to start.
It’s also important to be careful when redeveloping neighborhoods, Dobbins said.
“Start with preserving what needs to be preserved,” he said. “Only after you’ve done that can you look at bringing in new investment.”
Bolling said one common mistake is not having the right partners at the table. “That’s what happened the last time at the Georgia Dome,” he said. “We have to build a culture that includes all of our voices.”
Seeking guidance on how to work with communities around the stadium, the Blank Foundation recently met with officials of Purpose Built Communities, the Atlanta-based nonprofit started by developer Tom Cousins seeking to replicate the success of the East Lake community across the country.
“If we don’t bring everybody along, Atlanta is not going to be the city on the hill. It can’t be,” said McPhee, adding that we underestimate the area’s assets and how it can become the “next growth area” for people who want to live and work near downtown. “It’s a huge aspirational and attainable opportunity for Atlanta.”

Atlanta Urban Renewal Questions

AP Human Geography
1. What problems with urban renewal do these articles identify and highlight?

2. What are/were the objectives of the urban renewal projects?

3. Twenty years later, how would you describe the overall success/failure of the Olympic village urban renewal project?

4. What do you think will be the result of the Falcons stadium project?

5. After weighing the advantages/disadvantages of these projects, do you think they’re appropriate?

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