Narrative of how the entry meets the award criteria – July 28, 2016
Both the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance (the Alliance) and the Aerotropolis Atlanta Blueprint (the Blueprint) are exceptional models of an Outstanding Initiative under the American Planning Associations Georgia Chapter Awards category.
In 2011, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), Georgia Power and ATL started convening local governments around the airport to formulate the Airport Area Working Group (AAWG). This group focused on increasing intergovernmental coordination to spur economic development, but eventually identified the need to partner with the private sector.
In August of 2012, the Airport Area Task Force (AATF) began meeting. This group represents the broader public and Aerotropolis stakeholders, as well as the area business leaders, and was integral in the creation of the Alliance. Then, after stakeholders and regional leaders identified the need for the creation of an official umbrella organization to encourage an alignment of the metropolitan region to better leverage the global asset of ATL, the Alliance was formed in late 2013.
The Alliance is an innovative model of collaboration and partnership between five municipalities, two counties, the Department of Aviation, four local and regional Chambers of Commerce, four Development Authorities, higher and lower educational entities, three Fortune 500 companies and other private businesses, as well as non-profit foundations. In an area as complex as the 100 square miles around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, these entities all working together for the mutual improvement of the entire area is an enormous accomplishment.
At the formation of the Alliance, its leaders wove into the fabric of its structure organizational equity and sustainability by providing automatic seats on the Board of Directors for the five cities, two counties and four Chambers of Commerce, as well as maintaining a rotation of Officer positions. This way, each community has its publicly elected official participating in all Alliance planning processes and implemented projects. The Alliance also has engaged the broader public through its Aerotropolis Atlanta Community Forum (formerly the Airport Area Task Force) to solicit public participation and comprehensive stakeholder input.
For these reasons, the Alliance has been successful in its efforts to change the perception of the Southside of metro Atlanta, a region of the metropolitan area that has been historically overlooked for quality and intelligent development. It has garnered positive support from the community for its inclusiveness, not to mention its ambition and vision. It is a model that could be implemented in other regions where major economic engines cross jurisdictional borders—something the metro Atlanta region is already seeing. This model is being cloned and implemented in other sub-regions all over metro Atlanta (see Partnership Gwinnett, Peachtree Gateway Partnership).
Aerotropolis Atlanta Blueprint
The Blueprint is an innovative, first-of-its-kind strategy for the Atlanta region—a strategy that leverages the airport as a major asset to drive economic investment, job growth, and quality of life in the areas in and around the ATL airport. It is the result of a collaboration among stakeholders across jurisdictional boundaries, and provides comprehensive planning policies for local governments, recommendations for branding and marketing of a unified area, and concepts for the development and connection of pockets of livable communities.
Since the mid-20th century, ATL has been a major driver of growth in Atlanta, the State of Georgia and the Southeast region of the United States. However, until now, no collaborative effort has brought together the area’s many varied stakeholders under a joint vision and strategy to truly leverage the airport’s role as an economic powerhouse and improve the immediately adjacent communities. The Blueprint embodies this public-private vision and aims to advance priorities and key initiatives of the Alliance to move that vision forward in a 1-5-year time frame.
The Blueprint documents a quality vision for and joint strategies of the Alliance, as well as tangible outcomes that are expected. Jacobs was the lead consultant, and in coordination with the Atlanta Regional Commission and its sub-consultants, they produced a comprehensive analysis of the market, demographics, existing conditions of infrastructure, and character areas. This analysis led to achievable concepts with a strong promise for implementation and pragmatic strategies for accomplishing its concepts.
The Blueprint also identifies existing and proposed initiatives secondary and tertiary partners should pursue to help further the coalition’s efforts. For, ultimately, the Blueprint’s success will be not only the result of the formal actions of the Alliance as an entity, but also the regular activities that its many partners undertake to further joint goals.
At its heart are guiding principles of collaboration and intergovernmental coordination, smart growth and sustainable land-use planning, and equitable sharing of outcomes. The simplicity of integrating the Blueprint into transportation, comprehensive, and other plan types on the local and regional level was another focal point of the plan.
Furthermore, the Blueprint process included a series of tasks that began with gaining stakeholder insight and vision from a number of charrettes and meetings open to the public, and then developing a structured framework around the key goals and unique strengths of the area identified in those meetings. The process then concluded with stakeholders reviewing and signing-off on the content of the plan over a number of months. So, it was a collaborative and inclusive process.
If the goal is to create a world-class aerotropolis, the Blueprint is an exceptional vision derived from an extraordinary initiative. This vision and the continued partnership of the Alliance have real promise to align the metropolitan region to better leverage the airport’s assets and provide a framework for the future of the Aerotropolis Atlanta community.