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State of the Region:

ARC boasts successes, but emphasizes challenges

Traffic/transit tops list of issues; cities’ redevelopment encouraged



ATLANTA – The cream of the Atlanta region’s leadership met Nov. 3 at the Atlanta World Congress Center to celebrate recent successes and take a hard look at where the region needs to go.

Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Kerry Armstrong welcomed some 1,300 business people, civic leaders and government leaders to the annual ARC State of the Region Breakfast to see where the region stands and listen to ideas to continue Atlanta progress.

They heard a lot about where the region is and where it needs to go. And they heard interesting ideas about how to be a more cohesive and viable economic region.

Armstrong noted the region has many assets at work. With the Georgia Department of Transportation committed to investing $11 billion, the area is working together to solve transportation obstacles that stand in the way of growth.

Armstrong said that includes looking at TSPLOST projects, autonomous and connected vehicles. The region continues to be good stewards of its water resources.

“Today we use 10 percent less water than we did in 2000 and we have 1 million more residents today,” he said.

Georgia’s film industry, centered in the Atlanta region, today rivals Hollywood for the most film production in the United States.

But there are challenges. A recent survey found 1 in 7 residents could not come up with the money for a sudden expense of $400. One in 5 does not have a dependable way to get to work.

Georgia Tech Professor Design Ellen Dunham-Jones, director of the Urban Design master’s program at Tech, spoke about the economic benefits that urban redevelopment brings to the entire community.

Dunham-Jones pointed to the Atlanta Beltline, which has not only sparked new economic and residential growth in the city, but with its “plethora of urban trails” has triggered regeneration in what had been an impoverished area.

It inspired Ponce City Market in Atlanta as a new walkable economic and cultural asset.

“We’re thinking differently about under-invested areas. And now we are running toward OTP [Outside The Perimeter] looking at our aging malls and outdated office parks,” Dunham-Jones said. “We are looking at retrofitting our commercial areas and redevelopment that is more walkable and compact.”

She might well have been talking about Alpharetta’s ongoing reinvention of its downtown that is rising up in its City Center and spreading with its “inner-loop” walking trail to match its greenway.

Dunham-Jones called Avalon’s impact on Alpharetta “catalytic,” and indeed, Avalon received the ARC’s Award for Exceptional Merit for Catalytic Development.

Cobb County’s The Battery Atlanta and SunTrust Park, the new home of the Braves, also was recognized with an Award for Exceptional Merit for Catalytic Development

Duluth’s Parsons Alley is a 40,000-square-foot city-inspired redevelopment begun in the early 2000s recapturing the 1848 character of Baptist Church downtown.

“It’s owned by the city, but its shops and restaurants are playing an important role in [Duluth’s] future growth,” she said.

Parsons Alley was given the ARC’s Development of Excellence Award.

Wanis Kabbaj is UPS’s director of Global Strategy for Healthcare Logistics. It is his job to find ways for organizations to transport temperature-sensitive medicines and biotechnologies around the world.

Kabbaj said biology can teach us about transportation. He said transportation must develop like an organism – or more accurately like a vascular system.

A living body is fueled by its vascular system, he said. Each body contains 6,000 miles of “track.” And unlike today’s transport, the blood cells never “travel empty.” It is always bringing something to a destination or taking it away.

“We should learn from the biotics of veins and arteries,” he said.

Kabbaj used a video that showed a transit system that never stops, but flows.

“Our blood never stops. We should emulate that,” he said.

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