On Tuesday, February 23rd, CCI hosted a town hall meeting for South Downtown. Over the past year, the South Downtown Initiative (SDI) has been working behind the scenes to make positive changes within the community by forming meaningful relationships with business owners, community leaders, residents, and other stakeholders.
A brief introduction was given by Kyle Kessler, who leads the South Downtown Initiative at CCI. He gave a quick recap of the dozens of events and programs SDI helped organize last year and the press that resulted. He also highlighted some results from last year’s survey showing a desire to make the neighborhood safer and more vibrant.
Cherie Ong who also helps lead SDI, spoke about the positive changes she’s seen since her company, The Creations Group, purchased the M. Rich Building at the end of 2011. “We hope to continue to build upon on the area’s historic character and existing assets to better enhance Atlanta’s most authentic and iconic downtown district.”
Kyle then introduced Major Scott Kreher, the new Atlanta Police Department Zone 5 commander. He briefly touched on what he and his team are doing to improve safety in South Downtown. “We have to come up with a way to change the outlook of our neighborhood. APD is currently working to help improve conditions within South Downtown, by using collaborative efforts between APD and local businesses to come up with a solution to change the image of our community.”
City Council Member Andre Dickens spoke next about his excitement seeing the community come together for this event and the only way for us to fix South Downtown, is by combining efforts within the community so that change can occur. “At City Hall, we are also South Downtown.” He also briefly spoke about policy discussions - particularly on inclusionary zoning - he’s leading to help address housing affordability.
The next set of presentations focused on efforts to increase vibrancy. Audrey Leous & Wesley Brown with Central Atlanta Progress gave an update on recent improvements at the Five Points MARTA station such as a new mural and signage that are part of the MARTA Makeover project.
Kristi Rooks, project developer for WRS Inc., spoke about the complexity of efforts to redevelop Underground Atlanta but expects their deal with the city to close in the next sixty days. She addressed some concerns about departing tenants and said there are some new tenants they’d like announce soon. “In the next few months, we hope to present a site plan for the vision of Underground Atlanta.”
Anthony Harper with the Goat Farm Arts Center presented their BEACONS project which is assisting artists and small businesses find affordable space to rent and ensure their sustainability. They are looking to create a dense infusion of artistic expression and 21st-century thinkers on South Broad. “We spent about a year of developing relationships with local businesses on Broad Street, so we could create a trust factor between asset owners and arts organizations.”
Finally, Kyle gave an update on some recent property investments, a proposal to convert the former Atlanta Public Schools building into approximately 40 apartments, and new business activity.
Before leaving, attendees were able to express their interests in helping SDI achieve its goals of increasing vitality, changing perceptions, empowering local leadership, and growing investment. Please let us know how you're interested in helping.
The event was a great overview of efforts that are currently underway to improve South Downtown and gave community members a chance to have their questions and concerns answered.
A copy of the presentation is available here: South Downtown Town Hall Presentation