The City Council of Atlanta is preparing to vote on a community benefits plan designed to funnel $30 million into the Vine City, English Avenue, and Castleberry Hill, Marietta Street Artery, and Downtown Neighborhood Area communities. Fifteen million dollars will be made available from Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, while the other $15 million will be awarded by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation for projects with a catalytic impact.
By catalytic projects, the plan refers to development initiatives designed to attract new industries and commercial activity. What type of catalytic initiatives do the communities envision? They would include development of commercial districts and transportation connectivity; development of high-density mixed use projects along Northside Drive and promotion of the hospitality industry; community and cultural festivals and the introduction of new grocery stores.
Affordable housing and land banking are also mentioned in the plan along with transportation projects closely related to the rapid transit stations at Ashby and Vine City. In addition, projects addressing brownfield remediation and urban farming are also included in the plan.
But while the plan calls for the selection by the City of Atlanta of a program manager to oversee the implementation of the plan and to liaison between the affected neighborhoods, the City, and the business community, the plan falls short in detailing how the wish list of items will actually be delivered. Will the neighborhoods be on the hook for identifying private sector entities that can initiate and deliver projects before application for funding is made? Will neighborhoods be bypassed in the application process by private entities pursuing opportunities to deliver construction and other projects?
Another troubling aspect for the neighborhoods, and one that they have brought up during meetings with the city, is that the plan is being adopted as a resolution. A resolution expresses intent or support of various projects and enterprises or establish legislative policy of a general nature. Resolutions do not have the force and effect of law as they are not permanent rules of government. Nor is the plan an agreement between the city and the neighborhoods meaning that the city is not being held to ensure that any of the items listed in the plan will be delivered.
So who is on the hook for delivery? The neighborhoods appear to be, but how much work will they have to do?