Writer: Gabriela Enamorado
4 min read July 2023 — Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) have played a pivotal role in facilitating Atlanta’s growth over the past four decades.
With the rise of new suburban commercial centers and increased traffic congestion, local property owners and businesses collaborated with the state legislature to create special purpose, autonomous, public-private partnerships with the power to self-tax property owners to fund capital improvement projects. Cumberland CID, the first CID formed in Georgia, has a 5.4% economic impact in the Peach State and 36% contribution to Cobb County’s overall economic activity, as citedopens WORD file by the Federal Highway Administration. The state of Georgia has more than 25 CIDs active — mainly in or around metro Atlanta.
Joe Allen, Executive Director of Gwinnett Place CID, and Jim Durrett, Executive Director of the Buckhead CID spoke with Focus: and shared their thoughts on the future of their communities, challenges CIDs are facing and what projects are in the pipeline currently.
What have been the CID’s highlights over the past year?
Jim Durrett, Executive Director, Buckhead CID: In 2022, we collaborated with the Atlanta Police Department to make significant progress to implement programs addressing the sense of safety and security within Buckhead, which people have been talking about for various reasons. We opened an additional police precinct in Buckhead as a result of the collaboration between the Community Improvement District and the Buckhead Coalition alongside the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Police Foundation. That is a demonstration of just how important partnerships and collaboration are in the work that we do. In 2022, for the second consecutive year, the Atlanta Police Department zone which includes Buckhead, Zone 2, led the city in crime reduction statistics demonstrating that it is extremely safe to live and work in Buckhead, contrary to what some people may hear.
In terms of capital improvements, we made substantial progress in the final phase of the Peachtree Road complete street project, including the removal of old power poles. The Peachtree Road transformation is a major infrastructure investment that has been 15 years in the making. That has been a major accomplishment.
We also worked on significant improvements in West Village including streetscapes, repaving and storm water run-off. We’ve vastly improved the quality and function of that part of our Community Improvement District. As we look toward the future, we have three major infrastructure improvements on deck this year which have advanced through engineering and design. We will relentlessly pursue these improvements and continue our collaborations with our partners.
Joe Allen, Executive Director, Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District: The CID’s largest undertaking in 2022 was the crafting of the Gwinnett Place Mall Site Revitalization Strategy. The redevelopment plan, which incorporated 18 months of extensive community outreach, dialogue and feedback as well as economic feasibility studies and analysis, was developed from a partnership between Gwinnett County, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District (CID) and consultant firm VHB. In total, the team engaged more than 3,000 people at in-person events throughout Gwinnett County and documented 3,624 online interactions as part of the outreach process.
This implementation strategy will be our roadmap for transforming the Gwinnett Place Mall site into a mixed-use development called Global Villages. Global Villages is predominantly residential with modest amounts of new retail and office with an international culture and community center and central park space at the core. The Global Villages design will include:
- Residential: 2,700 – 3,800 new units
- Retail (new): 55,000 square feet
- Commercial (office): 50,000 square feet
- Cultural center: 50,000 square feet
- Parks: 12.7 acres
What is the role of the CID?
Durrett: Initially, the role of the CID was to address traffic congestion and other problems by taking advantage of technological changes, for instance. That concept has evolved and today the focus is much more on what else we can do not just to improve roadway design but also to accommodate people. There is a real focus on walkability and accessibility such as safety, attractiveness, creating a sense of place and enhancing tourism in the area. The more walking infrastructure installed the more complete our community will be and the more it will respond to the needs and desires of our growing population in a much more significant way.
Allen: GPCID is a self-taxing district that uses additional property taxes to accelerate infrastructure improvements, security enhancements and economic development initiatives. The CID is leading the effort to expedite mobility, quality of life and economic improvement strategies for the benefit of businesses, employees, and visitors to Gwinnett’s central business district. Through partnerships with Gwinnett County Government, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the State of Georgia and others, the CID has a proven track record of improvements that are beginning to transform Gwinnett Place. We are facilitators. We are not the government, and we don’t have a gun and badge. We bring partners together to find shared solutions to improve Gwinnett’s central business district at Gwinnett Place.
How are you addressing walkability in your community?
Durrett: It is more than just making sure a sidewalk isn’t crumbling in order to check the box on walkability. It needs to be generous and attractive in terms of appealing to users. People should want to use it, and not just use it because they have to, but because it is accessible, functional and welcoming. Additionally, we also need to consider safety such as improving pedestrians’ safety at crosswalks. Along that same thought, we must confirm that we’re always in accordance with the components of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s requirements and needs. It’s all about design, quality and safety.
Allen: The walkability and accessibility of the district by modes of transportation besides auto is another priority of the CID’s mobility initiatives. The CID helps maintain over 17 miles of sidewalk and streetscapes. The Global Villages implementation plan includes “complete streets” to support pedestrians, bikers and other forms of mobility choices alongside cars and public transit in the area.
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