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Monday, December 31, 2007

Ahead Of The Curve

Your eye on community development / www.ajc.com

Washington aspirations

The city of Atlanta has quietly been acquiring property between the state Capitol and Oakland Cemetery, planting the seed for what officials hope will one day be a Washington-style mall between the two sites.

The city recently spent $1.8 million to purchase a nearly 1-acre parcel just west of Oakland Cemetery that could clear the way for a future visitors' center, city officials said. Earlier this year, the city bought two nearby blocks along Memorial Drive — the first of six blocks the city plans to acquire to clear the way for a future Capitol Gateway Park.

Atlanta is using a combination of funding sources to buy up the mostly light industrial tracts, including private donations, quality of life bonds, developer impact fees and revenue from the city's Eastside Tax Allocation District. The recent $1.8 million purchase includes an anonymous $900,000 donation made through the Oakland Historic Foundation.

The long-term plan is for the city's property on Memorial to join with property owned by the Atlanta Housing Authority to the west, creating a strip of green space that would span the Downtown Connector. The plans for such a park date back to the mid-1970s, when Jimmy Carter served as governor.

It's only a vision for now, stressed Ellen Wickersham, director of parks and green space with the city's development authority. An extensive master planning process would be required to get public input before a firm plan is drawn up, she said.

— Paul Donsky

Auto-balms

Business leaders in north Fulton County are helping to pay for two efforts to ease traffic congestion. Both are to take shape before summer.

The Perimeter Community Improvement Districts lent its political and financial strength to the construction of a half-diamond interchange at Ga. 400 and Hammond Drive. The interchange is expected to ease congestion along the traffic-clogged highway, and on nearby surface streets, by improving the flow of vehicles heading to and from Ga. 400.

As the interchange is built, Hammond Drive is expected to get new sidewalks, and existing sidewalks are to be improved. The CID is supporting that project as part of a broader effort to make the area more inviting for pedestrians.

Farther north along Ga. 400, a comprehensive land-use plan is being created to guide future development in Milton and Alpharetta.

The North Fulton Community Improvement District wants to provide a seamless plan for development along the highway as it traverses the cities, each of which has a planning department.

The CID's goal is to create for north Fulton the type of master plan that contributed to the revitalization of Midtown. Midtown was a partly blighted neighborhood until local leaders created a blueprint to guide future growth, and several developers have said the existence of a plan reassured potential investors and tenants that the area would develop in an orderly fashion.

— David Pendered

Water plan hosed

The proposed state water plan, due on state legislators' desks Jan. 14, smacked into a wall of galvanized opposition earlier this month among local governments, environmentalists and editorialists outside metro Atlanta.

The plan, already defanged of any legal force, is innocuous enough as a policy guideline.
What's riled the rest of the state is how local water decisions would be made. Instead of organizing the regional water planning districts along river basins, giving downstreamers a seat at the same table with upstreamers, the proposal offered earlier this month would organize the districts along existing political boundaries created to deliver state services for economic development and other purposes.

"It's the hydrologic equivalent of gerrymandering. And it's just wrong," opined the LaGrange Daily News, which gets its water from the Chattahoochee River, after metro Atlanta uses it.
A Savannah Morning News editorial said criss-crossing river basins "is setting the stage for future fights among rival jurisdictions for the same water."

Metro Atlanta is part of a 16-county water planning district created in 2001 that would not be disrupted by the proposal. The district crosses five major river basins.

Environmentalists say creating more political boundaries for water planning around the rest of the state will encourage piping water from one river basin to another to fuel development, harming both basins' ecosystems by upsetting the natural flows.

Local government officials don't like how the district boards would be created through appointments by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. The concern is that the regional water boards could decide which counties get to grow and by how much without input from locally elected leaders. Local officials also want a say on the boards because it's likely they will have to raise taxes to help pay for the regional plans.

The Water Council, consisting of 14 state agency heads, legislators and citizen members, is working on revisions due for a Jan. 8 vote.

— Stacy Shelton

Fore! New Ansley homes

Presales have begun at Ansley Parkside, a townhome development under construction on Monroe Drive near Ansley Golf Club in Midtown.

Ansley Parkside will have 41 homes with prices beginning in the high $500,000s. The first units are expected to be completed in October.

Townhomes by Lane Co. is the developer and Brunning & Stang is the builder.
The traditional brownstone style townhomes were designed by Harrison Design Group. They range in size from 1,999 to 2,212 square feet and have three bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths.

— Kevin Duffy

Air-colades

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport snagged several industry awards this year, including Best Large U.S. Airport (from American Express' Executive Traveler magazine), Most Efficient Airport in the World (the Air Transport Research Society), Best Airport Director (Airport Revenue News magazine) and Airport Operator of the Year (the National Organization to Ensure a Sound-Controlled Environment).

Atlanta's airport also maintained its status as the busiest airport in the world. About 86 million passengers were expected to pass through the airport by year's end.

— Jim Tharpe

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