A. J. Robinson: 10 Minutes on Revitalizing Downtowns

Urban cores with challenging infrastructure issues are not getting the right attention from government, so planners are creating their own public/private partnerships to obtain funding from various city sources to pay for necessary upgrades.  And, according to A. J. Robinson, President of Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADD), his organization has been very successful at this.

In a recent interview for the Alter NOW Podcasts, Robinson, who previously was President at Portman Holdings where he developed projects throughout the world, said that historically, downtowns are the heart and the brand of a city.  Downtowns should be healthy, vibrant, urban cores that are treasured and taken care of.  Under Robinson’s leadership, CAP has stressed block-by-block revitalization and community improvement districts throughout Atlanta.  In these, central neighborhoods with a commercial corridor tax themselves and use the money to fund revitalization projects within the district.  Many of these are based on the principles of New Urbanism, which stress density, walkability, sustainability and the presence of public spaces where people can gather – an unusual concept in traffic-choked Atlanta.

In terms of the highly successful 1996 Summer Olympics hosted by Atlanta, Robinson points to 60 acres that previously were an industrial wasteland and now is home to Centennial Olympic Park, a Coca Cola facility, the Georgia Aquarium and the future Center for Civil and Human Rights.  Robinson admits that Atlanta lost its momentum after the Olympics by taking a break during an up real estate market and missed some of the immediate dividends that could have been realized.