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Posted by on December 17, 2017.

Commentary: Cityhood is leading to regional collaboration

Across metro Atlanta, cities are making notable progress.

Sandy Springs is transforming a dated shopping center into a vital civic and cultural center. Chamblee is reinventing its historic downtown as a vibrant, walkable place. Dunwoody is improving pedestrian and bicycle access to shopping and MARTA.

Sam Shenbaga.

These ambitious efforts are to be applauded, as they promise to improve quality of life for so many people.

But cities are also realizing that there’s only so much they can do alone. Many key issues, from traffic congestion to economic revitalization, cross political lines and require a collaborative approach.

Indeed, a growing number of cities are joining forces to tackle problems and make significant improvements.

A notable example is the Peachtree Gateway Partnership, which includes the cities of Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville and Dunwoody.

The group, which formed a few years ago with help from the Atlanta Regional Commission, is working to build a coordinated trail network and coordinate on a range of issues, from transportation planning to branding and marketing. There’s enormous potential, and the group is just getting started.

Meanwhile, the cities of Doraville and Chamblee were awarded a Livable Centers Initiative grant from ARC last year to collaboratively envision the future of the Buford Highway corridor that runs through their cities.

The six cities in north Fulton are now finalizing their second North Fulton Comprehensive Transportation Plan. With planning assistance from ARC, the cities are developing a strategy that will help improve mobility options for residents of each jurisdiction, realizing that what’s good for one city is ultimately good for all of them.

Those same north Fulton cities also share ambulance and dispatch services, allowing them to save money while maintaining efficient response times.

And recently, city leaders from across the top end of I-285 met to discuss possible transit options in that congested corridor and other ways of improving mobility across their city boundaries. It’s likely they will meet again to dig even deeper into this critical issue.

Collaborative efforts are also taking place elsewhere in the Atlanta region.

Consider the Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance, which launched a few years ago when local governments, businesses and civic leaders near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport came together with the goal of making the area a better place for businesses and residents.

The alliance worked with ARC to develop a long-range vision for the area called the Aerotropolis Atlanta Blueprint. The group is now working on a range of projects, such as connecting employers to qualified workers and creating a trail network that may eventually link to the Atlanta BeltLine.

Other notable programs include Learn4Life, a nonprofit collaborative focused on improving educational outcomes in metro Atlanta, and ARCHI, a collaborative that is working to make the region’s residents and communities healthier.

Meanwhile, the region’s transportation agencies — ARC, Georgia DOT, MARTA, and GRTA/SRTA — are working closely with each other and local governments to provide us all with increased mobility options.

To reflect the momentum around collective action, ARC chose “The Power of Collaboration” as the theme of this year’s State of the Region Breakfast, held last month.

Our executive director, Doug Hooker, told the 1,400 people in attendance that the most pressing issues facing our region are simply too big, and too complex, for any one organization or political jurisdiction to address alone. After all, challenges like traffic, health, and education don’t stop at a city or county boundary.

At ARC, we firmly believe that a community that works together is the best way to ensure a stronger, more resilient future for all of us.

We encourage individuals and groups to come together around regional issues and start working toward solutions. Sometimes, all it takes is a conversation to move an entire region forward.

Sam Shenbaga is manager of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Community Development Group.

One Response to Commentary: Cityhood is leading to regional collaboration

  1. Ronald Lanz

    December 20, 2017 at 5:26 am

    The regional and sub-regional approach to urban advancement and shared issue resolution may not be a new idea but it is one that has unfortunately been neglected in favor of the “me first” mentality of our municipalities and politicians. I am proud to see the change in approach being driven by ARC. Congratulations Sam Shenbaga.