A hallmark of the Imagine Downtown 2.0 plan was a focus on developing a collective vision based on the wishes and desires of the Downtown community. The planning process derived a vision for future neighborhood development by assessing the needs and interests of all Downtown stakeholders, including residents, business owners, property owners, students, developers and elected and appointed officials. An extensive process was utilized to solicit stakeholder and community input and participation.
Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District partnered with the City of Atlanta Bureau of Planning and a team of professional planning, design and transportation consultants to lead the planning effort. The 2.0 plan update process reinforced the original core principle of public participation in the plan process through additional ‘Core Team’ meetings (approximately 50 key stakeholders), one-on-one stakeholder interviews (20 total) and a public forum workshop (80 participants). In total, the Imagine plan is reflective of 1,900 online survey participants, 150 ‘Core Team’ leaders and over 500 stakeholders who participated in Focus Area workshops.
Over its history the Imagine Downtown plan has been generously supported by the Atlanta Regional Commission's Livable Centers Initiative, which has resulted in Downtown Atlanta's recognition as an Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) community. The LCI designation qualifies Downtown to take advantage of dedicated resources to advance and implement plan recommendations. Additional planning work was also provided by Georgia Institute of Technology City and Regional Planning and Architecture students under the studio direction of Professor Michael Dobbins.
The Imagine Downtown survey was a crucial component of the visioning process, providing a forum to citizens across the Atlanta region to express their interest in Downtown and their vision for its future. The survey, which included multi-media imagery, a visual character survey and a short-answer questionnaire tailored to issues and opportunities facing Downtown, was administered online.
A variety of audiences were captured in the survey, including Downtown residents, business owners, property owners, students, developers and elected and government officials. The survey was also aimed at residents of the City of Atlanta and interested parties from throughout the region. All told, more than 1,900 people participated in the online survey and registered their opinions and thoughts for the emergence of Downtown Atlanta.
Focus Area Workshops
Downtown Atlanta covers four square miles of the center city and comprises multiple individual, yet related, neighborhoods. In order to better understand and plan for the unique characteristics of each community the larger Downtown area was divided into a series of smaller areas to facilitate more detailed examination. For each Focus Area existing conditions were assessed, Core Teams were assembled and a three-day long planning charrette was held to develop plan recommendations. The results of the individual Focus Area planning exercises were overlaid to develop the final plan. The Focus Areas were:
- Jones/Simpson/Alexander (JSA)–McGill Corridor
- Eastside/Auburn Avenue
- Peachtree Corridor
- South Central Business District (CBD)
Core Team Meetings
Within each Focus Area a Core Team comprising property owners, institutional and government representatives, and business leaders was organized to help the consultant team evaluate existing conditions, identify issues and opportunities and prepare for the workshops. Preliminary data and analysis was shared with the group in advance of the workshops to ensure that the process was heading in the appropriate direction to address the needs and concerns of the stakeholders.
The Downtown community comprises a broad range of active development interests and major institutions, as well as individuals that were involved in previous planning efforts. Early in the process the need was recognized to reach out to this group of stakeholders and offer them a confidential platform to express their intentions, ideas and concerns.
The interviews provided a forum for candid conversations regarding the issues and opportunities before the workshops were designed and planning concepts or alternatives proposed. The issues emerging from the interviews were anonymously gathered in a matrix that was shared with the Core Team and that helped form the framework for the public workshops. Throughout the course of the Imagine Downtown planning process close to fifty interviews were conducted.