Posts filed under ‘Grants’

We Owe It to Ourselves

Henry R. Batten, LLCC President & CEO

ILLCC300x96’m usually not very good at writing stuff like this, but after a post on Facebook today from a friend from high school in Raleigh, I feel compelled to put these thoughts into writing.

I feel extremely fortunate to live in what I believe to be one of the most culturally diverse communities in Metro Atlanta. Several years ago many of us got together to see how we could harness this diverse populace and its unusual energy to better the lives of everyone within our “borders”.

We established a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation called the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition. We then applied for and were awarded a $50,000 grant by The Georgia Conservancy and Georgia Tech to study the three neighborhoods that make up our coalition: LaVista Park, Lindridge-Martin Manor, and Woodland Hills.

During this study we discovered many things about ourselves that we didn’t know. The estimated population of this community was in excess of 10,000 people! That’s larger than many small towns in South Georgia.

About 20% of those people are Hispanic. We also discovered that within our local elementary school, there were 23 different languages being spoken. This Hispanic population was right under our noses, but since they were concentrated in two or three “pockets”, many of us overlooked them. We began to ask ourselves how could we reach out to this large segment of people and make them more a part of our community. We recognized that there were large cultural and language barriers.

With another grant from Edelman (a large multi-national PR firm), and with the financial, physical and volunteer assistance of Westminster Presbyterian Church (an LLCC member organization that contributed as much money to this effort as some churches in Raleigh did to deny people their rights), and the cooperation of the Mexican Consulate General (also located in our community), we established a Hispanic English as a Second Language (ESL) Program. In addition to teaching students to read and speak English, the local branch manager of Regions Bank (an LLCC member) came to instruct people how to use banks and write checks, local EMTs came to teach CPR, two local police precincts sent officers to talk about community policing, and dietitians came to talk about nutrition, health and cooking. One evening a week we sponsored soccer games on the athletic field at the church so the fathers could spend quality time with their families.

This Hispanic population was very timid at first, unsure of what our true motives were. They were particularly skeptical of the police officers. We knew that many of them were “illegals,” but we never asked that question of them. It was our goal to include these people in our community, not run them away.

When the school district within the city limits of Atlanta was planning a realignment of attendance zones that would have a tremendous impact of these folks, we hosted community meetings where folks could express their concerns and ask questions. Let me tell you, these people “truly care” about the education of their children! These meetings had the largest attendance of any meetings that we’ve had! It thrilled my heart to see this kind of participation from a once marginalized population.

There are those who say that we don’t owe illegals anything and that they don’t belong here. I disagree. Not only did we owe these people the opportunity to become part of our community, we owe it to ourselves. Otherwise, we would be cutting ourselves off from the vast amount of talent, energy and cultural heritage that makes our community so special.

May 18, 2014 at 10:31 am 1 comment

Atlanta’s quality of life to improve if we transform our ‘red fields’ into ‘green fields’

By VAL PETERSON, first lady of Georgia Tech for SaportaReport.com

Since coming to the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2009, one thing I have learned is that the City of Atlanta has truly benefitted from projects created by our students, faculty and alumni.  From our skyline to Atlantic Station to the Beltline, Atlanta would be a very different place without Georgia Tech.

A new project is being proposed by Mike Messner, a 1976 Civil Engineering graduate who grew up in Atlanta and still cares deeply about our city. In Mike’s mind there is far too much non-productive real estate and not enough green space in Atlanta.

Thus, in 2009, Mike and his wife, Jenny — through their family foundation: the Speedwell Foundation — created and funded a program to bring more green space to urban areas. They call it “Red Fields to Green Fields.”

A “red field” is a property that is deeply in the “red” financially. These properties can ruin neighborhoods. Today there are an estimated 27,000 “red” properties in metro Atlanta. They can become hangouts for criminals. They can become a blight to surrounding neighborhoods.

Regardless of how hard homeowners work to keep their houses looking decent, an abandoned house or vacant strip mall in the neighborhood drags down everyone’s property values.

Messner’s solution is to turn “Red Fields” into “Green Fields,” knocking down financially distressed real estate and replacing it with “green fields”—creating parks and green space.

Kevin Caravati, a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech, and his team are employing this approach and working to make this vision a reality.

Trees, plants and flowers are filters. They clean the air and cool cities in the summer; and they help with storm runoff and flooding.

Parks help to build community. They make people feel calm, boosting spirits and adding beauty to our neighborhoods. Being in nature can ease the symptoms of depression.

Parks and greenways also make surrounding property values climb. Knock down an unused building and the surrounding property values go up, sometimes up to 200 to 400 percent, researchers have discovered.

The Atlanta Beltline, another former Georgia Tech student’s class project, is one example of Red Fields to Green Fields.

Atlanta was originally a railroad town. Today, there are 22 miles of historic rails that are being pulled up, creating linear parks, playgrounds and bike trails.

Community gardens could also be built on these spaces. A partnership between the Atlanta Beltline, the PATH Foundation (which builds bicycle and walking trails) and Georgia Tech’s “Red Fields to Green Fields” research program to create a citywide initiative should be explored.

When you compare park land in Atlanta with park land in other similar cities, Atlanta ranks near the bottom of metropolitan cities nationally. Only 4.6 percent of Atlanta is parks. We can do a lot better than that, and “Red Fields to Green Fields” can help.

The initiative can help in other ways as well.

Georgia has had more bank failures (70) than any other state due to this economic recession. Many banks that lent aggressively during the housing boom suffered when the bubble burst. The commercial real estate business was growing, but was stopped in its tracks by the downturn—and the economic engine stopped as well. Let’s knock down the Red Fields and get them off the ailing banks’ books.“Red Fields to Green Fields” can help create jobs in Atlanta—jobs to help locate and process purchasing of the land, conducting environmental impact studies where needed, employment for park construction, jobs recycling old building materials and positions for the maintenance and operation of the resulting parks.

These are all real jobs that can be created here and stay here. Messner has proposed that cities form land banks. They would create parks and greenways until the economy improves and we can start building again and add properties to the tax rolls.

US financial institutions have lost over $70 billion in assets since 2007.  If the federal government can loan money at near zero interest rates to banks, why not form a land bank, a public/private partnership to invest in these properties?

The federal dollars could go straight to the land bank to buy properties at the current, discounted rates. This would remove these properties from the banks’ rolls and help to clear bad debt, so they can have resources to lend again. This would lead to the creation of parks and green spaces and elevate property values of adjacent neighborhoods.

Setting aside a small amount of the purchased land to build on and sell would generate funds to help sustain the “Red Fields to Green Fields” initiative in Atlanta.

Caravati and Messner have met with individuals from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; U.S. Sen. Johnny Isaacson; the Metro Atlanta Chamber; the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, and Interior; and the White House. Additional meetings are being planned.

And it is my hope that they meet with First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been a proponent of eliminating childhood obesity through her “Let’s Move” campaign. Parks can help kids to be healthy—particularly the one in three who are overweight—by helping them to become more active.

Building the necessary partnerships and consensus for a citywide “Red Fields to Green Fields” initiative is similar to problems faced in solving Atlanta’s transportation issues.

We will vote next year on whether to have a penny tax allocated to T-SPLOST, dedicating resources to improve transportation in metro Atlanta. There are so many small entities involved that it was impossible to discuss this and come up with a solution until the state legislature got involved. A list of potential projects was drafted by a roundtable of local leaders.

Let’s take the same approach with a “Red Fields to Green Fields” initiative for Atlanta. Such an initiative can make all of Atlanta a better place to live and raise families.

January 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm Leave a comment

DeKalb businesses launch second improvement district

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Dave Williams, Staff Writer
Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 10:41am EDT – Last Modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 11:24am EDT
 

Guardrail work along Mountain Industrial Boulevard

A second self-taxing community improvement district has sprung up in DeKalb County.

The new Stone Mountain CID was approved by the county commission last week and has elected its first board of directors.

The new CID’s members elected developer Emory Morsberger the district’s president, and Larry Callahan, CEO of Pattillo Industrial Real Estate, was chosen to serve as chairman.

Stone Mountain becomes the 14th CID in the metro region, all formed by commercial property owners who agree to pay a tax to finance improvements inside their districts.

The Stone Mountain CID is bordered roughly by Hugh Howell Road, East Ponce de Leon Avenue and Tucker Industrial Road. Other major roads running through the district include U.S. 78, also known as Stone Mountain Freeway, and Mountain Industrial Boulevard.

The new CID already has completed its first project, repairing and replacing guardrails along Mountain Industrial.

The county’s first CID, located in the portion of the Perimeter area inside DeKalb, has brought in more than $100 million in grants since its formation in 1989.

June 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

As ARC’s Chick Krautler retires, metro Atlanta’s leadership in flux

By Maria Saporta – from SaportaReport.com

At a pivotal moment for metro Atlanta, a major transition in leadership is underway.

Chick Krautler, director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, announced today his plan to retire on June 30 after 11 years with the planning agency.

Krautler’s retirement follows the departure of two other key members of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s senior team — Tom Weyandt, the agency’s director of comprehensive planning; and Tony Landers, ARC’s director of community services.

At the same time, ARC is playing an integral role in helping put together a list of projects that would be included in the regional transportation sales tax referendum scheduled for August, 2012. The project list must be approved in October.

The ARC also is working on its Plan 2040 that sets the stage for transportation investments as well as helps steer development in the region. Population estimates for the 10-county region project that 8 million people will call metro Atlanta home by 2040 compared to 5 million today. That’s like adding a San Diego to metro Atlanta in the next 30 years.

ARC also has been a leading voice to create an umbrella regional transit agency that could coordinate the multiple public transit operators metro Atlanta — from MARTA, Cobb County Transit, Gwinnett Transit and the Xpress buses operated by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

Historically, one of the major roles of an ARC director is to build consensus in the Atlanta region among the disparate groups and interests.

There’s intown versus suburban versus exurban. There’s elected officials versus citizens members. There’s the tension between mayors versus county commission chairs. There’s the tug of war between developers and environmentalists. There Democrats versus Republicans. There’s the pro-road folks versus the transit and alternative transportation types. There’s the northern part of the metro area versus the southern part. And then there’s always the issue of race, income, gender and age.

In short, building consensus in such a diverse region is difficult even during the best of times.

As part of this leadership transition, the ARC board is doing a strategic review of the organization which could cause some other changes in the executive structure. What is not known is how this uncertainty will impact metro Atlanta’s ability to build consensus and then to have an influential voice among state decision-makers.

After announcing his retirement plans, Krautler said he had debated staying until he turned 65 early next year or even through the sales tax referendum. But he thought it would be better to get new leaders in place as quickly as possible. He said it should be up to the next director to pick his or her own senior staff.

Meanwhile, Krautler said he’s not concerned about how ARC will maneuver during this transition.

“We’ve got really good people here,” he said of his staff.

In looking ahead to a possible successor, Krautler insisted that “there are lots of good people here in Atlanta” and that it was possible that a new team could be put in place rather quickly.

Tad Leithead, a consultant who is ARC’s chairman, said the executive committee and the board would work on an “orderly transition plan” that could include the naming of an interim director and a search for a permanent director.

March 23, 2011 at 7:03 pm Leave a comment

5% Day at Whole Foods Market Briarcliff

 

Shop for a cause at Whole Foods Market Briarcliff! On Wednesday, June 30, Whole Foods Market will donate 5% of their net sales to the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition. Funds will be used for the continual development of the Confluence Trail system along the North and South forks of Peachtree Creek. Stop by the Briarcliff location to show your support and help raise important funds for the LLCC!

June 16, 2010 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

Atlanta leaders hope streetcar proposal will win in second round of U.S. TIGER grants

Maria Saporta

Maybe the second time will be the charm.

The City of Atlanta hopes the federal government will give its streetcar plan a green light during the second round of TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants.

City leaders are presenting their revised streetcar proposal to the Atlanta City Council this week and need the full council’s approval before July 16 when pre-applications are to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Atlanta and Georgia did not fare well during the first round of TIGER grants — when $1.5 billion were distributed to transportation projects across the nation. In the first round, the federal government was offering 100 percent of the funding.

This round is not quite as generous. Only $600 million will be

Read more…

June 16, 2010 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment

Companies Turn to Customers for Charitable ‘Advice’

In an effort to burnish their image with consumers, several Fortune 500 companies have launched online giving contests and invited customers to help them determine which nonprofits should receive their charitable dollars, the Bergen Record reports.

Companies that have rolled out such campaigns include Target, Pepsi, Northwestern Mutual, and Sam’s Club, which recently wrapped up its Giving Made Simple campaign in which Sam’s Club members and employees were given an opportunity to help decide how $4 million should be allocated among eight charities.

The Obama administration has taken note of the phenomenon. With help from the Case Foundation, the administration held a conference last month to discuss ways for businesses, foundations, and charities to use prizes and challenge competitions to spur new ideas and innovation in the nonprofit world.

While proponents of online campaigns argue that they teach nonprofits how to promote themselves on new platforms — and, in the process, learn how to appeal to a younger, more technologically savvy demographic — at least one critic takes issue with the idea of turning charitable giving into a popularity contest. “I don’t think giving should be another ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” said Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow with the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. “Good organizations are going to get left out because people are going to vote for the popular ones. It doesn’t get at the substance of who in the community really needs what.”

Lipman, Harvy. “Asking the Public Which Charities Should Get Funds.” Bergen Record 5/10/10

May 16, 2010 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

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