Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beltline names new CEO

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 3:03 PM

Beltline officials this morning named Brian Leary, vice president of Atlantic Station, as the new head honcho of the 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit.

From Atlanta Beltline Inc., the nonprofit that's tasked with designing and implementing the $2.8 billion project:

Mr. Leary joins ABI from Atlantic Station, where he is currently Vice President. He has worked there for 12 years during which he helped develop the former steel mill into a national model of sustainable development and smart growth.

“Atlantic Station has given me a wonderful opportunity over the years,” said Leary, “but there is no greater opportunity to impact the metro Atlanta area’s quality of life than the Atlanta BeltLine Project. Atlantic Station has created thousands of jobs and homes and millions of dollars in new tax base, but the BeltLine has the extraordinary potential to transform the entire city. I am looking forward to getting to work with the BeltLine team and its partners—and to doing a great deal of listening.”

Mr. Leary holds a master’s degree in City Planning and a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Georgia Tech, where he received dual certificates in Land Development and Real Estate. He has been published nationally and teaches each spring at Georgia Tech.

Leary, whose work with Atlantic Station is well-regarded among smart-growth wonks, has a full plate in front of him.

In July, Beltline officials announced they controlled nearly 50 percent of the railroad tracks circling Atlanta that form the project's "spine." Work on new parks in Old Fourth Ward, Grant Park and Southwest Atlanta is underway or scheduled to begin in the next year. Discussions about securing other rail segments in Southeast and Northwest Atlanta — which includes an active freight corridor — are on the horizon.

But development, which is vital to fueling the Beltline's chief funding source, has ground to a halt in Atlanta. Officials plan to issue as much as $165 million in bonds in October to help fund the project and refinance old debt.

Leary will also have to navigate the tricky neighborhood politics that come with the project. The Beltline stands to impact, for better or worse, more than 40 diverse neighborhoods throughout Atlanta. Each one has its own concerns about the project's implementation, ranging from density to economic development initiatives.

Matt Hicks, who helped launch the project as a policy analyst for former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard, recently outlined what he thought were the next CEO's greatest challenges. He noted that the cultivating the Beltline's homegrown energy  and preserving its original vision were chief among them. Hicks' column is worth a read.

Leary succeeds Terri Montague, who's lead the project since 2006. Montague will stay on as a consultant and to help with the transition in leadership.

We'll have more on this story throughout the day. Below is the full press release from ABI:

ATLANTA BELTLINE, INC. NAMES BRIAN M. LEARY PRESIDENT AND CEO

Atlanta, GA – The Board of Directors of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) today named Brian Leary as President and Chief Executive Officer of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., the implementing entity of Atlanta’s visionary BeltLine Project, which will provide a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit along a historic 22-mile railroad corridor circling downtown and connecting many neighborhoods directly to each other over the next 25 years and beyond.

Mr. Leary joins ABI from Atlantic Station, where he is currently Vice President. He has worked there for 12 years during which he helped develop the former steel mill into a national model of sustainable development and smart growth.

“Brian brings the right combination of technical experience, development success and community engagement for what the BeltLine needs as it enters the next chapter of its evolution,” said Cal Darden, Chair of the ABI Board of Directors.

“Construction has begun for the BeltLine’s first new major park and will soon start on two more; nearly half of the 22-mile corridor is now secure for BeltLine use, and seven miles of interim hiking trails will be open in the beginning of 2010. Under Brian’s leadership, I am confident that the BeltLine’s momentum will continue to forge ahead with the strong team we have assembled,” said Mayor Shirley Franklin.”

“We conducted a national search with the help of BoardWalk Consulting and found the best candidate for the job a stone's throw away. Brian Leary is just the person to complement the fantastic team we have in place at ABI,” said Clara Axam, ABI board member and chair of the search committee.

In addition to Mr. Darden and Ms. Axam, the other members of the search committee were John Somerhalder, Chairman of the BeltLine Partnership and President & Chief Executive Officer of AGL Resources; Joe Brown, ABI board member and Director of Equity/Structured Finance, Centerline Capital Group; and Dr. Carl Patton, former President of Georgia State University.

“The BeltLine Partnership looks forward to working with Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s new CEO to maintain the significant momentum behind this public-private partnership for Atlanta’s future,” said John Somerhalder, Chairman of the BeltLine Partnership and President & Chief Executive Officer of AGL Resources.

“Atlantic Station has given me a wonderful opportunity over the years,” said Leary, “but there is no greater opportunity to impact the metro Atlanta area’s quality of life than the Atlanta BeltLine Project. Atlantic Station has created thousands of jobs and homes and millions of dollars in new tax base, but the BeltLine has the extraordinary potential to transform the entire city. I am looking forward to getting to work with the BeltLine team and its partners—and to doing a great deal of listening.”

Mr. Leary holds a master’s degree in City Planning and a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Georgia Tech, where he received dual certificates in Land Development and Real Estate. He has been published nationally and teaches each spring at Georgia Tech.

During his tenure with Atlantic Station, Mr. Leary led the marketing efforts to attract corporate residents, national retailers and international attractions to what is now one of the most visited destinations in the State of Georgia. Over the past few years, he has spoken to groups across the United States on Smart Growth, mixed-use development and emerging trends. He has presented on Capitol Hill, the National Partners for Smart Growth, the Real Estate Roundtable, and the Urban Land Institute.

A member of AIG’s Sustainability Committee, Brian is also a member of the Executive Committee of the board of Leadership Atlanta; the Board of Visitors of Emory University; the Board of Trustees of the Livable Communities Coalition; the Board of Directors of the Northwest Community Alliance; the Board of Directors of Georgians for Passenger Rail; and serves as Chairman for the City of Atlanta Public Art Advisory Committee.

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