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Friday, March 29, 2013

Downtown task force includes heavy hitters

Task force would look at myriad plans for downtown
When the city announced its plans to create a task force to imagine ways to revitalize downtown, people's eyes might have initially rolled. Numerous plans already exist for boosting the historic and cool neighborhood.

But judging by the people who are being tasked with leading the group, it should be worth watching.

Typically, these councils are filled with appointees made by the city's movers and shakers. It's not too often that you see those movers and shakers actually serving on the groups.

But going by the names delivered to the Atlanta City Council's Community Development and Human Resources committee, the 25-member Downtown Development Technical Advisory Group, or DDTAG, could include several well-known folks. Among them: Keith Parker, general manager and CEO of MARTA; Georgia State University President Mark Becker; Frank Poe, executive director of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority; Invest Atlanta CEO Brian McGown; and Central Atlanta Progress honcho A.J. Robinson, among others.

The resolution that created the group, which will develop a master plan to try and revitalize downtown Atlanta, first passed unanimously in the Community Development and Human Resources Committee on Jan. 15.CL reported in January that various groups agreed to serve on the task force. Individuals and officials from the state, city, MARTA, neighborhood organizations and GSU all said they wanted to participate.

However, instead of appointing underlings, many of the officials on DDTAG submitted their own names to the Council.

Other members selected to serve on the committee include Atlanta Braves executive Mike Plant, transportation planner Heather Alhadeff, financial consultant Michael Tabb, Shean Atkins of the Atlanta Housing Authority, and nearby Neighborhood Planning Unit leaders. Political operative Tharon Johnson, who managed President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign in the Southeast, will serve as one of Mayor Kasim Reed's appointees.

The downtown task force would explore the reasons why Atlantans "don't want to come to downtown," Atlanta City Councilman H. Lamar Willis - who pushed the proposal with Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms - told CL in January. The task force will conduct a $500,000 study, which will also consist of assessing Underground Atlanta, the shopping and entertainment center located in the heart of downtown.

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