Each year, GPA rewards local communities and regional commissions for their work to make Georgia a better place to live. At the GPA Fall Conference held in Athens, GA, in early October, the 2014 Chapter Awards were given to plans and projects that showed innovation, transferability, quality, effectiveness of implementation, comprehensiveness, public participation, technology, equity, sustainability and collaboration. Congratulations to all of this year’s award winners!
Outstanding Planning Process, Large Community
Winner: DeKalb County, Stonecrest Livable Centers Initiative Plan
DeKalb County and Sizemore Group, in partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission and a dynamic consulting team, used innovative public participation methods to develop a community-supported vision for the Stonecrest area. The diversity of the events and their careful sequencing maximized both the reach and effectiveness of the public input. Bringing the charrette to the public at a key location in the study area (Stonecrest Mall) demonstrated the team’s commitment to wide participation.
Outstanding Planning Process, Small Community
Winner: City of Thomasville, Thomasville Creative Arts District Charrette
In March 2014, the Thomasville community hosted a three-day, intensive visioning and design charrette involving a variety of public input sessions, iterative refinement processes, and workshop facilitation by a multidisciplinary planning and design team. At this scale and level of participation, the community event was the culmination of several years of planning and visioning for the newly forming Creative Arts District, a culturally and environmentally unique historic area known as “The Bottom.” Holistically, the concept and organization of this charrette supported the belief that cultural and artistic experiences have the power to transform cities.
Outstanding Planning Document, Large Community
Winner: Columbus Consolidated Government, Columbus Alternative Transportation Plan
The City of Columbus initiated the Columbus Alternative Transportation Study in the summer of 2012 to focus on the needs of those who bike, walk, and use public transit as a mode of transportation. Over the course of the project, city staff and the consultant team (URS) met with community members and the public, collected data, and reviewed existing and future transportation needs. A draft version of the plan was presented to the community in November 2013 and proposed an additional 125 miles of pedestrian amenities (including sidewalks, road diets, and trails) and 139 miles of bicycle amenities (including bike lanes and sharrows).
Outstanding Planning Document, Small Community
Winner: City of Harlem, Greenways Trails Connections Plan
Harlem has experienced a sudden influx of new subdivision development extending from the nearby urbanized areas of metropolitan Augusta. In the face of this new investment, city leaders wanted to ensure that Harlem retained the quaint, historic, and walkable feel of the city’s historic areas by requiring pedestrian facilities as part of new development; however, the city’s tools did not work. Faced with the realities of unfunded trail applications and insufficient bike/ped development tools, Harlem officials were determined to be proactive in addressing their community’s needs. They engaged the Central Savannah River Area Regional Commission to produce the Greenways Trails Connections Plan. The plan provides a clearly defined purpose at the beginning and reminds the reader throughout the document why the recommendations it outlines are important to Harlem’s future.
Winner: Georgia Department of Transportation, State Route 144 Environmental Assessment
Adrian Collaborative, LLC created a new format for the Environmental Assessment of improvements to State Route 144 in Bryan County. The goal was to engage more effectively with the public and improve readability and understanding of the project’s benefits and impacts. Not only did the approach lead to short reviews with minimal comments and a fast-track federal approval, but it also gained better feedback from citizens, who identified specific local resources that need to be protected by GDOT during the future phases of project implementation. The cooperation among stakeholders, GDOT, Adrian Collaborative, and FHWA resulted in a shortened schedule that met a tight deadline for funding.
Winner: Atlanta Regional Commission, Sweet Auburn Transformation
As the nation and the region age, many older adults are looking for more walkable communities close to shopping and amenities. Interestingly, so are Millennials. ARC, as the Atlanta Area Agency on Aging, intends for the project to inspire individuals throughout the region to advocate for changes to their communities to create age-friendly places. The Sweet Auburn “Living Beyond Expectations” transformation is the culmination of a multi-year project ARC initiated to answer the question, “What does it take to actually build a community that appeals to older adults and Millennials?” Sweet Auburn scored perfect 10s from the reviewers in the areas of transferability, implementation, public participation, sustainability, and collaboration.
Outstanding Economic Development Planning – Rotating Practice Award
Winner: College Hill Alliance, College Hill Corridor Initiative
In 2007, the City of Macon and Mercer University formed the College Hill Corridor Commission, a volunteer group dedicated to reinvigorating Macon’s historic College Hill Corridor. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funded the creation of the College Hill Corridor Master Plan. Developed by Interface Studio of Philadelphia, the master plan serves as a community-driven blueprint for revitalizing the corridor. In 2009, the Knight Foundation awarded $5 million to establish the College Hill Alliance (CHA) and the Knight Neighborhood Challenge (KNC). CHA is tasked with implementing the master plan while KNC funds innovative ideas for enhancing the area.
To date, more than $91.6 million in public and private investment has been leveraged in the corridor and KNC has awarded $2.3 million to fund the volunteer work of 117 individuals, groups, and organizations, resulting in the transformation of the corridor into a hip and historic place filled with new residents, businesses, and visitors.