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SIX CIDs MAKING A DIFFERENCE

SIX CIDs MAKING A DIFFERENCE

ZAWN VILLINES

Community Improvement Districts with wide-reaching impact and robust plans for the future.

In 1983 John Williams, Founder and President of Post Properties, traveled to Washington D.C. with Earl Smith, Chairman of the Cobb County Commission, in search of a solution to emerging transportation and infrastructure challenges in Cobb County. They learned that business improvement districts had helped fill government funding gaps across the country. But the Georgia Constitution explicitly banned these districts.

Williams partnered with State Representative Joe Mack Wilson and lobbied for change. In 1984, Georgians voted to approve a constitutional amendment authorizing Community Improvement Districts (CID), Georgia's version of a business improvement district. Under the amendment, CIDs must be created to provide one or more governmental services, such as parks and recreation, public transportation, water management, road construction and maintenance, traffic control, or sewage collection and disposal.

Georgia is now home to more than 25 active CIDs that have contributed billions of dollars to community improvement, infrastructure, and public safety projects. CIDs have been integral to some of Georgia's most beloved projects, including the Atlanta BeltLine, numerous parks, and dozens of greenspaces and interchanges.

CIDs collect revenue through self-imposed and self-regulated property taxes on non-residential properties. These taxes are in addition to the millage rates counties and cities collect. The property owners elect a Board of Directors, which oversees the use of the funds. CIDs may form partnerships with local governments, businesses, or other CIDs to raise funds and complete projects.

"CIDs operate as good stewards of the tax dollars they bring in. Our operating expenses are kept lean so more of our funds can be invested in projects. It is an exceptional business model that greatly benefits the community and the region it serves," said Ann M. Hanlon, Executive Director of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts.

The largest and most active CIDs are all clustered around metro Atlanta. These Community Improvement Districts boast active involvement in their communities, wide-reaching impact, and robust plans for the future. N

ATLANTA AIRPORT CIDS

Together, the Airport South CID, in Clayton County, and the Airport West CID, in Fulton County make up the two Atlanta Airport Community Improvement Districts (AACID). Formed in 2014, AACID partners with local stakeholders and hosts monthly board meetings that are open to the public.

"The AACIDs represent over 900 commercial parcels and 325 property owners," said Gerald McDowell, Executive Director of the Airport West Community Improvement District. "We collaborate with our government partners – Fulton County, Clayton County, Atlanta, East Point, College Park, Forest Park, South Fulton, and Hapeville – and work with the Chambers in South Metro as well as the Aerotropolis Alliance. Our main focus is infrastructure, which includes roads, bridges, sidewalks, transportation, streetscape, and landscape."

The AACIDs have invested over a million dollars in public safety and beautification. This includes 75 Flock license plate cameras throughout the district, with a command center in the office of the AACIDs. The AACIDs also continue weekly maintenance and landscaping across 15 square miles, including five state routes.

Atlanta consistently tops lists of cities with the worst commutes. A 2019 Geotab study found that 6% of residents commute longer than an hour to work. Only 10% of residents who use public transit report being able to get to work in 30 minutes or less. Over the last four years, the AACIDs have worked with regional transportation partners, including GDOT, MARTA, and the Atlanta Regional Commission to advance a comprehensive transit vision for the airport region. The automated transit network AACID envisions it will include personal rapid transit, microtransit, and autonomous shuttles.

Some other recent AACID projects include:

• Through a partnership, AACID and GDOT completed the $13 million diverging diamond interchange servicing the intersection of Camp Creek Parkway and I-285.

• Thanks to a $350,000 transit feasibility study, the AACID has entered the exploratory phase of its Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system in the AACIDs Mobility District. This mode of transportation would use small pod cars to transport passengers throughout the Mobility District.

• The AACIDs Freight Plan, valued at $313,000, will generate additional improvements in the district, particularly along Camp Creek Parkway and I-285.

"After our Freight and Cluster Study, we will be advancing over 30 projects identified for improvement throughout the Districts," McDowell added.

BUCKHEAD CID

Initially formed in 1999, the Buckhead CID endeavors to make Buckhead a walkable, livable urban center. As concerns about crime increase, a key priority has been improving public safety.

"Crime in Buckhead has gotten a lot of headlines in recent years, which has created a perception that it's not safe to come here," said Buckhead CID Executive Director Jim Durrett. "In reality, Buckhead is quite safe. While crime within Atlanta has been on the rise overall, crime within APD's Zone 2, Buckhead's zone, has decreased over the past two years. Zone 2 won the crime reduction award in 2021, which is down 11% year-to-date compared to last year, while crime is up in every other zone."

A collaboration between Buckhead CID, Cousins Properties, the Atlanta Police Department, and the Buckhead Coalition opened a new APD precinct at Buckhead Village this year. The precinct will staff at least a dozen officers, with an eventual goal of hosting 24 officers. Partnerships with APD, the City of Atlanta, and local businesses have enabled the CID to fund police cruiser patrols and extra bike patrols.

The Buckhead CID is currently spearheading the first multi-lane roundabout in the City of Atlanta. Its signature project is the remaking of Peachtree Road, which is now in its third phase. N

Some other Buckhead CID projects include:

• HUB404. This project will create a nine-acre greenspace above GA 400. Thanks to assistance from Georgia State Representative Nikema Williams, District 5, the project is on track to receive federal funding next year.

• Lenox Road Complete Street. This project will create a linear urban park along Lenox Road, adding much-needed pedestrian and bike infrastructure in Buckhead.

• A number of pedestrian-focused improvements, including building a new pedestrian hybrid beacon (PHB) crossing Roswell Road from Charlie Loudermilk Park.

"From ongoing landscaping along major arteries in Buckhead to programs increasing connectivity, the CID is the driving force behind progress to create a walkable community where residents want to live, businesses thrive, and visitors feel safe. A big reason for our success is our trusting relationship with our partners in the public sector and the return on our CID taxpayers' investment. We don't take that for granted and work hard to maintain that drive to deliver," Durrett added.

CUMBERLAND CID

Cumberland CID was Georgia's first CID, founded in 1988 as a result of the constitutional amendment effort led by John Williams, Earl Smith and State Rep. Joe Mack Wilson. Since then, the Cumberland CID has improved access, connectivity, and the character of the Cumberland District. "Cumberland is experiencing tremendous growth and development," says Kim Menefee, Cumberland CID Executive Director. "Today, the District has a $23.6 billion annual impact on Georgia's economy, over 4.5 million square feet of commercial development in the pipeline, and 30,000 people who call Cumberland home." The Cumberland Submarket is one of the largest submarkets in the Southeast. The top-ten employers in the area alone deliver 12,000 of the submarket's 76,400 jobs and produces nearly 165,000 total jobs around the state.

For decades, the approximately 190 commercial property owners in the CID have been investing in critical infrastructure and beautification improvements. "The district has really evolved from a 9 to 5 business center to a growing, thriving major employment center. We are now considered more than a business district. Cumberland is a business, cultural, and entertainment district," Menefee said. "Commercial property owners have invested $160 million to-date, which combined with our partners at the federal, state, and local levels, translates to $2.5 billion worth of investments in the District," she added. The CID's investments have had a strong track record of success and have enhanced access and investment in the Cumberland Market Area, making it one of the most desirable communities to live, work, play, and shop. N

Some of Cumberland CID's current projects include:

• The Akers Mill Road Ramp will provide a 12th access point to the Interstate 75 Northwest Express Lanes. This $44 million project was funded by numerous partners and will provide safe and efficient connection to the 100,000+ people who travel within the Cumberland area daily.

• The Cumberland Sweep is a 3-mile, multimodal corridor designed to improve connectivity throughout the core of the Cumberland District. It will have dedicated walking and biking lanes and an autonomous shuttle system to make travel easier, more reliable, and safer within The District.

• The Paces Mills Palisades Unit is part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) and one of the most popular destinations in the CRNRA. The $11.8 million rehabilitation project will create a new, state-of-the-art visitor information center, new river access points with river viewing platforms, improved boat ramps, and more visitor amenities.

"The District has really evolved and continues to transform and attract corporate headquarters; the Pandemic didn't slow that down. Cumberland is a cool place to live now, which is really exciting for us in the District," Menefee added. N

GWINNETT PLACE CID

Established in 2006, the Gwinnett Place CID envisions Gwinnett as a flourishing, diverse, business-friendly community. It serves 2,841 businesses, 27,904 employees, and millions of visitors annually through its successful partnerships with Gwinnett County Government, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the State of Georgia, and others.

Its partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission aims to transform Gwinnett Place Mall – a once thriving mall that has significantly declined – into a walkable, sustainable mixed-use development. In 2021, the CID selected Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. to chart the redevelopment path forward, focusing on seizing market-driven opportunities within an equity framework that centers on the region's cultural diversity.

"Gwinnett Place is more than a dead mall. Gwinnett Place remains one of metro Atlanta's most successful business hubs," said Joe Allen, Gwinnett Place CID Executive Director. "Over 2,800 businesses produce about $6.3 billion in annual sales and $1.8 billion in wages and benefits in Gwinnett Place, and overall, Gwinnett Place has an annual economic impact of $13.4 billion. Gwinnett Place is also home to 23% of Gwinnett County's class A office space and 10% of the county's total office space. There's an annual $1.69 billion economic output in retail sales (that's more than the Mall of Georgia and Sugarloaf areas combined) and $118 million annual economic output in retail food and beverage sales."

The CID has focused heavily on quality of life and safety improvements, including daily security patrols, removing illegal signs, and nearly 50 tons of trash each year. The CID also has installed 63 Flock license plate cameras. According to Allen, these cameras have led to the location of 93 wanted persons, the recovery of 104 stolen cars and 33 stolen tags, and 46 investigations that produced an arrest.

"Gwinnett Police tell us that the CID's installation of the cameras has been a game-changer in their ongoing efforts to keep Gwinnett's central business district at Gwinnett Place one of the safest locations in the county," Allen added.

Some other Gwinnett Place CID projects include:

• Transportation investments such as intersection improvements, continuous traffic signal improvements, and miles of new sidewalks.

• A mobile channel to promote local businesses.

• Numerous park and walkability improvements, including a plan to connect the Gwinnett Place commercial area to Shorty Howell and McDaniel Farm parks.

PERIMETER CIDS

For two decades, the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts have partnered with governments to improve the region for businesses and residents. Its new Capital Work Plan includes a mix of congestion relief, new trails along Ashford Dunwoody, Peachtree Dunwoody, and Mt. Vernon Road, as well as its Livable Cities Initiative. PCIDs is also responsible for the DeKalb County, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and Fulton County police officers who direct traffic at up to 21 intersections in the Perimeter Business District during peak traffic.

"Perimeter CIDs is very bullish on the market. We see the district's solid growth mode, welcoming several large-scale office leases, such as Carvana and Hapag- Lloyd. Other significant developments are planned or underway that will positively impact the entire district. We are delighted that the state continues its large investment in the 285/400 Top End program slated to be completed in 2023," Executive Director Ann Hanlon said.

Some other Perimeter CIDs projects include:

• The Bicycle Implementation Strategy is developing a plan to make Perimeter into a safe and accessible urban center for bicycles.

• The Perimeter Community Districts has won funding to design commuter rails between various Perimeter corporate campuses.

• A 2012 award of $1 million in grants from GTIB/SRTA allows Perimeter CIDs to partner with the City of Sandy Springs to advance a concept plan for the Lake Hearn at Peachtree Dunwoody Road intersection.

"As we partner with our local governments, we are able to leverage our tax dollars along with TSPLOST dollars in Fulton County and SPLOST, Hotel/Motel dollars in DeKalb County to advance projects that would otherwise be shouldered 100% by the cities. Having PCIDs as a financing mechanism helps everyone keep costs low as a benefit to all who work, live in, or visit the district," added Hanlon.

PCIDs' 2020 Perimeter in Progress update reviewed projects in several other regions and updated the 2018 Perimeter CIDs Consolidated Plan. The report prioritizes fostering access, mobility, and a sense of place throughout the region.

TOWN CENTER CID

Town Center CID celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Through its partnerships with the Atlanta Regional Commission, Cobb Chamber, Kennesaw State University and other CIDs such as Cumberland CID and Gateway Marietta CID, it has spearheaded a wide range of projects. Between 1997 and 2020, it leveraged $169.6 million and invested $58.5 million in the Town Center community.

"As we mark this milestone, we lead with a vision to enable the most prosperous future for the Town Center Community. We advance our vision each day through 14 coordinated projects that transform our ability to connect and access our parks and trails, commerce and retail, restaurants, and residential communities," said Tracy Styf, Executive Director.

The CID focuses on projects that promote safety, traffic improvements, and quality of life, including the Skip Spann Connector, Big Shanty connector, and Noonday Creek Trail.

One of its signature upcoming projects is the South Barrett Reliever Phase 3. This roadway will reduce congestion on Barrett Parkway by 22% while adding corridor improvements such as bike lanes and crosswalks and offering a less congested path to Town Center's prime growth areas. N

Some other projects include:

• Building the Noonday Creek Trail pedestrian bridge at Cobb Parkway.

• Various studies and assessments, including engineering and environmental studies for new multimodal and trail connections in Cobb Place and Chastain Meadows. The CID's research includes freight and logistics and electric vehicle infrastructure studies.

• The Town Center Bike Share Program provides 24/7 access to 45 bikes at six stations across the CID.

"We bring expertise, passion, and leadership to transportation, mobility, trails, parks, and cultural assets. While marking our anniversary, we are laser-focused on continuing to innovate to help our changing community meet its most complex issues. We are releasing a 2022 Master Plan Update that presents a strategic and forward-thinking look at our future projects and how we continue to make an impact on an evolving community. The plan prioritizes more than 60 projects and initiatives across four categories: placemaking, trails, smart technology, and transportation/multimodal enhancements," Styf added.

THE FUTURE OF CIDS

A decades-long track record of delivering successful projects have earned CIDs the praise of Georgia's residents and immensely improved the quality of life and property values within their boundaries. So, it's no wonder that property owners in other regions often spearhead the push for creating new CIDs when a new project or program is identified. As a result of the success of this powerful tool for infrastructure, community improvement and revitalization, new CIDs continue to form all over Georgia.