gone unnoticed. She reminded participants that, prior to Atlanta hosting the 1996 Olympic Games, it was considered one of the most violent cities in the United States, and one of the poorest; it was losing population; and it had a poor education system. Ms. Glover remarked that Atlanta had made great strides, and the sacrifices that residents assumed they would have to make as part of this transition have not been so noticeable. Other participants suggested that the image of Atlanta has been slower to change than the reality on the ground.
Ms. Glover stated that residents in the region, after decades of moving farther from the urban core, are realizing that this pattern is neither sustainable nor desirable. Long commutes, isolation, and expenses associated with sprawling development may provide the impetus for more residents to get involved in developing a shared vision for metropolitan Atlanta. She referred to this visioning as communities of choice that provide the amenities people desire, all at a reasonable distance.
Some groups have already been working on developing visions for a more sustainable Atlanta. The Atlanta Regional Commission developed the Atlanta Fifty Forward initiative; this visioning effort was designed to delve into critical sustainability issues that will shape the Atlanta metropolitan area for 50 years into the future. The initiative will include a series of public forums held quarterly to discuss a variety of key topics associated with sustainability in Atlanta.
In addition, John Crittenden, director of the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems with the Georgia Institute of Technology, mentioned a recent Georgia Tech project to model scenarios where sprawling development was “reversed” and metropolitan Atlanta’s natural systems (primarily forest cover) were restored within 100 years. Dr. Crittenden mentioned an exercise referred to as the Red Fields to Green Fields project, the red fields referring to underperforming commercial assets, which present a challenge in the region. The project proposes to set up a $200 billion land bank to buy up failed commercial properties, get them off of banks’ books, and convert them to parks for 10 years. This would give the remaining commercial properties a better chance of survival. Afterward, they would redevelop 70 percent of the purchased land, while 30 percent becomes dedicated public park space.