It's no secret that metro Atlanta's southside has long underperformed areas like Midtown, Buckhead, Perimeter and Cumberland when it comes to white-collar jobs and amenities like restaurants.
Southside businesses and government officials in the past few years have pulled together an alliance to focus on the development of an "aerotropolis" around the world's busiest airport.
The Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance, the Aerotropolis Atlanta community improvement districts and the Airport Area Chamber of Commerce held the first "State of the Aerotropolis" breakfast Tuesday.
A lineup of speakers discussed what's being done to beautify and develop the aerotropolis area. Here's what they're saying about the aerotropolis:
- "Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has been an amazing catalyst for economic development for the city of Atlanta, our region, the state of Georgia and the entire southeastern United States. And yet, in the area immediately surrounding the airport property, broad economic success has not taken hold," said Pedro Cherry, chairman of the Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance and a senior vice president at Georgia Power. “Historically the area has under-performed most other sub-markets in metro Atlanta. Unemployment rates are higher and median incomes are lower.”
- But businesses are now making investments, Cherry said, citing a series of new developments in the aerotropolis area, including the Porsche Cars North America headquarters, Tyler Perry Studios, Screen Gems and Kroger distribution center at Fort Gillem. "They're opening up new cafes, restaurants and bars in downtown College Park, East Point and Hapeville," he said. "We can make this the new place to be in metro Atlanta."
- "We want the airport area to be known around the world, just as Buckhead is known around the world, and Midtown and Cumberland and Perimeter. So when folks are talking about Atlanta and making plans about what they’re going to do when they get here, aerotropolis will be on their agenda," said Gerald McDowell, executive director of the Aerotropolis Atlanta community improvement districts.
- "I use the airport a lot of course, but I'm also obsessed with it, and the role that it does play in shaping the city around us," said Ryan Gravel, whose master's thesis at Georgia Tech outlined the vision for th Atlanta Beltline and who in September resigned from the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership. "If we started thinking of the airport as a cultural asset, this asset for our social life, that we would start to rethink a lot."
- "We can create a central business district right around this airport that is similar to Buckhead, similar to what was happening up in Alpharetta maybe a decade ago," said Hartsfield-Jackson interim general manager Roosevelt Council.
- "When I came here in 2001... everybody saw [the airport] as a nuisance. We wanted to change that," said former Clayton commission chairman Eldrin Bell. "It's just begun."