Atlanta (March 14, 2006)- The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, created by Home Depot founder Arthur Blank, recently announced that it would fund a study to examine the activities and perspectives of the users of eighty-seven of Atlanta’s parks. Their support could steer additional funding and visibility toward Atlanta’s high-profile Beltline project, the proposed corridor of transit, parks, and trails that would connect 46 neighborhoods. The assessment is the first-ever of the city of Atlanta’s parks.
The initiative is in partnership with Living Cities, a national coalition of 17 investment partners that focuses on urban neighborhoods. Founded in 1991, Living Cities brings together national foundations, financial institutions, and a federal agency in 23 cities to revitalize urban city neighborhoods. Through investments of more than $370 million in grants and loans it helps build homes, stores, schools, community and daycare and healthcare and job-training centers and helps residents get access to capital they need to help improve their neighborhoods.
Atlanta has been a city in which Living Cities (and its predecessor organization, the National Community Development Initiative) has invested nearly $10 million since 1991, using Enterprise Community Partners (formerly The Enterprise Foundation) as its local implementation partner/agent. To date, Living Cities investments in Atlanta have helped to produce more than 550 homes in 12 distinct projects across the city. Through a partnership with the Historic District Development Corporation, for example, Living Cities helped revitalize 15 blocks surrounding Martin Luther King’s birthplace and renovate more than 100 single-family homes and a 58-unit low-income apartment complex in the Historic District.
“Collaborating with Living Cities gives us more financial leverage than we could possibly achieve alone,” said Blank Foundation President Penelope McPhee. “Through this partnership we have a real opportunity to bring more investment dollars and expertise to quality of life issues that are critical to Atlanta’s future.”
“The expertise that the Blank Foundation brings to the Living Cities collaborative will greatly benefit our work to strengthen urban neighborhoods and the toughest communities,” said Douglas W. Nelson, co-chair of Living Cities and president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore. “With their partnership, we will look at opportunities like the Atlanta Beltline to see how Living Cities can play a contributing role in its success.”
In an innovative collaboration, Goizueta MBA students also joined the effort. The students were trained by Rollins School of Public Health faculty and staff to conduct park inventories and park-user surveys as part of the introductory leadership course at Goizueta. The students looked at four areas: relevance of park amenities, safety, accessibility, and condition of the parks. Early returns show that safety is a big concern, as are parking access and working bathrooms. In May, the students and faculty present their findings to a large group that includes representatives from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the Office of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, the city’s Bureau of Parks, and parks advocates. “By collaborating across our respective schools, we were able to apply both health and business perspectives on park use and management, “said Rollins Assistant Professor Karen Mumford, the study’s co-investigator.
Goizueta Business School
Rollins School of Public Health