100 Resilient Cities

Atlanta

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Atlanta’s city symbol is the phoenix – a mythical bird that is cyclically reborn from the ashes of its past.

This symbol was adopted in the period after the Civil War when, after being burned to the ground during General Sherman’s March to the Sea, Atlanta reemerged from the ashes and completely rebuilt itself. The symbol took on renewed meaning in the 1960s when the city became the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the mid-20th century, the city served as a beacon of economic opportunity for all races, particularly among the Black population, with a robust industrial sector from the railroads and a burgeoning business sector.

In the late 20th century, however, much of the city’s population, especially White residents, moved to the suburbs. Suburban sprawl, in part, prompted large-scale development of the region’s highway network. This geographic shift in population from the city’s downtown core to its outer suburbs occurred as the city experienced a decline in industry and a waning economy. Despite the city’s history as a leader in Civil Rights, Atlanta’s Black population was disproportionately impacted by the city’s rapid de-urbanization and economic decline, which is a reality that remains in place today. Now, Atlanta has the opportunity to emerge from the past 40 years and embrace its current tidal wave of growth to become the Beloved Community that Martin Luther King, Jr., and countless Atlantans of all races, envisioned so many decades ago. To become the city we desire, we must strengthen Atlanta’s resilience.

But it is important to remember that Atlanta is more than a city; it sits within an expansive Metro region. Metro Atlanta is comprised of 29 vibrant counties, home to 5.6 million people today, and projected to grow to 8 million people by 2040. One factor attracting regional population and job growth is Atlanta’s position as a transportation hub, not just for the country but for the world. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the most traveled airport in the world for daily passenger flights.

Additionally, Atlanta’s ability to attract and retain major corporations, including 15 Fortune 500 companies, is a strength to build upon. These corporations not only serve as major economic drivers but as key contributors to the civic, social, and philanthropic vitality of the Metro region. While this Strategy originates with the city, it is meant to encompass and benefit the region as a whole, just as shocks and stresses affect the region as a whole – for we are greater together as a unified region than as siloed jurisdictions.

Resilient Atlanta includes a comprehensive and actionable set of Visions, Targets, and Actions that addresses the region’s most pressing stresses and seeks to build capacity among residents and city systems alike to better withstand future shocks. The Strategy is organized into four leading Visions which reflect residents’ and
stakeholders’ aspirations for Atlanta’s future.

01 Preserve and Celebrate Who We Are Preserve and enhance Metro Atlanta’s culture, shared identity, and history.

02 Enable All Metro Atlantans to Prosper Reduce the barriers preventing Atlantans from achieving economic stability and security to increase access and reduce income inequality.

03 Build Our Future City Today Facilitate the development of an equitable and inclusive city while preserving and expanding the natural environment.

04 Design Our Systems to Reflect Our Values Adapt Atlanta's civic systems to become a leader in equity, sustainability, and resilience.

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01

Preserve and enhance Metro Atlanta’s culture, shared identity, and history.

We envision a city in which we acknowledge the past and allow our residents to feel empowered to share their stories for the benefit of the community. With these Actions, Atlanta will become a national leader in addressing structural racism while at the same time commemorating our rich cultural assets.

Atlanta is a diverse and growing city. The culture of Atlanta has been influenced by a range of significant historical events from the Civil War, to Civil Rights, to the Olympic Games. The city and its residents have recognized some of these key movements and moments in time through dedicated cultural institutions and museums; traditional modes of cultural expression, such as sculptures, art, and performances; and memorial sites. However, these do not capture the full human experience of these events. Ensuring the city grows cohesively and equitably requires both a recognition and understanding of what the city’s culture has meant to residents over time, as told through personal stories, as well as an open conversation about what residents envision for the future identity of Atlanta. By embracing these stories, we in turn support our city’s creative economy — from artists to musicians to philanthropists — that bring these narratives to life and captivate our senses.

Key targets include:

  • Becoming a national leader in addressing structural racism, reconciling historic racism, and promoting racial equity
  • Documenting and sharing the stories of Atlanta’s 242 neighborhoods and Metro Atlanta’s 29 counties
  • Building Atlanta’s arts and culture sector to become one of the city’s fastest growing industries by 2025
Photo: Center for Civil and Human Rights

02

Reduce the barriers preventing Atlantans from achieving economic stability and security to increase access and reduce income inequality.

We envision a city in which all Atlantans have equal and equitable access to the resources, education, livable wages, and beyond-income-earning opportunities that will prepare them for success. With these Actions, Metro Atlanta will build capacity among its residents, business owners, and employees through better education and workforce development to become a region that supports economic mobility and intergenerational wealth building.

Despite Atlanta’s position as one of the fastest growing regions in the U.S., it remains one of the worst in terms of economic mobility. As a result of discriminatory systems and policies, lower-income households throughout Metro Atlanta have an increasingly difficult time rising to higher income distributions. Improving access to quality education, workforce development, and other business development-support programs will put Atlanta on the path to achieving this goal.

Key targets include:

  • Preparing 100 percent of Metro Atlanta’s children for kindergarten
  • Connecting 10,000 Metro Atlantans to at least 10,000 new livable wage jobs by 2020
  • Expanding Career Choice in Metro Atlanta
Photo: Mr.Carmichae1

03

Facilitate the development of an equitable and inclusive city while preserving and expanding the natural environment.

We envision a region that enhances transportation options, supports economic mobility, and improves the quality of life for all Atlantans. With these Actions, Atlanta will develop an equitable built environment that enables all Metro Atlantans to live in vibrant neighborhoods with mixed-income housing, multiple modes of transportation, healthy food options, and access to public greenspace.

The spatial distribution of inequality in the region has resulted in concentrated pockets of high-poverty and low-income populations, specifically in neighborhoods south of I-20. At the same time, limited public transportation options and extensive traffic congestion hinder access to employment centers, recreational areas, and even grocery stores, making it difficult for households to meet their most basic needs. Fostering a region of healthy, inclusive, and connected neighborhoods that improve the quality of life for those residing in the region requires Metro Atlanta to take significant steps to create a more livable city.

Key targets include:

  • Improving quality, access, and distribution of affordable housing in Metro Atlanta
  • Improving access to transportation across Metro Atlanta
  • Ensuring every Atlantan lives within one-half mile of fresh food by 2025
  • Creating 500 new acres of publicly accessible greenspace by 2022
  • Installing sustainable energy-and water-efficient infrastructure improvements in public spaces as well as around 500 homes and businesses each year.
Photo: Central Atlanta Progress

04

Adapt Atlanta's civic systems to become a leader in equity, sustainability, and resilience.

We envision a region that works everyday to ensure equity, encourage dynamic civic engagement, secure sustainability outcomes, improve public safety, and become a leader in airport resilience. With these Actions, Atlanta has the opportunity to update its city and regional infrastructure to align with these values and become a region that works for its residents, as well as a model for cities globally.

The city and region rely on formal and informal policies and programs that have been added over decades without always effectively coordinating to prevent duplication of work and services. This situation is not uncommon in large municipal governments, where departments may fail to align work being done on the same city block or leverage multiple resources allocated to a neighborhood to maximize benefits. Problems with this piecemeal process are exacerbated by the persistent stress of aging infrastructure, as different City departments work to make critical upgrades to our combined sewer overflow system,traffic control systems, and cracked sidewalks. Through these Actions, Atlanta can align programs across all agencies and organizations to best support all residents.

Key targets include:

  • Adapting and expanding City systems to promote resilience planning by 2022
  • Supporting policies and systems to increase civic participation from Metro Atlantans
  • Achieving 100 percent use of clean energy citywide by 2035
  • Improving public safety and community preparedness by strengthening community cohesion and program evaluation
  • Promoting Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as a national model for resilience, sustainability, and workforce development by 2025
Photo: Tami Chappell

Our Resilience Team

  • Stephanie Stuckey

    Chief Resilience Officer

    @StuckeyStop
  • Cicely Garrett

    Deputy Chief Resilience Officer

Read Atlanta's Resilience Strategy