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Sarah Smith McCord, Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development
Can a shuttered automotive plant become a catalyst for healthy living? Can four cities, two counties, and the world’s busiest airport, create a thriving district filled with healthy options and opportunity? The Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development (CQGRD) at Georgia Tech studied these questions regarding redevelopment plans for the former Ford Atlanta Assembly Plant alongside Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The former manufacturing facility was located on the last large contiguous piece of property adjacent to the airport at the intersection of Interstate 75 and the city of Hapeville’s central artery. Rising in its place is Aerotropolis Atlanta, a mixed-use brownfield redevelopment by Jacoby Development, Inc., (JDI) which redeveloped Atlantic Steel into the nationally acclaimed Atlantic Station at the heart of Atlanta. Zoned for 6.5 million square feet of Class-A office, hotel, conference center, retail, data center, business park, and a 4000-space airport parking facility, Aerotropolis Atlanta has attracted Porsche Cars North America’s headquarters. With Porsche as its anchor, the site of the former 2.8 million square foot production facility for the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable (in operation from 1947 until it closed October 2006) will have a global focus to capitalize on a new international terminal opening at the airport in 2012.
Using a process known as Health Impact Assessment, or HIA, CQGRD looked at potential impacts on transportation environments, economic opportunities and services, community preservation and revitalization, and environmental exposures, as well as several overarching issues regarding management of the redevelopment project and the airport area. Proposed site plans were scrutinized and local zoning codes and transportation plans were reviewed. The Environmental Management Systems process that JDI used to remediate the previously contaminated site and create a sustainable operations strategy was evaluated for its health benefits.
The remediation of the property has been accomplished in an environmentally sustainable fashion. Following acquisition of the property in June 2008, more than 95 percent of the existing structures were recycled including 100,000 cubic yards of concrete crushed and reused on site, and 40,000 tons of steel, tin, copper and brass recycled in Georgia and the Southeast via rail directly from the site for greatest fuel efficiency and least environmental and highway impact.
“Jacoby Development’s redevelopment projects all represent opportunity for economic revitalization, environmental reclamation, mobility enhancement and health improvement,” said Scott Condra, Senior Vice President of Development. “We’ve benefitted from the Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development’s focus on these priorities at Aerotropolis Atlanta.” JDI’s redevelopment efforts are also focused on economic sustainability. In a city of 6000 residents, Ford employed 3000 people. The development of Aerotropolis Atlanta will add more than 10,000 jobs to Hapeville through build-out. Beyond Hapeville, the vision and visibility of the project have begun to reposition Atlanta’s south side as an area of economic opportunity.
In its analysis, CQGRD recognized that the Aerotropolis Atlanta area is well on its way to supporting better health for residents, guests, and workers. The center recommended a renewed strategic effort between all of the local interests, focused on:
- Mixed Land Use.
- A Human-Scaled Place.
- Residential Choices.
- Accommodating Industry.
- Safe Streets.
- Transportation Choices.
- Public Spaces and Places.
- Clean Human Environments.
- A Green Place.
- Coordinated Management.
The health impact assessment was funded by the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Health Impact Project, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The Health Impact Assessment was conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development. www.cqgrd.gatech.edu. Dr. Catherine L. Ross was the principal investigator.