With a call for “Raising Consciousness, Tipping the Balance,” the 2017 Southface Fulcrum Awards recognized the programs, people, buildings, movements and organizations that demonstrate excellence in pursing Southface’s vision: a regenerative economy, responsible resource use and social equity through a healthy built environment for all. The second annual awards were held in March at Southface’s Greenprints Conference, and as we approach the third annual Fulcrum Awards, we decided to check in with the past three winners to see how they’ve improved.
The neighborhoods of English Avenue, Vine City, and Atlanta University Center have the lowest occupancy rates and the fewest acres of planned greenspace in the city. Frequent combined sewer overflows in these areas contributed to the unhealthy environmental and economic situation. Park Pride’s PNA Study, Proctor Creek North Avenue Watershed Basin: A Green Infrastructure Vision, proposed greenspace improvements designed to provide capacity relief for the combined sewer system as well as a series of connected greenspaces in the aforementioned neighborhoods. The PNA Study also involved community engagement with many partners and aligned with Southface’s vision as it provided a roadmap to “an equitable, resilient and vibrant future.”
We caught up with Andrew White, Director of Park Visioning, to see how Park Pride’s PNA Study has developed.
What has Park Pride been up to? Has Park Pride brainstormed any new projects or is the PNA Vision still at the forefront of what people are most focused on within the organization?
Park Pride and its partners continue to work towards the implementation of the PNA Vision through strategically carrying out projects. Currently, three projects identified in the PNA Vision are in active permitting or construction, including the Boone Boulevard Green Street, led by the Department of Watershed Management; Cook Park, led by Trust for Public Land; and Boone Park West, led by Park Pride, The Conservation Fund and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in partnership with many community-based organizations. These three projects, all identified in the PNA Vision, work together as one big intervention to help reduce stormwater flooding and relieve pressure on the combined sewer in this area.
What challenges do you see in completing the greenspace improvements designed for Proctor Creek?
The PNA Vision calls for a large-scale reintroduction of natural systems into an urbanized area, and represents a long-term strategy for addressing stormwater issues as well as issues of environmental and social justice. It will require sustained political will and economic investment to bring to fruition.
The social and financial conditions within the PNA area are very alarming. How do you see greenspaces improving this?
Part of the reason behind the kind of disinvestment evident in some Westside neighborhoods is directly related to stormwater flooding and aging infrastructure. The parks and greenspaces proposed in the PNA are primarily places to help manage these issues in a systemic way, removing barriers to investment in these neighborhoods. Additionally, safe parks and greenspaces can help build social capital among residents to make more resilient communities who are better able to attract resources and work together to create positive change in their neighborhoods.
What’s next for you, your team and/or your project?
We are working very hard on building out Boone Park West to help mitigate stormwater flooding in English Avenue. We see Boone Park West as the first phase in a much larger 16-acre park that can help manage much more stormwater and connect the neighborhood directly to the Atlanta BeltLine. We will break ground on Boone Park West this fall and will complete the park by the end of 2018.
The importance of partnerships in creating the kind of long-term large-scale change that the PNA Vision encompasses cannot be overstated. Park Pride is just one actor in a large cohort of partners including The Conservation Fund, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, Community Improvement Association, ECO-Action, English Avenue Neighborhood Association, the City of Atlanta, and many other environmental, governmental, philanthropic, corporate and community-based organizations.
All of these revitalization efforts have positive implications not only for the families that live within the bounds of the Proctor Creek Watershed, but for business development and jobs for neighborhood residents as well.
The winning projects of the inaugural Fulcrum Awards continue to have a rippling effect on their project teams and communities around them. Since 1998, Greenprints has been a highly anticipated gathering for the latest thinking on regional issues surrounding sustainability – both as the policy level and in practice. The conference facilitates conversations between researchers and on-the-ground practitioners that promote sustainable buildings and communities. Southface looks forward to the next group of inspiring projects that will demonstrate excellence in pursing Southface’s vision: a regenerative economy, responsible resources use and social equity through a healthy built environment for all. Save the date for the 2018 Greenprints conference: March 12 – 14. We are in the process of crafting great curriculum and can’t wait to celebrate Greenprints’s 20th birthday.