Wednesday evening, March 1st, Councilmember Ivory Young and the City of Atlanta Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) – Office of Zoning and Development welcomed the public to the D3: Westside Revive project kickoff meeting. Despite severe thunderstorm warnings and rush hour traffic, a crowd of 72 neighbors, business owners, and stakeholders came out to The Gathering Spot in West Midtown to learn about this ambitious district-wide planning project, to meet the planning team, and to voice their concerns and dreams for their communities.

After guests had ample time to enjoy the reception and greet each other, the presentation began with remarks from Councilmember Young. As he welcomed the neighborhoods across District 3, residents started calling out “here,”—an impromptu roll call that testified to the range and enthusiasm of constituents represented at the meeting.

Young spoke about how District 3 has changed in his own lifetime. “Those of us who were raised in these communities, we remember what Simpson Road was like, what those corner stores were like. You didn’t have to go far to get the services you needed.”

He described the need for a vision that addresses rapid growth and disparities across District 3, from residential communities that have never had master plans to heavily planned areas like Vine City and English Avenue. Still other neighborhoods like Castleberry Hill, Home Park, and Knight Station have master plans that need to be updated and strengthened to reflect new opportunities and challenges. D3: Westside Revive is the first plan of its kind in Atlanta, a master plan for that looks at a council district as a whole.

Next, Shayla Reed, Project Manager from the DPCD thanked the audience for their continued commitment to the planning process. “This is your plan,” she said. “Be honest with us.”

Finally, lead consultant Contente Terry, founder of Contente Consulting, described the project approach, process, timeline and goals. She proposed an ambitious schedule of stakeholder interviews, subarea workshops, and public presentations culminating in an actionable blueprint for the entire District at the end of the year.

Terry introduced the planning team’s unique approach to creating a unified vision for the District based on enhancing individual well-being. She called this the Quality of Life Index.

“Usually we roll out the maps and ask about land use,” she explained, “But we’re doing something a little different. We want to focus on the people.” This approach would both reveal deficiencies and celebrate the strengths worth preserving in each community and lead to recommendations in land use and development, housing, and transportation.

Terry then fielded questions from participants. One repeated concern in these questions was how a master plan can guided needed change while protecting residents from displacement. Councilmember Young expressed his desire for a plan grounded in demographic data. He assured the audience that the planning team was “equipped to help these neighborhoods evolve” and that a strong master plan is chiefly a tool for achieving “change that doesn’t come at the expense of the community.”

At that point, participants moved to the four breakout stations located throughout the venue, including:

 Station 1. District History 

Participants were asked to add historical events to a large-scale wall graphic featuring milestone in District 3 history from the 1800s up to the present.

Station 2. Opportunities & Challenges

Attendees wrote their comments on sticky notes and filled the columns of an oversized wall matrix with ideas and concerns on the subjects of mobility, open space, economic development, housing, sustainability & environmental issues, landuse and development, services & amenities, and community & civic engagement.

Station 3. Connectivity & Quality of Life

Residents marked a map with color-coded stickers to illustrate connectivity between their daily destinations: Home, Job/School, Food, Community, Culture/Entertainment, Doctor/Health Center, and Open Space/Green Space. At the same time, they were asked to rank these qualities of their neighborhood on a scale of 1 to 10, in order to calculate their Quality of Life index.

Station 4. Video Stories

A camera crew transformed a small conference room into a “video booth” to capture recorded statements from attendees. Several residents shared their stories about the past and vision for the future of District 3.

Each breakout station offered creative ways for participants to contribute feedback and prompted thoughtful conversations with the planning team. Attendees were encouraged to follow the project website (www.d3-westsiderevive.com), to attend the upcoming neighborhood cluster meetings, and to “bring five neighbors with them.”

Overall, the Kickoff Meeting for D3: Westside Revive was a celebratory and inspiring start to a planning process.