by John Shern, Chairman – Cumberland CID; Vice President of Construction – The Home Depot, Inc (Retired)
Thirty-one years ago, when renowned Atlanta developer John Williams invited me to become involved in the Cumberland Community Improvement District’s formation, I had no idea that the Cumberland district would become the booming economic hub that it is today. We were the first CID in Georgia, and though there was a clear need for one, there was no model for us to follow, so honestly, we made it up as we went along.
Initially the CID had no money. We were in the planning phase and I was one of the planners. We knew who had the money and who was in the position to spend the money, so our job at the beginning was to do all the preliminary work to put ourselves in a position to receive those state and federal funds. Our focus at the time was on infrastructure improvements. We started as road builders, and though that is still true today, we’ve expanded our focus beyond building roads to creating trails, parks and building community.
Developments like The Battery – a forward-thinking, forward-looking and groundbreaking development – have had a wonderful impact on the district. It’s essentially a self-contained community centered around entertainment with retail, restaurants, and residents all within walking distance. We’re seeing this model pop up in other areas of metro Atlanta and it’s encouraging. I believe walkable communities are the developments of the future. The “live where you work” or “live where you play” idea is not a new concept. However, this idea is being executed much better today than ever before. We have to respond to the constituents’ demands. If they want to walk more, we will expand sidewalks – and that’s what we’re doing.
The CID will continue to study transportation and mobility and prioritize the findings to execute the solutions and accomplish its goals. Transportation needs to be connected to the things that are important. We’re seeking the best answer to the first/last mile concept because commuters need to easily get to work and turn around and get home. Trains might never make it up to Cumberland, so what’s the alternative? Bus transit? That failed in Los Angeles and there’s a bias to overcome. Autonomous vehicles may also be a game-changer – but there’s a liability issue. These are all things that we need to overcome, and that will happen when the best answer is found through transit studies.
Along those lines, we are currently working on a paved pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly loop connecting the four quadrants within Cumberland Boulevard and Akers Mill Road. Another one of our upcoming projects connects the I-75 Express Lanes to Akers Mill Road. We are still very much planners, as we were 31 years ago, but now we have the means to execute, therefore we have to be smart about it. Cumberland CID’s goal is to continue facilitating projects that bring value to our existing constituents and surrounding community throughout 2020 and the years ahead.