On February 24, the Penn Alumni Club of Atlanta and Penn IUR hosted a public event about development in the city of Atlanta at the city’s High Museum of Art. The evening included special tours of the museum’s exhibit Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds, as well as a series of “lightning talks” or short presentations, that examined many facets of Atlanta’s complex and fascinating urban evolution. These lightning talks provided insight into cultural anchor institutions such as the Woodruff Arts Center (which houses the High Museum), and highlighted the role of these anchor institutions in urban development and transformative urban projects. The talks also explored how Atlanta’s development compares to other U.S. cities and how values of health and shared prosperity can be assessed and integrated into redevelopment efforts.
Virginia Hepner (W’79), President & CEO, Woodruff Arts Center welcomed the audience and led a discussion with Atlanta’s civic leaders and Penn scholars, including Egbert Perry (C’76, W’78, ENG’79), University of Pennsylvania Trustee and Chairman and CEO, The Integral Group, LLC; David Brenneman, Director of Collections and Exhibitions, High Museum of Art; Eugenie Birch, Co-Director, Penn Institute for Urban Research and Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, Penn School of Design; Nisha Botchwey (DES’99 ’03), Associate Professor, School of City and Regional Planning, Georgia Institute of Technology, College of Architecture, who presented via video; and Stuart Andreason (DES’14), Community and Economic Development Adviser, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
The speakers offered varied perspectives and a wealth of experience from the private, public, and educational sectors. David Brenneman discussed the development of the Woodruff Art Center and the High Museum, as well as how the institutions played a key role in the redevelopment of Atlanta. He also noted the importance of the museum’s ongoing evolution, and the importance of increasing inclusion of the growing millennial population in Atlanta. Egbert Perry addressed development from the private perspective, emphasizing the importance of transit-centered development for new, young Atlanta residents. Stuart Andreason echoed his sentiment, focusing his discussion on the role of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Nisha Botchwey’s presentation demonstrated the development of transit and city planning over time and the current challenges Atlanta faces with the shift from car-culture to public transit-oriented transportation. Genie Birch wrapped up the conversation with a call-to-action for Atlanta. With the 2016 UN Habitat III fast approaching, she urged the audience to not only recognize their city as a model for sustainable urban development, but to also use the upcoming global event to foster increased dialogue around resurgent cities.