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Column: LINK trip opens Brookhaven to new development possibilities
by J. Max Davis
Mayor of the city of Brookhaven
June 05, 2013 05:13 PM | 1302 views | 0 0 comments | 100 100 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As Brookhaven’s first mayor, I believe it is important to move beyond political party lines and focus on building Brookhaven as one community.

But when major decisions are called for, that task is often harder than I expected. Whether it is Republicans or Democrats, conservatives, moderates or liberals, or even the different homeowners’ associations in our city, everyone has their priorities.

However, that was not the situation last month in Houston, Texas. I had the privilege to join several of the region’s most respected leaders for the Atlanta Regional Commission’s 13th annual LINK trip. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience because we were able to collaborate and push aside different agendas to discuss solutions for our region’s many challenges.

This trip is designed to inspire and spark discussion among metro Atlanta leaders on regional and community issues. Attendees are transplanted into various U.S. cities, which serves as an exemplary model for deep discussions about planning, transportation and development. From these discussions, LINK participants were able to return to Georgia with tangible examples and ideas that can be implemented in our own communities.

I had the opportunity to network and learn from political, business and community leaders from all corners of our region. This included people like Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee, Gwinnett County Administrator Glenn Stephens, Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker and Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson. I was proud to see us all working together to brainstorm what is best for the region and not just our own neighborhoods.

We had the chance to engage with leaders from Houston, which face similar issues to those we face here in Brookhaven. Although a much larger and older city, Houston is also learning how to be responsive to a multicultural community. Like Brookhaven, Houston is focused on planning and developing a sustainable and thriving multicultural city. Of all the topics that were addressed, I was most exited to learn about Houston’s investment in improving its “quality of place” by developing and connecting enjoyable neighborhoods.

As described by Houston Mayor Mary Annise Parker, Houston is a “multi-modal city” with many downtowns or areas of interest. These areas are all part of a connected transportation network that is comprised of a new metro line and pedestrian-friendly trails and paths. Houston’s connectivity benefits community members by meeting the city’s goal of improving its “quality of place” and by linking its residents to public green space and other important areas.

One of my priorities is to link Brookhaven’s many “downtowns.” We have already begun improving the basic pedestrian framework — our sidewalks. In April, we began repairing sidewalks around schools within our city. This will continue throughout the remainder of the year.

We also are partnering with the Georgia Department of Transportation to improve pedestrian safety. Sidewalks are being added on both sides of Buford Highway between Lenox Road and Afton Lane in Brookhaven. A new traffic signal will also be added near the Highland North Apartments, as well as upgrades to four other lights along Buford Highway in Brookhaven. Six pedestrian-activated signal lights are also being added.

We also plan to continue to carry out repairs in neighborhoods and along major roadways. We will work with MARTA as it works to redevelop the area around the Brookhaven MARTA station to connect it with nearby homes, restaurants, shops, parks and schools. By connecting places to live, work and play we can better unite our city.

These are just some of the ideas that I hope to incorporate into our comprehensive plan, which we plan to launch this fall. The city will soon issue a Request For Proposals for consulting services to oversee the planning process.

Through LINK, I’ve had the opportunity to experience what Brookhaven could be in the future and it fuels my hope that we too can reap the benefits of a truly interconnected city.
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