The Benefits of Public-Private Partnerships in Urban Areas
Worldwide urban migration and population growth is outpacing the economic and infrastructure development in major cities. Resources, such as healthcare, transportation, energy, and education, typically attributed to the public sector, quickly become overwhelmed or outdated. Private-public partnerships (P3s) are gaining popularity as a means to enhance these attributes that make cities safe and keep communities thriving.
The Atlanta BeltLine
The fifth-most populous city in the US, Atlanta, Georgia, is notorious for its traffic problems and its sprawling neighborhoods and metropolitan areas. The Atlanta BeltLine, a P3 in its infancy, has already transformed the city. While still in its early phases, the BeltLine will be a multipurpose trail along a 22-mile railroad connecting 45 disparate neighborhoods in Atlanta. Everyday, there are several events taking place around the BeltLine highlighting local talent and promoting fitness. Local shops, restaurants, and businesses along the trail have benefited greatly from all of the exposure and foot traffic.
The City of Atlanta could not fund this major urban development enterprise on its own. The Altanta BeltLine Partnership formed in 2005 as an independent nonprofit supporting the BeltLine through engaging private funders, providing outreach and civic growth, and working with other partner organizations to increase affordable housing and healthcare and socioeconomic opportunities in the neighborhoods along the BeltLine. However, a common issue in other P3s has also presented here; private enterprises move in a faster process and timeline than the public sector leading to some misalignment.
A health impact assessment (HIA) conducted by Georgia Technical Institute predicts that in its first 25 years, the BeltLine project will result in the construction of 28,000 housing units in the Tax Allocation District (TAD) and 20% of these new homes will be for affordable housing. Also contributing to this published assessment, in a 2007 survey of residents living in the BeltLine area, 73 percent (346 of 472 respondents) believed that the BeltLine would have a positive impact on their health.
Atlanta residents take and volunteer to lead tours of the BeltLine, assist with gardening and maintenance, and the many festivals. In conjunction with another major public sector project, improving the public transit system, the BeltLine could reduce traffic and carbon admissions in the city by providing people with trail access to the new transit stations and a way to safely bike and walk between places on its route. It’s increasing the pulse of the city culturally, environmentally, physically, and economically and provides a good example of a P3 on the road to success.