Kevin Burke: Guest Speaker

It’s always a nice change of pace to get to talk with professionals who are working in the public realm over the private. Talking with Kevin Burke of the Atlanta Beltline has helped me realize that there is a wide variety of work available even for non-profits, including anything from large scale planning to small scale site proposals. And it seems like the Beltline does it all. A cursory glance at the rendering page and the about section of there website reveals a remarkable amount of work, effort, and detail that has gone into the development of the Atlanta Beltline plan. There is also a level of stability provided by the expansive scope of the project. Burke shared with us his views on diversifying a business’s portfolio to avoid collapse – a lesson he learned from his own firm when it folded following lack of residential design work in the early 1990’s. The Beltline has not only provided Burke and many other professionals with reliable work, but it has also provided stimulus to its surroundings in the form of an estimated $10-12 BILLION in tax revenue the county and school system. This raises the question personally of “What makes a successful public project?” I would say that the criteria for evaluation could probably change from project to project, but the few that would be consistent across all public projects would be:

  • Does it provide for the health and well being of its users?
  • Does it address a need within the community, perhaps something contextually unique?
  • Is there potential for if to have additional economic or social benefits for the greater community?
  • Will the project promote sustainability, resiliency, and adaptability within the urban environment?

Though I am not heavily familiar with the Atlanta Beltline’s ecological or sustainability impact, I would argue that it meets the three previous criteria with flying colors and has the potential to do even more.


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