ELI Hears from Atlanta Connector Park About Vision for Midtown

On Wednesday, September 6, the Council’s Emerging Leaders Initiative (ELI) group met at the Accenture Innovation Hub in Tech Square to hear from the Connector Park Foundation (CPF) on their vision for a highway capping park over the Midtown Connector. Over 70 young professionals gathered for lunch to hear from Dan T. Cathy, Chairman, Doug Hooker, CEO, and Taylor Morison, Chief Strategy Officer.

Dan and Doug began their presentation with some leadership advice and some backstory on major projects that have contributed to Atlanta’s skyline. As Chairman and former CEO of Chick-fil-A and the former Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, Dan Cathy and Doug Hooker have witnessed or been part of many of the iconic Atlanta projects and partnerships that have made our city the economically vibrant city it is today. Both encouraged take bold steps, finding the right partners, and make moves with a bigger picture in mind. “You’re all building a resume of trust and trustworthiness,” Cathy said.

Dan, Doug, and Taylor then presented what they care most about: reconnecting Atlanta. They discussed Atlanta’s history, the vision of architect Roy Ashley, and the potential for driving positive change through unification.

The Connector Park Foundation aims to build a large, green park on top of the 75/85 interchange between North Avenue and 5th Street. Dan defined the project as “placemaking.” He asked, “how do we capture a vertical dimension from the areas we had previously given only to cars?” Doug discussed the explosion in residential real estate value, the potential for connecting communities on either side of the interstate, and the importance of sustainability. According to the Connector Park Foundation, their highway cap will catch stormwater, lower the area’s urban heat by 10-14 degrees, improve air quality, and blanket the sound of 400,000 cars per day.

Throughout the presentation, the team purveyed passion and excitement. They proudly displayed images of Fulton County Stadium, MARTA, Hartsfield-Jackson, the World Congress Center, the Beltline, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and Truist Park, reminding the audience that Atlanta is “a city open to new ideas and energy.” Other cities have also done it; Dan and Doug referenced Boston’s Big Dig, Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park, and Seattle’s Mount Baker Lid, among others. Their inspiration and renderings for Atlanta’s Connector Park project can be in their presentation slides, available below.

Doug and Taylor encouraged word-of-mouth enthusiasm and continued support as they work to make their vision a reality. The Council is grateful for the opportunity to host this group, and we look forward to what’s to come of our Midtown Connector.

Special thank you to our ELI event sponsors, CERM and Turner & Townsend Heery for your support of our leadership development program. Thank you to Accenture for hosting us in your space. Their Atlanta Innovation Hub has a wonderful view of what will one day be a park over a major highway.