Emerald Corridor Foundation's Partnership with SLS and Georgia Tech

October 4, 2016

Debra Edelson is the Executive Director of Emerald Corridor Foundation.  Emerald Corridor Foundation is dedicated to the healthy and sustainable revitalization of Proctor Creek and its surrounding neighborhoods in Northwest Atlanta. 

At Emerald Corridor Foundation, our main philosophy is that we “lead with green,” through revitalizing the environment and communities of northwest Atlanta’s Proctor Creek watershed. The foundation’s two main projects, the Proctor Creek Greenway and Proctor Park, will give west side residents new, safe, healthy access to the waterway that winds through their neighborhoods, 7 miles from where it daylights near the coming Beltline, all the way to the Chattahoochee River. Proctor Park will utilize principles of green infrastructure to slow flashy destructive storm water and filter out contaminants at the point the creek waters daylight onto the surface and into neighborhood homes and yards.  

By all accounts, these long overlooked west side neighborhoods, while challenged, still hold a promising vibrancy despite the decades of disinvestment, “white flight” etc. By leading with “green” projects like Proctor Park and the Proctor Creek Greenway, Emerald Corridor Foundation is working with partners like Georgia Tech to find solutions and bring fresh ideas to the neighborhoods of the Proctor Creek watershed. 

In June, GA Tech Serve-Learn-Sustain hosted a successful conference on social sustainability that engaged university faculty and neighborhood leadership in building understanding, principals and priorities of healthy collaboration. The conference continues to spur additional conversations and initiatives today with the foundation and we are grateful for that.  As our small contribution, I led portions of a field study visit through some areas along Proctor Creek, highlighting the most serious environmental issues in the watershed, and bringing to light many of the social and economic issues in the community. I was so excited by the energy, questions and ideas that came from the tour and workshop. We have since been told that this field experience was rated the best part of the conference. 

More specifically, since the conference, the Emerald Corridor Foundation has started collaborations with two Georgia Tech classes. Students from Dr. Nancey Green Leigh’s class in the School of City & Regional Planning who will be exploring local economic and business development  opportunities along an urban corridor—in this case, Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, just west of campus. The students will study Hollowell Parkway and create case studies to explore how a franchise might contribute to economic development along the corridor.  We are also working with Dr. Jennifer Singh’s class in the School of History and Sociology. Students will be working with Emerald Corridor Foundation to explore the concept of food deserts in the Proctor Creek watershed. This class will be researching and collecting data to help the foundation understand the pervasiveness of food deserts and how they affect the communities along Proctor Creek which currently have no supermarket, bank or pharmacy serving them.  Additional collaborations with Dr. Christopher Burke’s classes as they tutor and mentor students at B.E.S.T. Academy are also scheduled for the school year.  

As a follow-on to the successful conference site visit, the foundation is partnering again with neighborhood leaders and INSS to host new Georgia Tech professors as an extension of their university orientation to introduce them to the neighborhoods just west of campus and help build cross-collaborative efforts into new courses.  

The foundation welcomed the support of the Institute of our first annual CREEKSIDE community festival along Proctor Creek in August. At this event, faculty, staff, and students got to know neighbors and community members, and learn about a wide-range of initiatives growing in the watershed. They were also good sports in sticking it out through the downpours witnessing the fast, rushing waters of the creek rising after a storm. 

Emerald Corridor Foundation is excited and grateful for this growing collaboration with the Georgia Tech community and Serve-Learn-Sustain. It seems we are just scraping the surface and beginning the discovery of what can be a deep and interconnected set of student and faculty initiatives that benefit the academic mission and rigor of the university while supporting and nurturing important ideas and programs in the Proctor Creek communities.