When Dave Watson became the President of the ACBR in 2013, he wanted to serve both the real estate community and the Atlanta community at the same time. Dave set a critical goal for his leadership term -- he wanted to bring about an initiative that would help clean up and beautify the major corridors that bring more than 51 million visitors through Atlanta every year. As a native Atlantan, Dave had a vision for how visitors should experience their travel to and from this world class city, and the shabby conditions and poor maintenance of our highway exit and entrance ramps did not convey a positive reflection of Atlanta.
Dave joined forces with Jeff Tucker, Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Greyhawk Partners and, after almost five years, 80 meetings and countless phone calls later, Dave's straightforward, yet brilliant idea to "Green Up Atlanta," became the foundation for the City of Atlanta's Interstate Gateway Project, officially launched at the end of 2017. William Johnson, Deputy COO and Commissioner of Public Works commented "Mayor Kasim Reed's commitment and steadfast direction on executing this initiative was unwavering and clear. Mayor Reed specifically acknowledged and thanked Dave Watson for his leadership in keeping this project front and center. The project reflects their shared vision for presenting our City to residents and visitors."
From the moment he took the oath of office to become the ACBR President at the 2012 Annual Meeting and outlined his proposed initiative while at the podium, Dave started to put his plan into action. "I can't tell you how many people I had come up to me after the Annual Meeting was over to ask me how they could become involved and offer assistance and support," Dave remembers. "I set up meetings with the Atlanta Regional Commission, Invest Atlanta, Central Atlanta Progress, The Midtown Alliance, as well as nearly every individual responsible for urban planning and design from the Mayor's office to every metropolitan city and county government authority. I also met with most of the top companies in Atlanta and the thought leaders tasked with attracting the most educated and influential workforce to our city."
Dave's term for serving as the ACBR President came to an end and he was able to lead our organization with drive and determination. But he continued to represent the members of the ACBR and kept working on behalf of his "Green Up Atlanta" program. Dave started a website, recruited more ACBR volunteers, and persevered in his efforts to meet with elected officials and city planners who could help his vision become a reality.
When then-Mayor Kasim Reed signed off on the City of Atlanta initiative -- now called the Interstate Gateway Project -- and announced the move to pare, plant and paint primary gateways for Atlanta's central business district, Dave felt understandably proud of his efforts. "It's rewarding to see Mayor Reed implementing an idea that we've nurtured and advocated through the ACBR and across the entire commercial real estate community," Dave reflected.
Other leaders within the ACBR talked about Dave's efforts and stewardship of this program. “The simple idea to enhance our infrastructure to help attract new corporate relocations will pay off for everyone in metro Atlanta. You only get one chance for a first impression," said Leigh Martin, managing director with JLL and ACBR president, 2000. Bob Mathews, president and CEO of Colliers Atlanta and ACBR president, 2001, said "Dave's hard work with ACBR to create a better first impression to our city is making a real difference."
"Dave's vision turned into reality -- and that will be a long-lasting legacy for ACBR," said Brett Hunsaker, Executive Vice President at NKF and ACBR president, 2009. Richard Bryant, Jr., President and CEO of Lee & Associates and ACBR president, 1998, noted "Dave Watson's and ACBR’s initiative to beautify the access points of our city's downtown expressway system will pay long-term dividends to visitors as well as the citizens of Atlanta."
The Interstate Gateway Project plans to restore 11 intersections used annually by more than 360,000 vehicles, including the 10th Street on-ramp south; 12th Street east of Techwood Drive; Spring Street-Techwood Drive connector; Freedom Parkway; Williams Street just to name a few.