Ryan Gravel & The Story of the Atlanta BeltLine
“It’s not just the physical form of the city that’s changing, it’s the expectations around our culture.” – Ryan Gravel
The Atlanta BeltLine is one of the largest, most ambitious urban revitalization projects currently underway in the United States. The impact and influence it has had on the culture, transportation and economy in Atlanta is unprecedented in the city’s history.
Hothouse is fortunate to be located right next to the BeltLine — and we’ve seen firsthand how this 22-mile transit greenway has changed our neighborhood and positively impacted the larger Atlanta community.
Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting the founder and visionary behind the Beltline, Ryan Gravel, at our agency, to share with our staff how this idea was born — and the work that has gone into developing a dream into a $4 billion project in Atlanta.
Early on, Ryan became fascinated with the evolution of cities — a passion that was influenced by his grandmother and then later fueled by spending time in Paris, where he got to see what a real walking city was like.
While working on his master’s degree at Georgia Tech, he became increasingly curious about the impact of city infrastructures on people’s lives. Sitting with us, he explained that infrastructure isn’t just a way to move around a city, or deal with water and sewer issues – that with vision and an integrated approach, infrastructure can foster better communities, transportation, land use, greenspace and sustainable growth.
It was out of this curiosity and passion for meaningful urban development through infrastructure that Ryan first hatched the idea of the Atlanta BeltLine for his master’s thesis in 1999. Although, at the time he never envisioned the project coming to fruition the way it has over the past 17 years.
According to Ryan, his vision for the BeltLine was rooted in the concept of Catalyst Infrastructure – the idea that the creation of big, ambitious projects can also become an opportunity to spur change and growth in urban areas.
Key Takeaways for Marketers from Ryan Gravel
Considering that the BeltLine has created more than $2.4 billion of private sector redevelopment since 2005, there are clearly some applicable lessons for marketers to be learned from Ryan’s approach to maximizing the value of big, ambitious projects.
Inspiration from Catalytic Infrastructure – Six Lessons from Ryan Gravel
1. Think big. Be bold and innovative, but have a clear, achievable vision.
2. Include everyone. Spread ownership of the vision across the organization.
3. Promote authenticity. Every aspect of the campaign should be true to your brand.
4. Compel change. Create incentives to inspire your team to innovate and think differently.
5. Stay focused. Make sure that the project keeps moving forward and stays on track.
6. Emphasize people. Audiences engage most with authentic and compelling stories.