Athens-Clarke County, GA
Strategic Plan

Athens-Clarke County, Georgia is a diverse and dynamic community that was experiencing demographic changes, including an increase in residents over 65, and a growing population. Home to the University of Georgia, the local economy benefits from its position as a university town. At the same time, the community is in transition, with a decline in manufacturing and the growth of the health care sector. The number of families living in poverty has been steadily rising. To ensure the community was prepared for this growth and change, a team lead by Planning NEXT was engaged to help the community envision the future through a Community and Economic Strategic Plan. This process, named Envision Athens, addressed core community issues to ensure future growth takes advantage of Athens-Clarke’s assets and potential.

Vital Public Engagement

Envision Athens kicked-off in January 2016 and was guided by a 38-member Steering Committee. Public outreach and engagement was vital throughout the process. A series of publicized workshops attracted more than 600 participants and resulted in 4,000 unique comments and ideas. These meetings were coupled with 23 focus group interviews and a two-day stakeholder workshop. The themes derived from this input served as the foundation for the action plan and informed the community’s ten goal statements. For the Community Summit, more than 250 people gathered to hear about major revelations of the process, and affirm the plan’s early direction.

Aspirational Plan

The final plan was aspirational and represented the ideas of thousands of citizens and stakeholders. The vision and the strategic Action Agenda it informs were the product of hundreds of hours of intense community discussions. The Action Agenda prioritized projects, policies, and programs selected through the process. In five topical chapters, it addressed pressing challenges and key opportunities related to: land use, environment, neighborhoods, housing, agriculture, economic development, education, health, safety, social services, arts and culture, civic engagement, transportation, and infrastructure.

Making It Happen

During the process, Envision Athens team members began meeting with core Institutional Partners to discuss implementation activities. These partners then met to finalize an agreement, two-year budget, and scope of work. Their agreement called for the creation of an Oversight Committee and solicitation of a Project Manager to oversee implementation efforts.

As of Spring 2018, a project manager has been hired. Planning NEXT, because of their trusted partnership with Athens-Clarke County, has also been hired again to assist with the implementation efforts; as well as to help with corridor studies.