2004 Livable Centers Initiative Study

Livable Center Initiative Overview

The McDonough Livable Center Initiative (LCI) (PDF) is an exciting plan that builds upon the historic character of the community and a dynamic vision for the future. In the spring of 2004, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) awarded an LCI grant to the City of McDonough to produce a strategic master plan. The City hired Bron Cleveland Associates; Jordan, Jones and Goulding, Inc.; and Ackerman and Co. to assist with the project. 

This study takes a strategic look at transportation, land use, housing, and urban design within the Study Area. This strategy strives to fulfill the goals established by the ARC for all LCI studies including:

  • Improve the mix of land uses
  • Expand mobility options for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users
  • Strengthen the network of streets and paths
  • Promote a mixture of housing types and price ranges

Public Outreach Process & Study Methodology

The McDonough LCI public outreach effort was geared towards providing opportunities for citizen input while generating dialogue, enthusiasm, and excitement for the future of the community. The strategy for public involvement in McDonough was rooted in the belief that in order to empower citizens, specific and relevant information must be provided to them. This facilitated the creation of meaningful input because citizens gained a thorough understanding of the issues, options and consequently, the difficult choices facing them. By communicating their concerns and desires to the project team, citizens helped educate the study team on issues relevant to the plan.

Public involvement in the McDonough LCI included a Visioning Kick-off meeting, monthly stakeholder (Core Team) meetings, a Design Workshop and an Open House. The Design Workshop was the cornerstone of the public involvement effort. The workshop employed a "hands-on" approach that resulted in key elements of the plan. These key elements included a vision for improvements around the expanded Alexander Park, the revitalization of Big Spring Park into a new village green park (see page 3) with infill housing, a network of greenways and new streets, and a new community arts center right on the Square. Public meetings provided a wealth of information to the study team.

Public involvement formed the foundation of this plan and recommendations. In conjunction with the public outreach process, the production of the plan was divided into three phases. Phase I, the Analysis of Existing Conditions, consisted of a data collection and analysis effort. During this phase the consultant team prepared a detailed Analysis of Existing Conditions report. This report documented the existing transportation network and identified planned improvements. The analysis also included a survey of existing land uses, historic resources, and urban design features found throughout the Study Area.

Phase II of the project, Community Design and Goal Setting, centered on the Design Workshop described above. This phase included the development of the Downtown Master Plan and created the framework for the Final Report. During Phase III of the study, the recommendations and Final Report were drafted. 

Overview of Critical Issues

As part of the analysis of existing conditions and public outreach process, a list of critical issues was compiled. These included issues related to transportation, land use, housing and economy, and urban design.


  • Traffic congestion
  • Poor street connectivity
  • Truck traffic around the Square
  • Lack of safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure
  • Inefficient use/shortage of downtown parking
  • Few sidewalks or paths around schools
  • No pedestrian or bicycle infrastructure at railroad crossings Land Use
  • Lack of quiet gathering space near downtown
  • Lack of critical mass of attractions and storefront space downtown
  • Declining water quality in local streams and creeks
  • Declining air quality
  • Loss of Historic, specimen trees Housing and Economy
  • Need for life cycle housing (housing for young people, families, and the elderly)
  • Need for a variety of housing styles and price ranges
  • Need for mixed-use areas with housing and loft conversions of historic structures
  • Impact of new regional mall
  • Building a tourist economy Urban Design and Historic Preservation
  • Need National Registration of Historical Properties.
  • Character of new developments, especially in the historic district and along major corridors
  • Need for gateways along major corridors and into Historic district incorporation hierarchy of architectural design sites.

Overview of Recommendations

Major recommendations for the historic downtown area, illustrated in the Downtown Master Plan, includes:

  • Redesign Big Spring Park as a Town Green surrounded by infill housing
  • Strengthen linkages between downtown McDonough and Historic Alexander Park through new streetscapes, neighborhood entrances, and a greenway between Big Spring Park and Alexander Park
  • Develop venues for the performing arts including the conversion of the Clay Plaza building into a new community arts center, and an outdoor amphitheater developed as part of the expanded Alexander Park
  • Increase storefront space on key streets throughout downtown
  • Expand the residential population downtown through innovative infill housing projects and loft conversions
  • Improve street connectivity and mobility in the downtown area
  • Make more efficient use of existing parking and fulfill additional parking needs through multi-level parking comprised of mixed use design.

The plan also recommends a series of land development policy and regulatory changes including:

  • Establishing National Registry of Historical Properties
  • Creating a series of overlay zoning districts for major corridors and village
  • activity center nodes to regulate urban design, aesthetics, circulation, and access management
  • Adopting a conservation open space overlay zoning district to encourage the preservation of open space within residential areas
  • Adopting a new mixed-use zoning district to allow developers to build apartments, condominiums, and offices above shops and restaurants
  • Creating standards for traditional neighborhood developments
  • Adopt an Official Highway Map and a Connectivity Ordinance to improve the street network
  • Strengthening the Tree Ordinance to preserve existing specimen tree canopy
  • Updating the Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Plan