Beltline names new leader

The Atlanta Beltline named a new president Wednesday after the ouster of its previous leader over the questionable use of public dollars.

Paul Morris, formerly with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and an urban planning consultant, is taking the helms of the organization and will oversee what is arguably the city’s largest and most comprehensive redevelopment project, city and Beltline officials announced Wednesday.

“With almost 30 years of transportation and urban development experience, Paul Morris brings an impressive depth of management experience to the Atlanta Beltline,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. “I am confident that under the leadership of Mr. Morris, the Atlanta Beltline will continue to drive projects that will make Atlanta a national model for urban revitalization.”

Morris replaces former president Brian Leary, who was ousted last year after an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed he used tax dollars for lavish gifts, parties and personal items.

Morris inherits the organization at a crucial moment. The project has received more than $340 million in funding since 2006 and attracted more than $1 billion in new development, enlivening areas around the Old Fourth Ward and other nearby neighborhoods.

But the new leader will have to try to find new ways to come up with transportation funding and work to secure additional money for the miles of right-of-way and greenspace planned along the route.

That his work in North Carolina overlapped with former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who was recently tapped by President Barack Obama to become the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, could come in handy as Morris pushes for more government funding for the Beltline.

“This team has done a tremendous job during the transition and we want to keep the momentum going,” Beltline board chair John Somerhalder said in a statement. “We believe Mr. Morris is the right person to guide the progress of the Atlanta BeltLine into its next phase.”

— Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.

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