What are The Development Sessions?

The Development Sessions is a new 2019 offering courtesy of Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), Georgia Cities Foundation (GCF), and the Georgia Downtown Association (GDA). Each session is designed to provide economic and community development professionals with the most current information, tools, professional insight, and resources available to augment municipal downtown development efforts and initiatives through departmental collaboration.

By merging the skill sets of a municipality’s economic and community development professionals and their processes, downtown development can be streamlined and approached more aggressively. Each proposed Development Session will showcase a downtown development issue and provide best practices, examples, and strategies for downtown development professionals and participants to incorporate into their daily operations and short and long-term plans. 

The Development Sessions will be presented via multi-media platforms and will include:
2 podcasts, 2 webinars, and 2 classroom sessions. Classroom sessions will be at the 2019 Georgia Downtown Conference and will count towards the AICP Certification Maintenance program and the Georgia Downtown Association’s Professional Development program.

This podcast session is a partnership with The Beer Guys Radio, and is a panel discussion that focuses on the economic potential and development processes of downtown breweries and distilleries. Link to Podcast.

Mayor Mike Eason of Dawsonville
Cheryl Wood, Founder of Dawsonville Distillery
Keri Stevens, Assistant City Manager of Avondale Estates
Nathan McGarity, Co-owner and Developer of Oconee Brewing Company
Taylor Lamm, Co-owner and Brewmaster of Oconee Brewing Company
Rob Hopek and Stacia Familo-Hopek of The Lost Druid Brewery

Tim Dennis, Co-host and Co-founder of Beer Guys Radio


This webinar will provide participants with a comprehensive tutorial on how to get your community engaged in participating in the Federal Opportunity Zone incentive program. Holly Hunt, from DCA, explains the nuances of the incentive and provides a cache of resources for communities, investors, and developers.



This podcast session focuses on cultivating relationships with Downtown Developers. Downtown professionals are charged with finding development partners that have the skills and resources to assist municipalities with their downtown master plans and vision. Whether they develop one building, an entire block, or a large portion of a master plan, downtown developers are crucial partners in downtown revitalization. It is important for downtown professionals, Downtown Development Authority’s, elected officials, and city staff to understand the dynamics of downtown development and the role that private sector developers can play. This session will provide participants with an introduction to some of Georgia’s most innovative downtown developers, their projects, and best practices for successful downtown development projects.


This webinar session will provide participants with detailed information about how to fashion an aesthetic and business friendly downtown by creating or modify existing downtown development ordinances. The redevelopment of historic properties, development of infill, implementation of master plans, and land development are all regulated by a municipality’s codes. There are some innovative and flexible tools such as historic overlay districts, preservation ordinances, and form-based codes, that municipalities can implement to better facilitate downtown recruitment and revitalization efforts. This session will focus on what those tools are, what are the benefits of using ordinance-based tools for downtown development, and how to go about adopting and implementing them.

This classroom session will provide participants with examples of effective planning and zoning practices to maximize downtown development potential and opportunities. Planning and zoning professionals, commissioners, and board members are qualified to act on measures affecting local land use decisions as it relates to planning (policy-making or “legislative function”) and regulation (development review or “quasi-judicial function”). They are charged with enabling high quality, sustainable and equitable growth and development. This occurs by facilitating more opportunities for: quality of life projects, diversified housing, bolstering neighborhoods, exceptional design in architecture and public spaces, preservation of historic resources, innovative regulatory practices, safe and durable buildings, attentive customer service, and public engagement. This session will focus on how Development professionals can effectively and efficiently participate in downtown development, provide examples of best practices, and facilitate discussion about augmenting the development process on a municipal level.
Link to Video
Link to Presentation

This classroom session will provide participants with a deep dive examination about how to leverage the powers of downtown development authorities and create sustainable development incentives. Incentives denote an array of benefits designed to promote new business activity or to encourage business or job retention. These benefits principally encompass tax and economic incentives provided by federal, state or local governmental bodies. Other entities, such as utilities and non-profits, can also make incentives available for these purposes. Private enterprises, including individuals, are generally the ultimate beneficiary of economic development incentives. Depending on the incentive in question, other qualified parties are eligible to receive them, as in the case of municipalities, utilities, or economic development agencies. This session will focus on available downtown incentives in Georgia but will also introduce the art of crafting a development deal or development agreement that compliments the overall vision of a municipality’s downtown revitalization objectives.

Link to Video
Link to Presentation