CityBuilders A Program From Auburn's MRED Program

Event Panelists for 2020 Symposium

Trail Leaders Panel:

Jennifer Pharr Davis – Moderator

Jennifer Pharr Davis is a hiker, author, speaker, and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year who has covered over 14,000 miles of long-distance trails on six different continents. In 2011, Jennifer covered the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail in forty-six days, eleven hours, and twenty minutes, maintaining a remarkable average of forty-seven miles per day. By doing this, she claimed the overall (male or female) fastest known time on the “A.T.” and became the first woman to set the mark.

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Jennifer has also backpacked over 700 miles in her 2nd and 3rd Trimesters of Pregnancy, walked across the state of North Carolina while nursing her son, and set foot on a trail in all 50 states with her daughter. As a mother, she has also overseen substantial growth within Blue Ridge Hiking Company and elevated her career as a Speaker and Author. As such, she is a strong proponent for women receiving the support they need to excel in the outdoors and workplace.

Jennifer has authored seven books, including her first book, “Becoming Odyssa,” which has sold over 60,000 copies and her critically acclaimed adventure narrative, “The Pursuit of Endurance.” She has also written articles for the New York TimesOutside magazine, Backpacker, and Trail Runner, and has been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Daily Beast, NPR’s Talk of the Nation and the CBS Early Show.

Jennifer is a professional speaker who has shared her trail adventures with corporations, conferences and schools across the country. She is also the owner and founder of Blue Ridge Hiking Company, a guiding service and outfitter that strives “to make the wilderness accessible and enjoyable” for hikers of all ages, genders, and ability levels. She is also a former board member for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and an ambassador for the American Hiking Society. Jennifer lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband Brew and their daughter Charley and son Gus.

Kathi Cook – Director of Community Development at City of Alpharetta, GA

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Kathi Cook is the Director of Community Development for the City of Alpharetta where she leads the planning, zoning, code enforcement, and building inspections/permitting for Alpharetta. She began her career with Alpharetta in 1991 and has served many positions in the City prior to her current position including a Land Disturbance/Construction Inspector and Environmental Programs Manager.  She oversaw the planning, zoning and permitting for Avalon which is an 88-acre mixed-use development as well as City Center a 25-acre mixed-use project that revitalized the downtown.

Most recently Cook led the efforts on the North Point Livable Centers Initiative to plan for the future of the North Point mall and surrounding auto-centric retail development. The plan envisions multiuse trail systems to connect to the existing greenway, adding central public park locations and the creation of a new code requiring redevelopment meet eco-district standards by removing pavement and creating more green space.   She oversees the planning and development of the AlphaLoop, a multiuse urban trail connecting people to their work, retail and restaurants. She has been a guest speaker for the American Planning Association National Conference regarding mixed-use developments in suburban cities. She currently lives in downtown Alpharetta and walks to work.

George Dusenbury – Georgia State Director, The Trust for Public Land, Atlanta, GA

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George Dusenbury serves as the Southern Hub Director for The Trust for Public Land, a national organization dedicated to creating parks and protecting land for people. Dusenbury leads a team of professionals who are working to improve access to the Chattahoochee River, to increase the number of residents who have a park within a ten-minute walk of home and to develop coalitions and partnerships to dramatically change how Georgians interact with the outdoors.

From 2010-14 Dusenbury served as Commissioner of the Atlanta Parks & Recreation Department. During his tenure, he helped expand park acreage in the city while increasing the percentage of local residents living within a half-mile of a park. He also led an effort to reopen 16 closed recreation centers and transform them through high performing youth-development programs.

Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, Dusenbury was Executive Director of Park Pride, a nonprofit dedicated to building civic and corporate support for Atlanta’s parks. During his six years at Park Pride, the organization significantly increased its capacity while launching a wide range of programs designed to increase community capacity and leadership, bring community gardens to underserved neighborhoods, and help residents create and implement community-driven master plans for their parks.  Also under his leadership, the organization expanded its geographic scope and played a pivotal role in engaging community groups and corporate partners to realize the vision of the Atlanta BeltLine, a transformative urban park and trail system.

Dusenbury first became active in Atlanta’s environmental community while serving as Legislative Director and District Director for Congressman John Lewis. In these roles, he was responsible for the Congressman’s work on transportation, clean air, clean water and smart growth issues, including expanding tax incentives supporting alternative commute options like transit and biking.  During these years, Dusenbury developed his understanding of the importance of parks and green spaces in the context of equity, economics and health.

In November, 2019, Dusenbury was elected to serve on the City of Decatur, GA, Board of Commissioners.

Dusenbury earned a B.S. degree in English from Cornell University and a Juris Doctor degree from Emory University where he served as the president of the Environmental Law Society. He has been a Certified Park and Recreation Professional through the National Recreation and Park Association, is a member of the Historic Oakland board of directors and is a graduate of regional leadership programs.

Aaron Fortner – Principal & Founder, Canvas Planning Group, Atlanta, GA

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Aaron is a Principal, and founder of the Canvas Planning Group. With 20+ years of experience in community planning and design, Aaron works with neighborhoods, local governments, and organizations to create vibrant and sustainable communities. His skill set covers master planning, corridor planning, urban design, land use and zoning, community engagement and community branding. His true passion is in helping communities discover their truest competitive advantage – that unique identity that each community possesses which enables it to stand out amongst the competition.

Clyde Higgs – President & CEO, Atlanta Beltline, Atlanta, GA

Clyde Higgs is the President and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. where he leads the executive team in overseeing the design and construction of transit, trails, and parks; affordable housing; economic development; real estate; external affairs; procurement; etc. He establishes and expands strong working relationships with private and public partners across the region, state, and nation.

Prior to joining ABI in 2015, Mr. Higgs served as the Executive Vice President of a collaborative, multi-billion-dollar revitalization and economic development effort led by the state of North Carolina and real estate developer Castle & Cooke.

Mr. Higgs brings 20 years’ experience in economic development, real estate, intellectual property, technology, strategic planning, design, real estate development, grant and donor funding, and government relations, and urban innovation.

Mr. Higgs graduated from the University of South Alabama. He holds a graduate degree in Public Administration from East Carolina University. He has served on numerous boards and professional organizations, including the Board for Trees Atlanta and, formerly, the Board for Big Brothers Big Sister (Charlotte, NC). Mr. Higgs’ personal passions are young male mentorship and education. 

Wendy Jackson – Executive Vice President, Land Trust Alliance, Washington, DC

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Wendy Jackson is executive vice president of the Land Trust Alliance. She drives the strategic vision and oversight of development, government relations and community conservation programming. She also is lead on Common Ground: a year-long listening and learning initiative designed to channel the voices of diverse stakeholders to help make conservation more inclusive, responsive and relevant. Before joining the Alliance, Wendy served for 15 years as executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust in Birmingham, Alabama, where she worked with all sectors of the community to achieve conservation goals, including the establishment of the 1,200-acre Red Mountain Park, the 750-mile Red Rock Trail system, and many other beloved conservation areas that totaled over 15,000 acres and conserved over 1,000 miles of streams. Wendy also served for eight years as director of land protection with the Alabama chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where she helped lead efforts to conserve over 65,000 acres of land, including the establishment of the Forever Wild Mobile-Tensaw Delta Preserve, Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge and the Mountain Longleaf Pine National Wildlife Refuge.

Wendy’s work has been recognized by former U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and renowned scientist Dr. Edward O. Wilson. In 2018, Wendy was awarded the Governor’s Conservationist of the Year Award from the Alabama Wildlife Federation. She is a member of the North American Wetlands Conservation Council and serves on the Advisory Group to the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act program. Wendy maintains strong ties to Alabama and her family farm, where she enjoys spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren.

Beth Poovey – Director of Greenways, Parks and Open Spaces, LandDesign, Charlotte, NC

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Beth is the Director of Greenways, Parks and Open Space for LandDesign, where she leads a studio focused on the creation of public spaces that matter. She has nearly 20 years of experience in greenway, trail, streetscape and park design. Combining her sociology and landscape architecture degrees, her focus and passion has evolved into the planning and design of urban open space that authentically integrates community assets with environmental stewardship opportunities. Public open space is her thing. Parks, trails, streetscapes, peds, bikes and even trikes.

Beth is a strong believer that community engagement matters., both through her projects and personal interests. She is the President of Partners for Parks, a board member for Mecklenburg County Trail of History and a founding board member of Greenway Foundation. Additionally, she is affiliated with American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and Urban Land Institute (ULI).

Along with her national projects, Beth has played a significant role in defining the greenways and open space throughout the City of Charlotte. A few of her notable projects include Little Sugar Creek Greenway, Cross Charlotte Trail Master Plan and the Charlotte Rail Trail. All of which have been proven to provide positive economic impacts for the City as well as a sense of well-being for the community.

Beth has earned her Bachelor of Sociology from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia and received her Dip LA from Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto, Ontario. She is a registered landscape architect in North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi.

Rebecca Zajac – CEO, Dragonfly Trail, Columbus, GA

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Becca Zajac serves as the Executive Director of the Dragonfly Trail Network, a newly formed non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life in Columbus, Georgia through the implementation of, and advocacy for, multi-use trails. Becca is responsible for marketing the trail and programming its use, overseeing future construction and facilitating fundraising.

Prior to the Dragonfly Trails, Becca was the Vice President of Marketing and Community Relations for Uptown Columbus, Inc., a non-profit that facilitates and coordinates economic revitalization initiatives throughout downtown Columbus, Georgia.

Becca is committed to making Columbus an inviting, perpetually active, connected and desirable city for all. Her passion is creating meaningful experiences through events that connect, engage and inspire the community, while also providing a visible economic impact on the city.

A native of Michigan, Becca is a graduate of Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio with a dual degree in Business Marketing and Environmental Economics.  She is a board member of Columbus’ Young Professionals, PAWS Humane Society, Bicycle Columbus, Trees Columbus, and chairs the Vibrant & Connected Places Action Area for Columbus 2025, the Columbus area’s comprehensive long-range planning effort.

Developers Panel:

Greg Winchester – Moderator

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Mr. Winchester has over a thirty-five year career in banking, finance, and real estate. He is the Founder and CEO of Summit Investors, LLC in Milton, Georgia, an alternative advisory and investment firm. The firm specializes in commercial and residential real estate investments in both North America and Europe. The firm also invests in private operating companies and provides advisory services.

Previously, Mr. Winchester was a Co-Owner and Co-CEO of Trimont Real Estate Advisors which performs customized financial services for commercial real estate lenders and investors and has over $110 billion of client capital under management. He has been involved in the portfolio management of over $225 billion of loans and real estate investments in his career. Prior to joining Trimont, Mr. Winchester was an Executive Vice President of Lomas and Nettleton in Dallas, Texas, and was with the First National Bank of Atlanta.

Mr. Winchester is currently a member of the Real Estate Roundtable, the Auburn University Master of Real Estate Development Advisory Board, and the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank – ULI Capital Markets Committee. He serves as an Adjunct Professor at Auburn University’s Master of Real Estate Development Program and is a member of the Anglo-American Real Property Institute. He previously served on the Board of Governors of the Commercial Real Estate Finance Committee (CREFC), and was a former member of various other industry associations in North America and Europe.

Lyle Darnall – Managing Director, Edens, Columbia, SC

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At EDENS, Lyle Darnall is committed to building relationships, new centers and redeveloping existing centers to help retailers succeed. As Managing Director, Darnall is responsible for the expansion of the Company’s platform of assets in high growth markets in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Since arriving at EDENS in 1999, he has personally led the charge for the development or redevelopment of more than four million square feet of high-end retail space including 17 grocery stores, six large market department stores and countless box deals. He has more than 25 years of experience in the retail and real estate development industries.

As a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, Darnall has served as State Retail Chairman as well as Divisional Retail Chairman for the Southern Region. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Finance from Auburn University.

Thomas H. Flournoy – President & COO, Flournoy Development Company, Columbus, GA

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Thomas H. Flournoy has been with Flournoy Development Company since 1981 and is responsible for all corporate operations.

He has been integral to the development of over 140 apartment communities utilizing private, family office, foreign and institutional equity, syndications, HUD financing, tax credit funding, as well as historic renovations, single-family, condominium, commercial developments, and senior housing communities.  Under Tom’s leadership the company continues its 52-year history of success while his vision for the company ensures its sustainability and growth. 

Tom holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Pace Halter – President & CEO, WC Bradley Real Estate, Columbus, GA

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Pace Halter joined the Real Estate Division of the W.C. Bradley Co. as President and Chief Operating Officer in June 2017, bringing with him a broad base of real estate development, construction and finance experience.  Prior to joining W. C. Bradley, Pace was the President and CEO for The Halter Companies, a company he founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 2001.  Prior to that, he worked for both BB&T and Bank of America as the Assistant Vice President managing a significant real estate construction and development loan portfolio.  Pace graduated from Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Business.  He earned an MBA with a concentration in Real Estate and Finance from Georgia State University.

Pace is the Past Chairman of the Urban Land Institutes’ Young Leaders Group in Atlanta and Past District Council Councilor for the Urban Land Institutes’ Young Leaders Group nationally. 

Under Pace’s leadership the Real Estate Division of the W.C. Bradley Co. has grown to include more than 2,000,000 square feet of space most including the most recently complete Rapids development, which is a five-story mixed-use project with 226 luxury apartments and space for retail, shops, and a restaurant. Other projects include CoWork Columbus, Flat Rock Studio, The Powerhouse Private Event Venue and The Banks Food Hall as well as the recently announced Hotel Indigo, a new 7-story hotel, 107 room boutique hotel now under construction in the W.C. Bradley master planned development known as Riverfront Place on the banks of the Chattahoochee river in Uptown Columbus.

Pace is also the 2020 Chair of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and serves on the boards of The Columbus Museum, The Columbus Economic Development Corporation, Uptown Columbus and the Synovus Advisory Board.

Jeff Kingsfield – Chief Operations Officer, Providence Group, Atlanta, GA

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Jeff Kingsfield brings 25 years of Atlanta homebuilding and operations experience to our leadership team. Jeff began his career in homebuilding after graduating from Georgia Tech with his Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture. After graduation, he joined John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods as a builder and, later as an Operation Manager, was responsible for developing the custom building business while Atlanta prepared for the 1996 Olympics.

Jeff left John Wieland Homes to join a small privately held builder in Paulding County as their VP of Construction. He quickly grew the business and was named President of Southlife Homes in 1998. Southlife was recognized for growing the business into the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 10 Builders in Atlanta.

In 1999, Jeff started his own homebuilding company, Vision Built Homes. Once again, Jeff enjoyed solid growth and success while leading the company and navigating its acquisition by David Weekley Homes in 2004. Jeff served as the Atlanta Division President for David Weekley Homes until he rejoined the John Wieland Homes’ team in 2006.

Jeff worked as member of the senior executive team at John Wieland Homes and as the Executive Vice President Sales and Operations for all five cities. In 2011, Jeff accepted the position as the Atlanta Division President. Jeff led the efforts to grow the homebuilding business to over $150M in annual revenue, achieving substantial year over year growth. In 2015, Jeff helped to navigate John Wieland Homes though two major acquisitions, including the 2015 purchase by The Pulte Group.

Jeff joined The Providence Group in 2016 and has helped to grow our business into the top 10 builders in the Atlanta Metro Area.  Under his guidance, we have expanded the TPG footprint into new markets in Atlanta, including the top selling condo community in 2019, Pratt Stacks.  We are currently building in 17 active neighborhoods in Atlanta. He and his wife Kelly have four children from the ages of 18 to 31 and live near Chastain Park in Buckhead. Jeff and Kelly are both avid triathletes and are IRONMAN World Champions. Jeff is now a sports and wildlife photographer in his spare time.

David Knight – Chief Development Officer, Walton Communities, Atlanta, GA

W. David Knight is a partner in Walton Communities, a for-profit business which develops, owns and manages apartment communities throughout the metro-Atlanta area and Augusta.  Knight is responsible for the acquisition, development and construction management of all projects. 

Knight graduated from the University of Florida and has been professionally involved in real estate construction and development since 1981. Prior to co-founding Walton Communities, he partnered with Keith Davidson in 1988 to form Knight-Davidson Company, a Cobb County-based residential development company, where he oversaw the development of more than 1,400 single-family home-sites as well as the construction of more than 800 homes and multiple apartment communities

Knight has served on the Board of Trustees for Whitefield Academy, the Cobb Community Foundation, and is a former member of the ULI Livable Community Council.

Richard Petersheim – Partner, LandDesign, Charlotte, NC

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As a partner at LandDesign, Richard plays an integral role in driving LandDesign’s innovative and collaborative culture. Richard directs a passionate urban design studio with focus on strategic urban planning, infill development, transit planning and station area design and retail development. Richard always looks beyond the borders of the project to identify ways in which the improvements to the landscape add value to the adjoining context and reinforce the community goals.

With over 20 years of experience, Richard has had the opportunity to see Charlotte grow from the ground up. His passion for unifying communities and stakeholders has led him to work on projects such as, the vintage Charlotte Trolley, LYNX Blue Line Extension, CAMP North End and Romare Bearden Park. Most recently, Richard led the urban design efforts and provided framework guidance to help shape the vision for the two-block area that encompasses the Charlotte Main Library and Spirit Square in Uptown Charlotte.

Richard earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from West Virginia University and has his real estate license in the state of North Carolina. He is a registered landscape architect in North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as a certified LEED Green Associate. He is also a member of the Urban Land Institute and the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Chris Warren – Co-Founder & Principal, Beauxwright, Charlotte, NC

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Chris Warren has 20 years of commercial real estate development and capital markets experience.  He is a co-founder and principal of Beauxwright involved in all aspects of the business, with an emphasis on transactions, sourcing capital and strategy.  Beauxwright prides itself on pursuing challenging infill opportunities and applying a professional and entrepreneurial approach to rezoning, development and repositioning strategies to realize a property’s full potential.  Since launching the company in 2013, Beauxwright has been involved in the acquisition and development of 13 infill developments comprising of 1,258 residential units, 1.8MM of total square footage and over $200MM in total acquisition and development costs.

Prior to Beauxwright, Chris resolved some of the largest and most complicated real estate investments in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.  From 2008 to 2013, he oversaw asset management, re-structuring, and disposition of 70 properties totaling $700 million in investments. Prior to 2008, Chris was a Vice President in the Real Estate Principal Transactions Group at Lehman Brothers where investments included mezzanine and equity transactions. Early in his career, Chris was a Senior Associate with Trimont Real Estate Advisors, an Atlanta-based primary and special servicer with investment management responsibilities.

Chris is a Charlotte native who earned his undergraduate degree from Sewanee, University of the South. He serves on the Auburn University Master of Real Estate Development Advisory Board, is a member of NAHB’s Developer’s 20 Club, and an active participant in the Urban Land Institute.  Chris also volunteers as a member of the Corners Society and as a past Elder at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. 

Last modified: February 27, 2020