From LA to Atlanta: Getting Serious About the “S” in ESG


Over the last decade, Environmental, Social and Governance or “ESG” has become a key area of focus for many firms’ business priorities, with a particular emphasis on the “E.” While the environmental piece of ESG is critical, the “S” is sometimes overlooked.

Los Angeles-based CIM Group, a community-focused real estate and infrastructure owner, operator, lender and developer, believes that enhancing communities through infrastructure and real estate must extend to improving the quality of life for the people who live and work in those communities. This philosophy was initiated in the mid-1990s with CIM’s first LA-area properties and today extends to projects across the Americas, including a landmark development on the other side of the country.

Apartment and Hotel Architectural Rendering

Centennial Yards is a project in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Georgia being developed by a CIM Group affiliate company. The 50-plus-acre project is situated in what was previously an underutilized railyard directly across from Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena. The site presented an ideal opportunity to deliver much needed amenities — such as retail, restaurants and residences — to locals and visitors alike.

Environmental impact was a consideration at Centennial Yards, and the development participates in initiatives from Principles for Responsible Investment, Energy Star, GRESB, BOMA and Green Seal. Additionally, CIM approached the project with the community-centered vision it applied in Los Angeles and other urban areas. Because much of the project consists of ground-up development, CIM was able to execute its community focus on an even more comprehensive scale.

After entering into a development agreement with the City of Atlanta, CIM launched the “Community Benefits Program” for Centennial Yards. The benefits to Atlantans fall into four categories: (i) Equal Business Opportunity Plan, (ii) Affordable Housing, (iii) Outreach and Engagement, and (iv) Community Involvement and Volunteering.

The Equal Business Opportunity Plan includes a 38% participation goal for minority, female, and small businesses in the design, development, construction, and property management of Centennial Yards for the life of the project. Additionally, 25% of entry level construction jobs and 10% of all jobs at the project must be filled with employees from the City of Atlanta. CIM is also contributing $2 million toward a local vocational training program.

When completed, 20% of the residential units will be affordable housing for 99 years. CIM has also contributed over $35 million to an affordable housing trust fund that can be accessed by residents across the city. This plan helps ensure that Centennial Yards will have a broad positive impact through the social side of ESG.  

CIM believes that when initiating a project that will transform the landscape of a community, involvement through outreach, engagement and volunteerism is vital to ensuring the development’s long-term success and integration. At Centennial Yards, such engagement was intentional from the start, and local residents and organizations took notice.

For example, the National Association of Minority Contractors awarded CIM its Private Sector Award for Equal Business Opportunity outreach efforts in 2020. Over the last few years, CIM has hosted several outreach events to educate minority, female and small businesses about opportunities at Centennial Yards. Total attendance at these events exceeded 1,500 individuals from over 500 firms.

CIM and Centennial Yards have also supported community organizations by donating more than $250,000 of sponsorship dollars for various initiatives and events that foster greater opportunity for minority, female, and small businesses and support the community. CIM partnered with the local Atlanta chapter of Project REAP (Real Estate Associate Professionals), whose mission is to advance diversity and inclusion in the commercial real estate industry. This partnership, which includes a mentorship program, has evolved into a national sponsorship.

D&I Ambassador Program Event

Additionally, in November 2023, CIM kicked off its D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) Council’s Ambassador Program with a visit to Centennial Yards. The program’s primary focus is on positively impacting and educating the next generation of business professionals. Atlanta University Center students and faculty spent time getting to know the Centennial Yards team and Los Angeles-based CIM leaders while touring the project.

Through CIM’s volunteer program, CIMpact, Centennial Yards team members have volunteered with Hands On Atlanta, Habitat for Humanity, Trees Atlanta, the Atlanta Community Food Bank and other local organizations, strengthening community ties and further solidifying the development’s positive impact.

To implement social programs and initiatives that invest in communities requires an intentionality of vison that is thoughtfully planned and strategically executed. At Centennial Yards, CIM has taken a community-focused strategy born in Los Angeles and expanded it to support wide-ranging impact in Atlanta. While real estate investors and developers should certainly prioritize the “E” in ESG, highlighting the “S” by investing in people must not be overlooked.

About the Author

Brigitte Broyard is Vice President, Business and Workforce Opportunity at Centennial Yards Company, managing the Equal Business Opportunity Program for Centennial Yards in Downtown Atlanta. A fourth generation Atlanta native and graduate of Howard University, Brigitte’s love for her community is the primary reason that she is so passionate about equity and inclusion. (www.cimgroup.com)

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