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A Tale of Two Port Cities: How the Experiences of Revitalizing a Struggling English Port Can Benefit Brunswick
Posted 06/03/2019 12:00PM

Revitalization Specialist Martin O'Hara.

June 6: College of Coastal Georgia Foundation's 2019 Distinguished Speakers Series Continues with Event Featuring Revitalization Expert Martin O'Hara

What can the Brunswick community learn from the revitalization of a port city in the United Kingdom? Martin O'Hara, an authority in the restoration and reuse of dilapidated facilities, will share lessons he has learned over a career of confronting and overcoming challenges in the UK similar to those facing Brunswick—specifically focusing on the port city of Ipswich, England.

On Thursday, June 6, O'Hara will present "A Tale of Two Cities," in the second event of the College of Coastal Georgia Foundations' 2019 Distinguished Speaker Series. His lecture will highlight his journey regenerating Ipswich and point out learnings that may benefit the City of Brunswick.

In his native England, O'Hara is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and a regional judge for its annual property awards program. He began his career in retail investment and redevelopment before spending more than 20 years with Associated British Ports, the UK's largest ports group.

As regional head of property for Associated British Ports, Martin O'Hara was responsible for not only growing new and existing business in England's port cities but also identifying and revitalizing disused and dilapidated spaces. These ports were invariably integral to the town's economic and community life. Working with regional and local governments, plus other stakeholders, O'Hara was involved in the regeneration of a number of these ports and their surrounding towns and cities.

Although Ipswich and Brunswick appear to not have much in common, both are historic port cities that are within 30 minutes of wealthy coastal communities, and are an hour away from a major urban area. Both cities are looking to clarify their identities, have undiscovered historic gems, and great places of opportunity, O'Hara said.

One of things O'Hara learned from his work in Ipswich is an understanding of the intricacies involved with getting different people to agree on a project.

"The diverse group involved with the Ipswich regeneration project learned early on that they agreed on 75 percent of what needed to be done," O 'Hara said. "The important thing is to focus on that 75 percent rather than argue over the 25 percent [about which they disagreed."

For O'Hara, the future of this region has become personal. He and his family have visited the Golden Isles for more than 20 years and have been homeowners on St. Simons for more than 10 years. Since he retired four years ago, the family now spends six months each year in the Golden Isles. Over the years, O'Hara has given a lot of thought to how he might use his experience in working in other port cities to benefit the area.

Following his presentation, O'Hara will sit down for an on-stage interview with former Atlanta Journal-Constitution Managing Editor Bert Roughton and field questions from the audience about a vision for a revitalized Brunswick.

What: College of Coastal Georgia Foundation's 2019 Distinguished Speaker Series Event

Who: Revitalization Expert Martin O'Hara

When: Thursday, June 6, 2019

5:30 p.m. – Check-in

6 p.m. – Public Address

Where: Southeast Georgia Conference Center, College of Coastal Georgia, Brunswick, Ga.

Registration: Advanced registration is free and required. Guests can register at

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