The City of Atlanta is undertaking a comprehensive, urban redevelopment project that is among one of the largest of its kind in the country. The Atlanta BeltLine will not only directly connect 45 neighborhoods, but also reuse 22 miles of railroad tracks already in place around downtown Atlanta and construct 33 miles of trails circling the city.
Ryan Gravel, a Tech grad student, first conceived the idea behind the project in his master thesis in 1999. Gravel wrote his master’s thesis in hopes that the idea would spur economic growth in Atlanta and also increase quality-of-life in 45 Atlanta neighborhoods. Gravel volunteered and worked in the nonprofit and government sectors so that his idea could one day become implemented, and now the project is an initiative, both public and private, of more than two billion dollars.
In addition to the 22 miles of historic track that the city plans to reuse, there will be 33 miles that both follow and move off of the original 22 in multi-use trails. The project also includes park expansion and increased public spaces, while providing connections for commuters to both downtown and midtown.
The BeltLine will connect to current MARTA systems, the proposed Atlanta Streetcar system, and various other transit systems from the surrounding suburban communities, so all Atlanta region residents regions may benefit.
While the majority of the Atlanta BeltLine is yet to be completed, there are already changes being made. Three of the trail segments are either open or close to being completed, as well as four either new or renovated parks, including D.H. Stanton, Atlanta’s first energy-cost neutral park. D.H. Stanton is home to a shade structure for park visitors that also features photovoltaic solar panels that generate energy and provide revenue.
The project doesn’t stop at transportation. The Atlanta BeltLine Affordable Housing program sets its goal to create 5,600 affordable housing units in the next 25 years. Invest Atlanta, the city’s official economic development authority, has already administered $8.8 million specifically to the affordable housing fund. So far, 120 units have been constructed along the Beltline, and more are expected to follow.
Since 2010, public art exhibitions have been showcased along the BeltLine and have included work from a variety of artists and performers. The art is meant to make residents aware of the individual hiking trails of the Atlanta BeltLine and introduce visitors to the differing communities that make up Atlanta.
Perkins+Will, where Gravel serves as Senior Urban Designer, is designing the Atlanta BeltLine. Many sources are providing funding for the massive project, including federal, state, local and private sources.