Beltline urban redevelopment project gains momentum

The Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. project just might be Atlanta’s next big Olympics movement.

With an initial investment of $2.8 billion, the BeltLine project (ABI) is an urban redevelopment project that will provide a network of transit and side projects that are projected to be completed  in the next 25 years.

ABI’s primary focus in development is the restoration of the 22-mile abandoned former rail lines encircling the heart of Atlanta in a pear-shaped fashion. The newly designed rail lines will link up to MARTA and possibly include newer transit systems, such as the Peachtree Streetcar and commuter rail lines.

“In addition to being a circular transit system, it was also envisioned to have a 33-mile network of trails, 1300 acres of parks, affordable housing…public art and historic preservation…and an environmental clean-up to create public spaces,” said Patrise Perkins-Hooker, the General Counsel for the ABI.

Perkins-Hooker remarked that the extent of the BeltLine’s impact is huge, influencing 45 neighborhoods, 22 percent of Atlanta’s population and 6,500 acres of land in Atlanta.

The network of trails will encircle the city with the rail loop as its guide, creating an environment that will favor pedestrian use and a link to the parks. So far, 99 percent of the trails have been completed, and the parks are closely following with an 83 percent completion.

“The underlying purpose of the BeltLine is to unify the disconnected areas of development by fostering a solution to the unforeseen consequences of the economic growth of Atlanta: congested streets, air pollution, limited space and uneven economic activity,” Perkins-Hooker said.

More closely associated with this project is a refurbishment of the City Hall East, the largest brick building in the southeastern United States.

“[The Ponce City Market] was once the heartbeat of commerce, community and entertainment in Atlanta,” said Jim Irwin, VP of Development for Greenstreet Properties. “Since then, it has declined.”

Through a private endeavor by Jamestown Properties, a real estate investment and management company, the rebirth of the Ponce City Market near City Hall East will include many new features and improvements.

“It will be 320,000 square foot of urban retail markets,” Irwin said. “Real butchers, real seafood, the best of food, local retailers, national markets,” and more would be the potential business partners in this renovation.

What has received the greatest praise, however, is the proposal to construct a 12,000-square-foot organic farm on top of the roof – a garden that will supply the chefs and other vendors just downstairs in the market.

“All this will be just feet away from the historic rail trestle [of the BeltLine],” Irwin said of the connection between the projects.

However, ABI maintains ecological concerns by actively trying to pursue the LEED Certification, the gold standard for all constructions looking to be recognized as “green” creations.

“You can’t leave less of a carbon footprint than using a 90-year old building,” Irwin said of the renovation of City Hall East.

“This is the most important economic development in the entire Southeast,” said Hans Gant, Senior Vice President of Economic Development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. “It will seek to transform the city and attract new companies.”



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