Can Atlanta Go All In on the BeltLine? Rebecca Burns The Atlantic…

3 Апр 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »
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Can Atlanta Go All In on the BeltLine?

ATLANTAIt’s not one can use the terms transit-oriented development and in the same sentence, but that’s came to mind during September’s Lantern Parade. Ten people watched a procession of glowing puppets and fanciful lanterns wind along and kudzu-choked train tracks. A marchers passed through neighborhoods, where celebratory clustered on back porches and restaurant patios, or perched on former rail embankments.

magical TOD experience came of the BeltLine: Atlanta’s multibillion-dollar, project to transform 22 miles of and industrial sites into a network connecting 45 inner-city The project envisions wide and biking paths, access to neighborhoods and businesses, parks and space, and new homes, shops, and The city’s emerging streetcar will eventually be incorporated the loop, too. The largest project in Atlanta’s history is saying something in a city was rebuilt from the ground up a certain W. T. Sherman paid a 150 years ago the BeltLine is one of the boldest projects in urban America.

in the light of day and without the whimsy of puppets, it’s easy to get about the BeltLine’s potential. spend an hour walking the route the Eastside Trail, in October 2012. The 2.25-mile connects Piedmont Park, the central green space, the Old Fourth Ward, now one of Atlanta’s neighborhoods. A decade ago, the rail line was overgrown and for harboring vagrants and drug In those intervening ten years has been $775 million in investment along the Eastside according to the city’s office of and planning.

The Eastside Trail of the BeltLine by the glow of night the Lantern Parade) and the housing of day. (Christopher T. Martin)

year the Eastside Trail attract a million visitors, the number who come to the Georgia On weekends, the trail is so crowded local media outlets published etiquette tips and guides. People drive in the suburbs to walk the Eastside You can order a fancy $13 BeltLine or rent a two-wheeler from Beltline Bicycle. “BeltLine” is across for-sale signs in the of aging bungalows and on banners new apartment buildings. Over the six months, townhouses sprouted mushrooms along the Eastside

Those things sell as as they hit the market, says real estate agent McMurry. Today, McMurry one of the first questions prospective ask about a property is: Is it near the

So the BeltLine is the kind of ambitious that planners, developers, and like to call transformative. But transformation will not be measured in units and miles of paved The real measure of the BeltLine’s will be whether it can make a in Atlanta’s car-dependent transportation and whether it can connect neighborhoods have been separated by and class since the days of

• • • •

The Atlanta BeltLine all with a master’s thesis in 1999 by then-Georgia Tech and city planning student Gravel. Fifteen years Gravel and I are walking along a of the BeltLine’s Westside Trail, is scheduled to be completed in 2016 a years ahead of schedule to an $18 million federal TIGER Behind the trailhead is an abandoned of a warehouse, which stands on the of Atlanta’s first car factory. stopped running here decades ago, and a few miles of have been cleared as a path.

I ask Gravel if he walked the 22-mile loop when his thesis. I did but in lots of small he says. There were you had to use a machete.

How getting from to there is changing forever.

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Gravel is self-deprecating for who is a rock star in urban circles. He speaks at conferences, a TEDx Talk. and is working on a With prematurely silver and a penchant for dressing in tailored and blue, he has the look and style of Cooper or Mad Men ‘s Roger He never expected anything to of the thesis, but after graduation at an architecture firm encouraged him to the idea, so he contacted just every local politician Cathy Woolard, who chaired the City Council’s transportation

I was immediately taken by it; not because I am but because Ryan’s idea was recalls Woolard. At the time, would call her constantly to about the abandoned tracks. they could see the rail as something positive, it changed she says. She and Gravel began own speaking tour, talking up the at every homeowner’s association that would host “The neighborhoods really to the BeltLine because it was something could fight for instead of says Gravel.

In 2001, Woolard was elected City President, she and Gravel took the message to the office of newly mayor Shirley Franklin. advocated for the BeltLine nearly week for over a year, Franklin. In 2006, after feasibility studies, Atlanta Inc. (ABI) was formed to the project. A year later, the received $300,000 in federal for design and engineering, and in 2008 the bonds were issued a city tax allocation district. businesses had been early boosters, and joined the fundraising Atlanta BeltLine Partnership. support was rallied with bus tours, and events like Art on the BeltLine, and 5K runs on future of the trail.

It has really been grassroots, all the says Woolard. It did not come the Chamber of Commerce, or the transit or politicians. It took a village to it out just not the village that does transit in Atlanta.

master map of the BeltLine project the basic loop (sections with green have completed), as well as connections to (in orange) and other area more maps are available at the main site.

The man now charged overseeing the BeltLine’s implementation is Morris, who joined ABI as CEO last We have to be working on all aspects of the all of the time, says Morris. It be done piecemeal. To that ABI is acquiring land and right-of-ways for the circuit, even while for construction is being secured. December, ABI produced a 17-year plan to complete the BeltLine by On the agenda for the next five extending the Eastside Trail to the building the Westside Trail, the BeltLine to the Atlanta Streetcar and starting to convert century-old Quarry (best known as a in the first season of The Walking ) into a reservoir and park.

As and I return to the start of the Westside a black SUV pulls up. A man jumps walks over to the trail, at the signage, and then turns to us: Is the BeltLine?

It’s part of it, Gravel.

Wow. So here it is, the man

Do you live around here? Gravel.

No. I’m from Carolina, the man says. “But heard about it.” He around a while longer, back in his SUV, and drives

• • • •

What makes the potentially so transformative is that, the hundreds of rails to trails nationwide, it is designed as a transportation It will include light lines with 45 neighborhood and connections to the city’s MARTA system and the Atlanta Streetcar. In my it was a transportation plan and it still is, Cathy Woolard, who’s now an ABI member. At the heart it is a plan orients development toward and encourages density, which needs.

The big question in the coming will be finding the money to that plan a reality. $600 million in funding for streetcar lines and connections to was included in the $8.5 billion regional T-SPLOST transit tax referendum. which was trounced by (The city of Atlanta, its half million residents, T-SPLOST, but many suburban in metro Atlanta, with a of 6 million, did not.) Mayors of suburban cities publicly the BeltLine’s inclusion in the T-SPLOST list, the sheer size of (157 projects!) overwhelmed many of whom harbored a distrust of transit agencies. had stung riders with hikes and schedule cuts, and on the Eastside Trail and the streetcar were behind schedule. still no hard start-date for the which was supposed to start last fall.

Renderings of Murphy’s Crossing planned for the Westside Trail) and the Trail (middle), and Ponce (bottom ) show the BeltLine’s integration with transit. BeltLine, Inc. / Perkins+Will)

On the hand, completed smaller and parks and the stunning success of the Trail have made the far more popular with than it was back in 2012. has a new CEO who has balanced the agency’s budget and service. Next year, Mayor Kasim Reed to hold a city referendum on that would fund projects, including the streetcar to the BeltLine. City Hall and ABI are that voters will it this time.

“It’s to see a project rooted in transportation so many positive attributes right before our eyes,” office tells Cities in an “I will continue to do possible to encourage its development.”

if funding is finally secured, still the matter of convincing residents to get out of their cars and use a system. The BeltLine already walking and biking, and the Eastside is great for weekend jaunts neighborhoods or as a means to reach or special events. But trails replace comprehensive transit and commuting by bike or foot for everyone, certainly not in Atlanta, summer temperatures are in the 90s (with 90 humidity to match).

I love to my bike on the BeltLine, and I do all the time, Kwanza Hall, who represents the City Council district includes the new streetcar line, the Old Ward, and most of the Eastside But I am not going to bike in a suit in the on my way to a business meeting.

The travesty of is that it’s only a skeleton.

If the BeltLine’s light network is built, it could transform travel within the of Atlanta. Right now, rail lines are limited; run north-south and east-west. If you want to town, you have to travel the city center and transfer. The of MARTA is that it’s a barebones skeleton, says While bus service between rail stations does it is slow, and schedules have reduced or scrapped in the interest of cutting. There is no easy way to get to off of MARTA’s limited rail Even if you can commute to and from by MARTA rail, you need a car to get to the bank, doctor, or just any other errand. That’s why every Atlantan who can afford a car one and uses it to get around town, means traffic is almost as bad in the as it is on the metro area’s interstates.

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It’s not just the highways any says Cathy Woolard. of us who live in town used to be to let tourists and suburbanites have the and take surface roads, but now all of are crowded too.

By intersecting MARTA’s rail lines and around the city, light on the BeltLine would create connections that do not exist, and navigating Atlanta infinitely and quicker than it is today. more than 40 neighborhood rail on the BeltLine would expand the scope of transit in

Here’s an admittedly self-interested I live on the southeast side of the just over a quarter from the planned extension of the Eastside Trail. If I could to the BeltLine and get on a trolley, I’d be from at least three stores. Right now, are none in a two-mile radius of my I could take the BeltLine to my office, to visit my in-laws, to and eat on the west side of town. I no longer need my car.

• • •

From the windows of her loft, Kit can see Ponce City Market, the Trail, and Historic Fourth Park what she calls the stool of neighborhood growth. in 2001, when Sutherland and her decided to move into the sparsely populated Old Fourth her husband’s law firm colleagues incredulous. Now she leaves the windows to hear the white noise of vehicles and delivery trucks at City Market, the $200 conversion of a former Sears center into a dining, office, and residential complex. We it; it’s the sound of progress, Sutherland.

The park (one of 65 in development plan) is gorgeous. and constructed by ABI, it has a two-acre surrounded by a grass amphitheater, trails, and a giant splash pad The park and Eastside Trail jointly awarded the Environmental Agency’s Overall Excellence in Growth award for 2013. visitors don’t notice most impressed the EPA it’s on a former brownfield site and the is a catch basin for storm

The housing market has noticed, and the Old Ward is experiencing a resurgence. The population dropped from to 6,000 between 1960 and and in the 1990s half the community’s lived the Village of Bedford the largest Section 8 housing in the Southeast. Today, new apartment ring the park and have more than a thousand More apartments are being and leasing for units in Ponce Market opened April 15 rents starting at $1,225 for a foot studio astronomical for where $1,200 is standard for a two-bedroom, two-bath.

Across at Adair Park, a working neighborhood that adjoins the Westside Trail, property are going up even though it be at least two years before the is completed. “This is a transitional but even it is beginning to be a little bit says Randy Gibbs, who to the neighborhood in 2011 after the Air Force to attend graduate at Georgia Tech. Gibbs, who in real estate sales, bungalows that went for $40,000 or $50,000 a few years ago can now $120,000.

The rapid change is for some than for others. I spoke with agreed: the of the BeltLine will make it to keep homes and apartments Gentrification presents a particular in Atlanta, which has the highest inequality rate in the country. a big concern, says ABI’s Morris.

The BeltLine’s plan for 5,600 units of work-force to be built between now and 2030. ABI is $2 million to Ponce City to offset rents for low-income In 2011, ABI bought Triumph a property adjacent to a future of the trail that was in receivership, and units to low-income buyers. ABI’s down payment monthly payments on the two bedroom were less than below rents in the area. the lofts became available was a waiting list of 1,600 for 28 units.

• • • •

On a gloriously Saturday in April, thousands up for the first BeltLine Boil, on the lawn at the BeltLine’s Historic Ward Skatepark. The main a competition between local several of which have that open right the Eastside Trail. Chefs variations on the Low Country Boil, the stew of shrimp, potatoes, and corn. On the big stage, the slate of ranged from Southern and bluegrass to RB and blues. Vendors beer and Jack Daniels, and sat at tables sampling food, or on the lawn listening to the bands. the Eastside Trail streamed of cyclists, dog-walkers, kids trikes or wobbling on training rollerbladers, curious suburbanites, college kids, and parents behemoth strollers. In the distance, sun on the towers of Atlanta’s skyline.

Historically, Atlanta’s infrastructure segregation.

Here’s what was about that moving of Atlantans: it actually reflected the racial and ethnic diversity. you walk along the Eastside which I do at least once a Atlanta actually looks the way it when it promotes itself. But of being staged by a marketing or an art director, the mix of people is authentic. And is a very big deal.

Historically, infrastructure enforced segregation. crisscrossed the city and separated by class as well as race. planners intentionally zoned areas as buffers between and white neighborhoods well the 1960s, and the remnants of those practices are starkly evident you take the Atlanta BeltLine bus and pass from blight to and back again at each of the trip. Atlanta has a rocky record when it comes to big civic projects with the of its poorest citizens. In the 1950s and highway construction and urban projects displaced thousands of residents. Despite the boom of around the 1996 Olympics, the around Turner Field and the Dome languish.

The BeltLine has the to cross the literal barriers have separated Atlantans and begin to break down far complex social barriers. traffic woes are obvious. But the in getting around here, and the patterns of segregation have to another kind of gridlock, this one of the cities with the social and economic mobility in the The BeltLine can provide parks and trails and cultural events, all of is marvelous. But if it connects Atlanta’s jobs, and neighborhoods, and gets us out of our it will really live up its

The tracks used to divide us, and the now brings us together, says Hall, the city council The BeltLine surely has been the driver for bringing us together as a That’s a beautiful thing.

Top The BeltLine’s Fourth Ward has helped produce a housing in the Old Fourth Ward. (Christopher T.

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