Entrepreneurial American Community Award
For the City of Atlanta's collaborative efforts and creativity in developing the Beltline Project.
As a community entrenched in the history of the United States and one that is growing rapidly, the City of Atlanta is turning to assets from its past to make it more livable for the future. In its extensive BeltLine project, Atlanta is redeveloped and revitalized a 22-mile loop of previously underutilized or abandoned historic railroad and the grounds around it. The BeltLine plan connects 45 in-town neighborhoods, adds significantly more greenspace to the city, and invests in mixed-use development and affordable workforce housing for the city along the line.
The BeltLine project began in 1999 when Ryan Gravel, a Georgia Tech student, wrote a thesis outlining the BeltLine vision. Gravel and community supporters formed the Friends of the BeltLine to spread and maintain interest, attracting the City Council as an early advocate for the idea. In 2004, the Trust for Public Land released their commissioned ‘Emerald Necklace Study,’ which enforced viability and proposed a strategy for the realization of the plan. Mayor Shirley Franklin, encouraged by the interest and feasibility and recognizing the great potential of the plan for the city, commissioned the City’s own study on the possibility of funding the BeltLine through a Tax-Allocation District. The positive results of this study, which included a forecast of economic development benefits, led to Mayor Franklin’s creation of the BeltLine Partnership, a nonprofit organization that has been key to the project’s continued strategic planning.
Despite running into problems with purchasing some of the land, negotiating with private developers and laying the route around existing development and rail corridors, the City of Atlanta, along with the BeltLine Partnership and business leaders from the community, has been able to leverage the many expected benefits of the BeltLine to garner public and private support in the community. Among other benefits, the BeltLine is expected to encourage balanced and attractive future growth of Atlanta’s urban core, enhance mobility around the city, invest 240 million dollars in affordable workforce housing (the largest single commitment in the city’s history), increase tax revenue by 20 billion dollars and create more than 30,000 permanent jobs in the next 20-25 years, a job increase 50 percent greater than estimated to occur without the BeltLine.
Although still developing, already the BeltLine has increased the amount of greenspace in the city, encouraged the creation of public/private advisory committees and study groups and generally offered an opportunity for all citizens of Atlanta to examine development in the city and create a vision for what it should look like in the future. In this way, the City of Atlanta’s BeltLine project is in the process of setting a national standard for transformative investment, sustainable growth and equitable development.
For more information: The Atlanta BeltLine