How to make the Beltline happen

Atlanta’s game-changing transit loop won’t succeed without big, bold ideas. Here are five.

by Thomas Wheatley – Creative Loafing

Atlantans can be forgiven for having become a bit jaded about the shortage of visible progress in the eight years since the Beltline first burst on the scene.
Sure, railroad segments have been acquired and leased, public art’s been displayed and a smattering of parks have sprung to life. And yes, 2011 will be a big year for the 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit proposed to circle Atlanta’s urban core and improve city life for generations to come. This spring, three new parks will open, including the first 12 acres of Historic Fourth Ward Park, which will feature a scenic lake, amphitheatre and the city’s first public skate park, near Freedom Parkway. Later this year, a highly anticipated 2.5-mile bike trail connecting Piedmont Park and DeKalb Avenue will welcome its first cyclists.
Yet despite these advancements and other small victories, people still wearily — and understandably — ask if the Beltline “actually will happen.” As a reaction to that cynicism, Mayor Kasim Reed has said he wants the $2.8 billion project to be completed much sooner than the current 25-year time line anticipates. How can that be done? Never mind the occasional ribbon-cuttings or other public unveilings — the best way to shake skeptics’ doubts that the project is nothing more than pretty sketches and pipe dreams is for big, bold steps to be taken.
Here are five initiatives — the most pressing per quadrant, as well as a broader proposal that Beltline officials have been quick to reject — that should be given serious consideration for their ability to could reignite the Beltline’s momentum and make the project more relevant to the public.

The Full Loop: Introduce Atlanta to the Beltline — by building a bike path 6

It’s far less expensive than the project’s transit component and far more feasible in the short-term
  • by Thomas Wheatley | 01.20.11
  • Northwest: Turn a giant hole in the ground into Atlanta’s new waterfront

    The booming Westside would benefit with a 45-acre reservoir and greenspace that’s twice the size of Piedmont Park
    • by Thomas Wheatley | 01.20.11
  • Northeast: Build a rail segment that links Atlanta’s most booming neighborhoods 1

    The crescent-shaped arc between Piedmont Park and DeKalb Avenue has the density to make transit work
    • by Thomas Wheatley | 01.20.11
  • Southeast: Ready the second-most-populous segment for rail — and art

    Secure the Beltline’s most prominent gap — a bucolic, gritty stretch of tracks between Glenwood Park and southwest Atlanta
    • by Thomas Wheatley | 01.20.11
  • Southwest: Turn a 31-acre parking lot into a vibrant southside neighborhood

    With the right project, some of Atlanta’s most beleaguered communities — and the entire city — could benefit
    • by Thomas Wheatley | 01.20.11