The Atlanta BeltLine Project
The Atlanta Beltline is an integrated park, trail, and transit system, along a proposed project corridor located 2 to 3 miles from downtown Atlanta. The BeltLine connects 45 neighborhoods, all of Atlanta’s major submarkets, and four MARTA rail stations. The project is composed of corridors ranging from 68 to 198 feet in width, so there is little need to displace current buildings, homes, or activities. Additionally, most of the infrastructure, such as water and electricity, is already in place. Moreover, 22 percent of the Atlanta population lives in close proximity to the planning area, making it likely that large numbers of residents will benefit from the project. However, one early lesson from the planning phase was that the project needed to include a lot of “spurs” to include neighborhoods and parts of the city that residents felt were not connected.
The project will include a 6,500-acre redevelopment area, with plans to develop 22 miles of transit and 33 miles of trails. Five thousand units of affordable housing will be built and there is a possibility that the project could create up to 30,000 jobs. Environmental cleanup is also a significant consideration; ABI is working closely with the Georgia Environmental Protection Department and EPA to carry out remediation efforts. The cost of the project is about $3 billion, with $1.7 billion coming from its designation as a tax allocation district. Atlanta Beltline, Inc. (ABI) is the implementing body, but ABI is coordinating with numerous agencies at both federal and state levels.
ABI has also developed a comprehensive community engagement framework. Some communication efforts include quarterly public briefings, monthly study group meetings, weekly guided tours, and regular community celebrations. Mayor Shirley Franklin established the Beltline Partnership in 2005 to raise additional funds for education and outreach initiatives. Atlanta residents contributed to decisions of where to locate many of the trails and connectors, and they are consulted about each facet of development.
Source: Gordon (2010).
Wayne Zipperer, research scientist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, reminded participants that there is a moral and ethical dimension to sustainability. This was an important motivating factor in the early environmental movements of the 1970s. He acknowledged that is difficult to quantify, and that it sometimes gets lost