The Atlanta BeltLine, dubbed, the country’s “most ambitious” or “best” smart growth project is, obviously, a big project. It involves re-purposing a 22-mile rail corridor to include new forms of public transit (streetcars or light rail connected to MARTA at a number of locations), trails for walking and bicycling, and a number of parks, all around the center of Atlanta. The city is putting $2.8 billion (yes, billion) into it and there is a ton of private investment going in as well.

Remediation of over a thousand acres of brownfields and revitalization of distressed, poor neighborhoods are also part of the plan. What is expected to come of this massive project?

  • 5600 units of workforce housing
  • 30,000 permanent jobs
  • +48,000 person-years of construction jobs
  • $20 billion increase in the city’s tax base over 25 years

A recent annual report, which Kaid Benfield of the NRDC covered in good detail, shows that park development and trails have been moving forward well as a result of the project.

atlanta Historic Fourth Ward Park

“Of the 20 pages of ABI’s report allocated to substantive accomplishment, 14 are devoted to parks and green space.  Perhaps the most impressive of the parks work to date is the new (if awkwardly named) Historic Fourth Ward Park on the east side of the Beltline (photo above, site plan below),” Benfield notes.

This park alone is 17 acres and includes a number of green features, from the report:

  • “The purpose of the lake is to provide capacity relief to the combined sewer system and is designed to integrate aesthetically with the surrounding Historic Fourth Ward Park while meeting federal consent decree requirements.
  • “Converts five acres of former contaminated industrial land into a clean, green public space.
  • “City of Atlanta’s first water-neutral park: all irrigation needs will be met by the storm water basin and no water will be drawn from the City’s water supply.
  • “Utilizes energy-efficient LED lighting to minimize energy costs and provide a secure environment.”

Transit plans are moving along as well, but it will still be awhile until any new transit services are up and running.

Neighborhood revitalization and workforce housing development are moving along steadily as well, but rely quite a bit on the transit projects moving along first.

For much more on this project, check out Benfield’s full piece here: The country’s most ambitious smart growth project shows some progress, much remaining potential.

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  2. El Paso: Smart Growth Model?
  3. Ten Principles of Smart Growth

Top image via Atlanta BeltLine facebook page. Other images via NRDC/Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.