Two weeks ago, the International Real Estate Federation recognized the Atlanta BeltLine with the International Prix d ‘Excellence as the Best Environmental Rehab Project in the World.
Earlier this year, the BeltLine project won the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Overall Excellence Award for Smart Growth Achievement, the highest national honor bestowed by the EPA. The award recognizes “creative, sustainable initiatives that help protect the health and environment of our communities while strengthening local economies”.
The Atlanta BeltLine, one of the US’ largest urban redevelopment projects, will connect 45 intown neighborhoods, create a network public parks, multi-use trails, and light-rail transit along a historic 22-mile railroad corridor. The project is the brain-child of architect Ryan Gravel, who wrote his Georgia Tech Master’s Thesis about the project which was later to help Atlanta transform from being the poster child for urban sprawl to an example for hope, sustainability, and good urban design for cities all over the world.
Already completed, are four trail segments [the Eastside Trail, Northside Trail, Southwest Connector Trail, and West End Trail], four new or renovated parks including the spectacular 17-acre Historic Fourth Ward Park, transformed from a low, contaminated site in the north Old 4th Ward into a massive sustainable redevelopment. The park disguises its flood protection and stormwater overflow solutions. A world-class skatepark as well as a playground and athletic field has been constructed as well. New luxury and affordable housing have been built along the corridor. New events include the Atlanta BeltLine Running Series and Art on the Atlanta BeltLine which have enlivened many neighborhoods in Atlanta.
More than eight hundred people attended an awards banquet in Luxembourg’s largest music venue located on a converted brownfield, a steel factory site– the perfect location to recognize the Atlanta BeltLine as the Best Environmental Rehabilitation Project in the World.
Kasim Reed, mayor of Atlanta, points out the project’s remarkable return on investment: “The success and impact of the Atlanta BeltLine is a story of national significance with a three to one ROI to date. The EPA has been a critical partner in our efforts and we are grateful for their partnership and the support of President Obama’s administration.”
The James M. Cox Foundation has just given a $5 million grant to develop the WestSide Trail next.
Plans call for a three-mile-long, 14-foot-wide concrete multi-use path in the BeltLine’s southwest corridor. A Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the US Department of Transportation is covering 42% of the Westside project cost.
The Westside Trail will connect four schools and four parks. Area residents and visitors will enjoy 40 acres of new green space, populated by hundreds of native trees. Planners have incorporated 14 points of entry, and 11 of these will be ADA-accessible. Lighting, security cameras, and mile markers have all been budgeted as well. Construction will begin in the latter half of this year, and it is expected to take about 18 months.