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Today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution published two opinion pieces, one by the Chairmen of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, and another by a representative of the Reason Foundation. You can read the piece by the Atlanta BeltLine chairmen here. The other piece, by Baruch Feigenbaum (which for some reason is not posted on the AJC’s website), is riddled with invective and falsehoods. To set the record straight, below are corrections to his misleading piece:
Falsehood: “Building trails and park space isn’t a viable economic development strategy.”
Fact: There has been more than $1 billion in private redevelopment within the BeltLine TAD since 2005. In the Atlanta BeltLine planning area (1/2 mile on either side of the rail corridor) there are more than 90 new developments either completed or in progress, representing more than 12,000 new residential units and 1,500,000 new non-residential square feet. Within a ½ mile of the Eastside Trail there has been $775 M in new private redevelopment complete or underway since 2005. In the immediate area around Historic Fourth Ward Park alone there are more than 1,300 new residential units completed or underway.
Falsehood: “Atlanta has many jobs, but few are near the Beltline”
Fact: More than 175,000 jobs within a ½ mile of the Atlanta BeltLine corridor and streetcar lines included on the Transportation Investment Act project list. (ARC analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data)
Falsehood: “Without quality schools and jobs nearby, you’ll have a few Beltline areas that are attractive to childless 20-somethings and empty nesters.”
Fact: Again – the market and demographic trends say differently. There has been more than $1 billion in new private redevelopment in the BeltLine TAD since 2005, and $775 million of private sector redevelopment either completed or underway within a half mile of the trail that has taken place since 2005. According to the ARC, 20-somethings (millenials) and empty nesters are the fastest growing segments of our population and prefer to live in walkable, transit-rich communities, like those developing around the Atlanta BeltLine. The schools near the Atlanta BeltLine include Inman Middle School, Grady High School, Morningside Elementary, John Hope Elementary, Maynard Jackson High School, Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Mary Lin Elementary, Booker T. Washington High School, and the Schools at Carver. More than 20 schools are located on or near the Atlanta BeltLine. Some of them are among the best performing in the city.
Falsehood: “…effective transit systems transport people from where they live to where they work, play and shop. The Beltline connects residential areas with other residential areas.”
Fact: The Atlanta BeltLine is spurring the creation of new, mixed-use districts, including residential and commercial development. It will also connect with the MARTA rail system and the Atlanta Streetcar network, getting people to and from the largest employment centers in the region. On the Atlanta BeltLine alone, it will connect job centers along 45 neighborhoods such as Piedmont Hospital and the Peachtree corridor.
Falsehood: “The BeltLine project has already cost taxpayers more than $260 million. In return, they’ve gotten wasteful expenses, a lack of accountability and an ill-conceived transit plan.”
Fact: The return on investment for the Atlanta BeltLine is more than $1 billion in private redevelopment in the Tax Allocation District alone. Additionally the project has saved the city millions of dollars on critical infrastructure projects. For example, the storm water lake at Historic Fourth Ward Park, originally projected to cost $40 million as a traditional tunnel-like facility, cost only $24 million as part of an Atlanta BeltLine greenspace.
Finally, this time-lapse photography by Chris Tilley from Atlanta Streets Alive shows in real time the transformational impact the Atlanta BeltLine is having, and the thousands of people that are now enjoying it.