The following op-ed was originally published in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution on November 17, 2014 under the headline “Investors tout Beltline.”
Companies, foundations and philanthropic individuals are again stepping up to invest in the Atlanta Beltline because it is transforming our city. Ground was broken last week for the Westside Trail.
Private entities are partnering with Mayor Kasim Reed and the city of Atlanta, Georgia Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration to make an unprecedented $43 million investment in the west side. As we’ve seen elsewhere on the Beltline, this will help transform neighborhoods, draw investment and make our city more competitive, vibrant and sustainable.
The three-mile Westside Trail — a multi-use trail, greenway and foundation for future transit — will be built in the Beltline’s southwest corridor from University Avenue in Adair Park north to Lena Avenue at Washington Park. Wells Fargo’s contribution to the Atlanta Beltline Partnership capital campaign for the project followed a lead gift from the James M. Cox Foundation/ PATH Foundation, along with other corporate citizens such as Kaiser Permanente.
Together, we’re contributing $10 million to secure an $18 million TIGER V grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Beltline once more offers to public- and private-sector funders the opportunity to leverage each other’s investments to reconnect Atlanta. We’re able to combine resources that by themselves might seem small — our $500,000 contribution is just a piece of the puzzle — into something that will make a huge difference.
A few years from now, the Westside Trail will connect 10 neighborhoods, four schools and four parks. It promises, as we’ve seen elsewhere around the Beltline, to attract economic development to places like Murphy Crossing and the Kroger City Center. Above and beyond leveraging our investment with public-sector funds, we can look forward to attracting additional investment to these communities.
For Wells Fargo, this represents perfectly our intense local focus on the communities where we live and operate. And like our fellow philanthropic funders, it is important to us that — as with all Beltline implementation — the West-side Trail is happening for and with the residents of southwest Atlanta via a robust public engagement. It is equally significant that this next step for our city’s leading transformational program demonstrates the commitment to build the Belt-line equitably around the historic rail corridor.
We’ve all enjoyed being together in wonderful new public spaces. We’ve seen that when we build it, the investment will come. The Westside Trail will be a great win for everyone. It deserves the broad community support the Atlanta Beltline is receiving.
Mike Donnelly is Atlanta regional president for Wells Fargo.