A Groundbreaking Start
It’s been one of the Atlanta BeltLine’s most exciting years. Filled with progress and transformation made possible by tremendous support from our private and public funders and partners, the Atlanta BeltLine started 2014 off by breaking ground for the Eastside Trail Gateway on January 17, 2014. The Gateway Trail is an ADA-accessible path connecting Historic Fourth Ward Park to the Eastside Trail, bringing accessibility to the thousands of residents living around the park and the trail by connecting the two projects. (Spoiler alert – follow the progress in August!)
The Atlanta BeltLine’s Workforce Partnership in Healthcare received recognition from the White House as one of 35 model programs from across the country during the signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Led by the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, Grady Health System, and Atlanta CareerRise – the collaboration with New Hope Enterprises, the Center for Working Families, Atlanta Technical College, the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, and the Georgia Department of Labor provides residents from Atlanta BeltLine neighborhoods with the job readiness training, technical training, and coaching support needed to secure full-time employment in the healthcare industry. The program is part of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership’s larger-scale efforts to promote economic, social, and environmental benefits in Atlanta BeltLine communities.
In February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed with the Overall Excellence Award for Smart Growth Achievement for the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail and Historic Fourth Ward Park. As the highest national honor bestowed by the EPA, the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement is given for creative, sustainable initiatives that help protect the health and environment of our communities while also strengthening local economies. As EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney put it, “the Atlanta BeltLine has become a national model for smart growth.”
Volunteers gave generously this year, donating more than 5,500 hours of their time to the Atlanta BeltLine. Hundreds helped spread the word through festivals and the Speakers Bureau, thousands more volunteered with the Adopt-the-Atlanta BeltLine program, and dozens of organizations joined together to take ownership of maintaining segments of corridor. Special service projects such as the first Atlanta BeltLine Martin Luther King, Jr. Clean-Up Day and the annual Earth Day on the Atlanta BeltLine clean-up event gave the community more opportunities to engage the Atlanta BeltLine.
The Atlanta BeltLine is changing the way Atlantans think about health. In 2014, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership – along with 50+ partner organizations in Metro Atlanta – launched a movement to spark a fun culture of health and activity in Metro Atlanta. Together, we created a strategy to identify and remove barriers to healthy living, measure outcomes of our programming and brand the Atlanta BeltLine as a destination for better health.
As a component of the Atlanta BeltLine health initiative, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership expanded its free fitness program in January 2014. These free fitness classes include a range of fitness levels, and provide a great opportunity to get fit on the Atlanta BeltLine. Programs and classes include Aerobics, How to Ride a Bike for Kids and Adults, Walk and Talk with a Doc, ElliptiGO classes, group runs, Play Day for kids and adults, and much more.
The Atlanta BeltLine is tremendously grateful for the continued support from the private community. In the spring, the James M. Cox Foundation made a $5 million lead gift to the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership’s $12.5 million capital campaign that provided critical local funds for the Westside Trail and inspired generous contributions from Atlanta’s corporate and philanthropic communities. The Westside Trail is a three-mile multi-use path in the Atlanta BeltLine’s southwest corridor that will create more than 30 new acres of inviting and useable landscaping, and will connect four schools and four public parks. The private support received also helped the Atlanta BeltLine secure an $18 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which will cover 42 percent of the $43 million project cost and expedite construction of the trail by 2-3 years.
The Atlanta BeltLine also received the Prix d’Excellence Award for Historic Fourth Ward Park and the Eastside Trail from the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) in May. This award recognized the Atlanta BeltLine as the best environmental rehabilitation project in the world, and was the first international award for the Atlanta BeltLine. Historic Fourth Ward Park and the Eastside Trail were picked by an international jury comprised of top real estate professionals and experts, and were awarded the Prix based on overall merit, not just aesthetics, functionality or size.
This year, the Atlanta BeltLine prepared to formally move into Environmental Assessments (EA) for transit along the East and West sides of the corridor. Through a series of meetings in which the community provided feedback, potential transit routes were narrowed down to the options that are being evaluated in the EA process. EAs determined how transit will connect to MARTA rail and the potential impact on noise, the environment, and social equity. The EAs should be completed in summer 2015.
The community was thrilled when the Edgewood Avenue Bridge over the Atlanta BeltLine corridor reopened to vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic in early April. The original bridge was over 100 years old, and the newly-constructed bridge provides ramp and stair connections to the Atlanta BeltLine. The reopening of the bridge will significantly improve connectivity between Inman Park and the Old Fourth Ward neighborhoods.
The 2014 Atlanta BeltLine Running Series was a great success, with more than 3,000 runners and walkers participating in the races and run clubs. The series features four races along different sections of the corridor. The Northside 5K routes runners and walkers through Collier Hills and Ardmore Park; the Southwest 5K route runs through some of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods in West End and Westview; the rigorous Southeast 8K travels through Grant Park and Chosewood Park; while the Eastside 10K is based along the Eastside Trail. Monthly Run Clubs offered runners the opportunity to stay active and enjoy festive post-race gatherings with fellow runners.
Summertime on the Atlanta BeltLine
In June, over 500 cyclists joined the sold-out 7th Annual Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle Tour and coasted through 45 Atlanta neighborhoods while tracing the current and proposed Atlanta BeltLine corridor. The tour is presented by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition with support from the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and is expected to increase in size in 2015.
Design plans were completed for the North Avenue Plaza, which will function as a public space immediately adjacent to the Ponce City Market development. The project is a product of a partnership between Jamestown (the Ponce City Market developers) and the Atlanta BeltLine, and is partially funded by a Federal Transportation, Community, and System Preservation (TCSP) grant. Sustainable planting on the plaza will include a bio-retention area and a native grass meadow.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded one of 66 “Our Town” grants to the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. The $100,000 grant will be utilized to advance design on the Atlanta BeltLine Reynoldstown Stage, which will combine a permanent stage structure, a landscaped exhibit space, and an elevated greenspace connection with spectacular views of the city skyline. The Reynoldstown Stage design project will be managed by Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., and will potentially be a community destination on a site with unique topography and cultural value. The proposal was based on a partnership with Georgia Tech professor Tristan Al-Haddad and his students.
Art on the Atlanta BeltLine was recognized by the Harlem Fine Arts Show with the 2014 Arts and Community Award. The award honors projects that employ art as a community builder, and Art on the Atlanta BeltLine was honored at the 2014 National Black Arts Festival. Art on the Atlanta BeltLine also received a “Best of Atlanta Award” from Atlanta Magazine for the best Public Art Display.
In August, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership launched an innovative fundraising campaign that offers supporters the opportunity to own a piece of the original rail that once lined the Atlanta BeltLine – while helping build its future. The campaign was launched with the support of Nebo (an Atlanta based digital marketing agency), and is limited to 1,000 of these hand-crafted pieces.
The Eastside Trail Gateway was opened to the public in August, just eight months after the initial groundbreaking in January. Funded entirely by private donations, the highly-anticipated connection links the Eastside Trail to Historic Fourth Ward Park.
The Atlanta BeltLine unveiled a smartphone app, allowing fans and visitors to engage with the Atlanta BeltLine in new, exciting ways. Free and available for download from the iTunes store and Google Play, thousands of users are using the app to locate parks, trails, access points, art, transit, and even parking using the interactive map feature. A featured tool is a trip-planning function that permits users to plan a trip on the Atlanta BeltLine’s paved and/or unpaved trails, and people can access information about tours, health and fitness, Art on the Atlanta BeltLine, and more.
Lighting Up Atlanta
The Lantern Parade kicked off the 2014 Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibit in grand fashion with over 20,000 participants. The Eastside Trail was lit up with the glow of lanterns as participants and spectators celebrated the 5th year of Art on the Atlanta BeltLine. During this momentous year, the annual exhibition featured more than 100 projects over nearly 8 miles of the Atlanta BeltLine, and included three performance weekends that brought out hundreds of attendees.
The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership purchased a natural gas-powered tour bus, which includes an ADA compliant lift and wheelchair accessibility, an improved audio visual system, CO2 emission reductions of 13- 21%, and an Atlanta BeltLine-branded bus wrap. The Ford F-650 tour bus was made possible through contributions from Tenth and Monroe, LLC, and SunTrust Bank Trusteed Foundations – Florence C. and Harry L. English Memorial Fund and Thomas Guy Woolford Charitable Trust, and AGL Resources, and will enable the program to run at a significantly lower cost of operation.
In October, Historic Fourth Ward Park received the 2014 Brownfield Renewal Award for Sustainability Impact. This award was presented by Brownfield Renewal, an industry publication dedicated to the remediation, redevelopment, and reuse of brownfields. Over 12 acres of contaminated soil were cleaned in the development of Historic Fourth Ward Park. The park is now a 17 acre greenspace that includes a 2 acre lake that also acts as stormwater detention.
A Strong Finish
The Atlanta BeltLine celebrated another milestone on November 12, 2014 with the groundbreaking of the Westside Trail. Over 500 community members, elected officials, donors, members of the media, and supporters came out to celebrate construction beginning on the $43 million multi-use corridor. The 3 mile Westside Trail will run from University Avenue in Adair Park north to Lena Avenue at Washington Park.
In November, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership appointed Chuck Meadows as the Executive Director. Meadows grew up in Washington Park (an Atlanta BeltLine neighborhood on the west side) before graduating from Morehouse College and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He will step down from his post as President of Jim Adams LLC, an urban agriculture social enterprise, and become chairman of the board. Prior to the Jim Adams launch, Meadows served at the Metro Atlanta Chamber as Vice President Public Policy.
Stay tuned in 2015!
The year of 2014 was dynamic for the Atlanta BeltLine, as the year began with the Eastside Trail Gateway groundbreaking and ended with the Westside Trail groundbreaking. With the Eastside Trail expected to have nearly 1 million visitors this year, the construction of the Westside Trail is a significant milestone that will add another 3 miles of in-corridor trail for Atlanta BeltLine visitors to explore.
There is no shortage of ways for you to plug in and enjoy the Atlanta BeltLine and help bring the vision to life. Get involved today – donate, volunteer, engage, and learn! We have many great things planned for 2015 – join us!
You can also take advantage of volunteer opportunities or the Adopt-the-Atlanta-BeltLine-program. To stay current on all Atlanta BeltLine progress, check our website and blog regularly! And, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@atlantabeltline).