This year we’re adjusting the format of quarterly briefings to include new features with a focus on current topics of concern to Atlanta BeltLine residents and citizens as we build the Atlanta BeltLine. The feature of the first Quarterly Briefing of 2017 included a panel discussion on affordable living in urban centers, examining the challenges and solutions both locally and nationally. The panel addressed the strategies and programs that are being used to increase affordable workforce housing development and how we can all work together.
Preceding the panel discussion Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. provided the community and stakeholders with updates on the progress of the Atlanta BeltLine since the last quarter. To date, public and private investment into the Atlanta BeltLine project totals $447 million. This spending has helped fuel the economic development on and around the corridor to the tune of $3.7 billion as of the end of 2016. Though the most visible return on this investment appears as the 8.7 miles of trail opened to date, much progress has been made on the planning stages of transit. As part of the work toward bringing light rail transit to the Atlanta BeltLine, ABI is in the process of submitting four transportation corridors to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), totaling 16 miles.
Other major updates included the construction of the Westside Trail and phase I of the Eastside Trail extension. Both trails are due to open this year and are currently being paved, as most of the underground infrastructure has been completed. Bells and whistles such as vertical connections, sidewalk improvements, and lighting will be added as appropriate before opening. The Southside Trail is now in design, with more community engagement forthcoming.
Art on the Atlanta BeltLine has reached its eighth year and claims the title of the largest public art exhibition in the south. The call for artists for the fall exhibition is open until May 1. In 2016, more than 75,000 people attended the Lantern Parade, the opening ceremony for the exhibition. Other public art projects in the works focus on historical preservation and placemaking, such as the Reynoldstown Stage, which is in the design phase. You can see all the ABI updates from the presentation here.
The next segment of the meeting was focused on housing, prefaced by a brief update from ABI Housing Policy & Development Director James Alexander. Moderator Sameera Fazili of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta gave a comprehensive overview of the status of affordable housing nationally and locally. With affordability a priority in building the Atlanta BeltLine, ABI is committing more than $18 million in affordable housing dollars over the next three years. Presently, more than 335 units of affordable housing are in development on the Atlanta BeltLine.
The majority of the housing discussion centered on the panel which included:
- David Jackson, Deputy Executive Director of Atlanta BeltLine Partnership
- Valerie Bernardo, Director of City of Atlanta Housing & Community Development
- Catherine Buell, President and CEO of Atlanta Housing Authority
- James Alexander, Housing Policy & Development Director of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.
- Dillon Banes, Managing Partner of Columbia Ventures, LLC
The discussion allowed the opportunity for expert opinions on affordability in Atlanta, and also presented the work ABI and ABP are doing to ensure affordability around the project. You can view both the ABI presentation and the panel’s opening remarks as recorded on Facebook Live. You can also see the entire panel discussion here.