It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of our friend and colleague, Catherine Owens, who passed unexpectedly on November 16, 2021. Catherine’s work life revolved around advancing trails, transit, and alternative transportation for Atlanta, both before, during, and after her 7+ year tenure at Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. Below we share her obituary.
Catherine Macpherson Owens
July 29, 1978 – November 16, 2021
Catherine Owens, remembered by many as the tall redhead who spoke at Atlanta Beltline public meetings, was beloved by so many in the Atlanta community and beyond. She embodied her passion for civil engineering through her advancement of Atlanta’s legacy of trails and alternate transportation. The majority of Catherine’s career centered around her work with the Atlanta BeltLine, and she often rode her bike on the trails to and from work. She was immersed in the Atlanta community and consistently positive, funny, enthusiastic, helpful, and determined in every interaction and with every project. Catherine enjoyed sharing wine with friends and offering up bear hugs when needed. She always made time for her friends and her gregarious laughter was contagious.
Catherine was born in Virginia Beach when her father was stationed at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, then moved around with the Navy before settling in Greensboro, North Carolina. Frequent family visits to New York City, Cincinnati and Southern Pines, NC, were a hallmark of family life, sparking an interest in cities and travel and no shortage of inside jokes.
Catherine showed an aptitude for mechanics and engineering from an early age. When things in the house would break, a young Catherine would fix them, driven by a curiosity about how things worked and a desire to make them work better.
Her approach to engineering – deeply informed by art and soul – took shape as early as high school. A summer study at Parson’s School of Design awakened a love of urban environments and an eye for their distinct beauty. She served for two years as a lead stage technician for an award-winning Ensemble Theater Company, building sets and running tech for the shows, going on stage herself only when forced. In summertime she attended Glory Ridge, a service camp sponsored by her church, and relished rebuilding Appalachian homes as much as she loved the spirit of the North Carolina Mountains.
Catherine attended the Georgia Institute of Technology and graduated in 2001 with a degree in Civil Engineering. Catherine was a talented and focused rower on the Georgia Tech crew team. She continued her successful rowing career with the Anacostia Rowing Club in Washington DC, and the Atlanta Rowing Club after graduation. Catherine was a founding member of the Georgia Tech Crew Alumni (GTCA). As a leader, she connected other alumni, organized events and ran fundraisers to support young rowers. She was warm and welcoming to novice and experienced rowers alike. Catherine was always up for a row, a run, a walk, or a beer with a teammate, their partners, and families. She was a true teammate, a leader, a colleague, and a friend.
On February 9th, 2008, Catherine married the love of her life, Nathan Koskovich. During their 13 years of marriage the couple lived in various neighborhoods in Atlanta, eventually buying a house in Kirkwood. They loved the convenience and culture they found in the city, walking and biking to museums, parks, restaurants, and Georgia Tech football games. Catherine in particular enjoyed the BeltLine Lantern Parade and the Comic Con Parade. In the evenings Nathan and Catherine enjoyed playing cribbage over take-out and listening to music. Wilco was a particular favorite of Catherine’s.
Their faithful dog Cluny passed away in December of 2020, but they adopted a new dog, Guernsey, a few months later.
After graduating she started her career with Simpson Gumpertz & Heger in Washington DC where she worked for 4 years on a host of projects including the renovation and preservation of historic buildings. In 2005 she joined the team at MACTEC where she would stay for 6 years working on some of the most catalytic projects in the Atlanta region including the Porche Cars North America and the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail.
The team at Atlanta BeltLine, Inc (ABI) was so impressed with the thoughtfulness of her work that they recruited her to join their team as the Senior Civil Engineer in 2012. Catherine would go on to become Principal Engineer and then Interim Program Director. Though initially nervous about public speaking, Catherine quickly commanded rooms of a hundred people or more. Whether speaking one-on-one or to a packed room, Catherine gave everyone her full attention and you could feel her enthusiasm. Her passion for the project transcended any fear of public speaking she may have had.
During her tenure at ABI, Catherine took on a variety of responsibilities. She oversaw the designs of the Westside Trail, the Southside Trail, and the Northeast Trail. As a result of her work, ABI was awarded an $18-million grant in 2013 to support the construction of the Westside Trail. On November 17, the day after her passing, it was announced that the Southside Trail had been awarded a $16.46-million Federal grant to support its implementation, a project in which she had been deeply involved.
Catherine was a driving force for transit along the BeltLine and involved in many of the studies to determine alignments and how to best integrate transit on the BeltLine with the City’s streetcar expansion plans. She played an active role in the preliminary design of the downtown streetcar’s eastern extension and along the eastside corridor of the BeltLine.
In addition to managing the design of corridor improvements, Catherine was heavily involved in the BeltLine Design Review Committee where she was able to use her expertise to review and make suggestions to help improve new developments around the BeltLine. She gave her time to review art proposals for Art on the BeltLine, oftentimes working with the artists themselves to ensure that the installations would be safe and durable. She was also a founding member of the City of Atlanta’s Green Infrastructure Task Force which helped change the way that the Atlanta handles its stormwater.
Catherine represented the BeltLine at numerous conferences nationally and was chosen to participate in a program in which she and other delegates from Atlanta traveled to Denmark and the Netherlands to see first-hand how bicycles were safely and effectively incorporated into city life. In 2018 she participated in the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership (IGEL) during which she made more lifelong friends and colleagues.
Over her career at ABI, the organization was awarded a prestigious Phoenix Award for Excellence in Brownfield Redevelopment for the Eastside Trail and Historic Fourth Ward Park (2015), the International Real Estate Federation-USA’s (FIABCI) Prix d’Excellence (2014), FIABCI’s Global Best Rehabilitation Project (2014), Atlanta Regional Commission’s Development of Excellence Award (2014), EPA’s Smart Growth Overall Excellence Award (2013), and most recently Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Project of the Decade as part of its 2020 Best in Atlanta Real Estate Awards. Catherine’s work and dedication played heavily into each of these accolades. Catherine herself was recognized as one of Engineering Georgia Magazine’s 100 Influential Women to Know in 2018.
Catherine was always encouraging and assisting other smart and capable women to succeed alongside her. She brought people up with her through her success.
After leaving ABI in 2019, she joined the team at HNTB where she used her talent to help shape an expanded Atlanta transit system via her work with MARTA.
Catherine’s passions included exceptional architecture, travel, Legos, her nieces and nephews, Liz Lemon, and the traditional Valentine’s Day dinner she and Nathan enjoyed every year at Eats.
She is survived by her husband Nathan Koskovich, her mother Janet Macpherson Owens, her father Dr. Bernard James Owens III, her brother, the Rev. Bernard J Owens IV and his wife, the Rev. Jo Nygard Owens, and niece and nephew Amelia Catherine and Graham Jameson Owens.