Kim Wilson: Shaping the Future of Atlanta, One Trail Segment at a Time

Kim Wilson, Vice President of Design and Construction at Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., on the trail.

At the helm of Atlanta’s most transformative urban redevelopment project, Kim Wilson stands as a force in the City’s design and construction field. As the Atlanta BeltLine’s Vice President of Design and Construction, she drives the mission to transform the historic 22-mile railway corridor into a vibrant network of trails, greenspaces, and a foundation for future transit.

Wilson’s passion for the project isn’t simply as an executive; it’s personal. Having grown up in a family committed to commuting alternatives, she envisions a city where these alternatives are a way of life. This passion motivates not just Wilson, but also the team she leads. “I have an exceptional team at the BeltLine,” she says. “I’m just the point of the spear.” It’s this spear, a blend of determination and strategic prowess, that’s pushing the BeltLine towards an ambitious milestone: 85% completion or under construction by the end of 2024.

Wilson’s focus on transit extends beyond simply creating space for future implementation. The BeltLine team actively coordinates key integration points for future transit while designing the trail. This approach streamlines future transit implementation along the BeltLine corridor, minimizing disruption and maximizing the project’s value to Atlanta’s residents.

“Whenever possible, we’re preserving space for future transit and proactively preparing infrastructure,” Wilson shares, “like at United Avenue where we’re completely rebuilding the bridge foundations to accommodate both the trail and transit.”

Wilson’s drive for meaningful impact fueled her decision to join the BeltLine. Her previous role as Associate Director of Construction Services at Georgia Tech, overseeing capital projects, honed her expertise. Yet, a desire for community-focused work, coupled with personal health considerations when she was diagnosed with kidney disease, led her to the BeltLine. “I wanted to do something really meaningful that would make a difference in the world.”

Wilson’s style of leadership provides a critical foundation, as she explains, “I think my real strength is bringing structure and organization to a team, which is crucial for a project as complex as the BeltLine.” However, she marries this with tenacity: “I’m also like a dog with a bone. I want something done, I want to deliver it, I’m going to deliver it. I’m very mission-driven, and this is a project with a very clear mission: a 22-mile loop before 2030.”

Kim on her first jobsite, working on a community center to provide medical services. The jobsite signs are hand painted, with children from the community helping mount them.

But it isn’t just about trails and infrastructure; Wilson sees the BeltLine reshaping Atlanta itself. Her emphasis on Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) speaks to a desire for inclusive economic impact: “I’ve also become extremely passionate about [DBEs], and making sure that the money coming from the community is going back into the community… I try to maintain that daily awareness of asking the question, is there a way we can engage a DBE on this?

Wilson may work in a male-dominated field, but she credits supportive male mentors and colleagues. “I’ve been working in the field since 1992. Very often, I’ve been the only woman. But I’ve never not been treated as a peer and an equal by the men I worked with,” Wilson reflects, “I’ve had male bosses who championed me and coached me along the way. I’ve been very blessed in that way.”

She also acknowledges the real challenges of balancing work and family within a demanding profession: “Construction as a profession is very difficult for parents – whether they’re female or male. Sometimes you’re onsite six days a week. Sometimes that means out of town, or hours from your house. The industry requires long hours. Those have been some of my biggest challenges – being a parent in this profession.”

Kim and her family at the BeltLine Lantern Parade in 2014 with their homemade lanterns.

Wilson offers a refreshingly honest perspective on the illusion of perfection – especially for those juggling careers, families, and personal aspirations. “When you have competing demands,” she cautions, “let go of your perfectionism. Realize that everything is just a phase in your life. Something’s gotta give. The house may not be tidy. The laundry may not be done. You may have to compromise your standards in some areas.”

Kim speaking with other attendees at the Westside Trail Segment 4 Groundbreaking.

As far as managing big demands, Wilson reflects on a few from her work on the BeltLine. The BeltLine’s Northwest and Northeast Trail design proved especially challenging, requiring creative solutions for weaving the trail through complex terrain where there is not an abandoned rail line, and the need for long span bridges. Wilson, proud of her team’s progress on completing the design this year (and getting the first section of the Northwest Trail out to bid), emphasizes audacious thinking for this permanent infrastructure project: “Think big, get the right solution – we only get one shot at this, so let’s not compromise.”

As this legacy project’s finish line comes into focus, Wilson reflects on the journey: “What’s exciting to me is that when I came on board four and half years ago, I couldn’t see the finish line, but now I can. In fact, I’m so confident about it that I sent out an invite to the entire company for a bike ride around the 22-mile loop. I can see it – the path, the pieces, the right team in place, the funding… it’s all coming together.”



A note on International Women’s Day and Women in Construction Week: This feature celebrates the accomplishments of Kim Wilson without explicitly focusing on gender. It recognizes her journey within a male-dominated field while highlighting the strengths that make her an exceptional leader.

One thought on “Kim Wilson: Shaping the Future of Atlanta, One Trail Segment at a Time Join the discussion below

  1. I am amazed and honored to be a part of Kim Wilson’s team and the organization that has recognized her spirit and accomplishments so eloquently in this feature article! Go BeltLine, keep up the good work for “The People’s Project”!

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