There is no denying the initial success of the Atlanta Beltline. A project that began as a graduate school paper at Georgia Tech, is now being taught and studied around the world. And we've only actually poured a few miles of concrete.
Therein lies my point: we don't know the true impact, yet. The neighborhoods on the Eastside Trial already had substantial momentum when construction began. There is no denying the Beltline provided a huge accelerant to explosive growth, but the biggest challenges are still ahead. Lifting a boat on a rising tide is a lot easier than one that's been stuck on the beach for a while.
If the Beltline is to be the transformative force Atlantans hope it is, it will have to produce similar and lasting results in neighborhoods that have struggled for decades. We will get our first clue this fall, when the Westside Trail opens. All early signs are positive, but lasting change has to produce vibrant, diverse environments, not just impressive returns for early property flippers.
An often ignored aspect of the original plan is transit. There was once supposed to be light-rail or street-car service along the entirety of the loop. Recent rumblings suggest this may not happen. Does this diminish the potential long-term impact or protect a beautiful band of urban greenspace?
Do you own a bicycle? Do you want to imagine something amazing? There are proposals circulating for funding that would connect the Beltline to Path 400 to the Silver Comet Trail (which runs all the way to Alabama). Imagine that...
What say you?