Q: What should we expect with the opening of the Westside Trail? How will its success compare to the eastside?
(faq.) A: The communities on Atlanta’s eastside are benefitting directly and immensely from the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail. But the improvements that are so visible today – revitalized neighborhood economies, growing businesses, new housing, and retail – are built on investments and changes that began long before the Atlanta Beltline came to life. The Inman Park neighborhood, for example, started its turnaround back in the 1970s and Piedmont Park began its dramatic restoration in the early 1990s. As the City of Atlanta began to see renewed population growth in the late 1990s, eastside neighborhoods were among the first to benefit. Loft conversions, grocery stores, school improvements, and institutional investments helped to stimulate an economy through the early 2000s that lifted the Atlanta Beltline to life as a strategy to manage that growth. In this way, the Eastside Trail has been an amplifier and accelerator for change, making big investments like Ponce City Market possible on a timetable that fits within our lifespan.
In contrast, Atlanta’s westside and southside neighborhoods experienced a steeper and longer period of economic decline in the second half of the twentieth century and have more recently turned the corner toward a robust and steady revitalization. The Atlanta Beltline will also play a significant role as instigator, amplifier, and accelerator here. But because it is one of the first major investments many of these communities have seen in decades, our expectations for the timeframe of their economic recovery should be measured. There’s no doubt that as the Westside Trail opens and the Southside corridor is acquired over the next couple of years, they will both catalyze positive change in the neighborhoods along the way, and that over time those changes will be both dramatic and enduring. The question is how quickly this happens, what other investments are needed, and if the people of west and south Atlanta are able to participate in this story and benefit from this change. I believe they can, but it will require a deliberate and sustained effort from those of us that care. >> Ryan Gravel
This is my response to a question I get asked a lot. It in no way represents any official statement on behalf of the various agencies, organizations, or individuals responsible for implementing the Atlanta Beltline. Last updated on September 27, 2014. See other questions here.
Comments are fine, but I’d rather talk about action – preferably over a beer somewhere like Manuel’s Tavern.