Years of planning, engineering, designing, and construction are over for the first Atlanta BeltLine trail segment actually built on the abandoned rail right-of-way. On October 15th, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Cox Enterprises Chairman Jim Kennedy, and Kaiser Permanente President Kerry Kohnen helped dedicate the Eastside BeltLine Trail from Piedmont Park to Irwin Street with over two hundred neighbors and supporters in attendance.
Mayor Reed told the crowd the economic impact to the City of Atlanta is undeniable. “Over $775 million in new, private development has already occurred or is underway within a half-mile of this trail,” he said. The trail is expected to entice even more residential, retail, and office development along the corridor as people seek a more pedestrian/bicycle friendly lifestyle.
Jim and Sarah Kennedy understood the importance of this project early on, contributing $2.5 million to the Eastside Trail through the PATH Foundation. Jim said this project was “the single greatest project of its kind in the country.” Jim has served as co-chairman of the campaign to raise money from the private sector for several years. He was instrumental in convincing Kaiser Permanente to match his and Sarah’s gift, resulting in $5 million from the private sector for construction of the Eastside Trail.
The trail is already fully populated with casual and commuter cyclists, joggers, strolling families, and dog walkers. People are fascinated by the ease of traveling from Inman Park to Piedmont Park. Many say it is quicker to bike or jog between the two than it is to drive their cars and look for a place to park.
In late October Trees Atlanta, another BeltLine partner, began installing over 600 trees along the corridor. In early November PATH crews began removing silt fencing and erosion control devices as disturbed areas began to stabilize. Improvements to the intersection of 10th and Monroe began in early November to provide a safe trail crossing into the park. Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) continues to work to provide additional trail amenities, artwork, and fitness stations along the trail.
ABI has already started planning for additions and extensions to the Eastside Trail. A connection to Old Fourth Ward Park is anticipated during 2013 as well as design for an extension of the trail south to I-20 and Glenwood Park. For a complete update on BeltLine activity, go to http://www.beltline.org.