It’s no big secret that we’re big fans of the BeltLine here. It gleams like a beacon of hope, saying, “hey, Atlanta, we don’t necessarily have to be a poorly-planned stuck-in-your-car city with a desolate urban core! We can be vibrant and new and young and glorious!” The BeltLine symbolizes everything we love about the new intown Atlanta milieu. Sure, it’s kind of a hipster thing and certainly a formidable undertaking, but it is so exciting to have something like this happening in our town.
Well, it turns out that other folks agree. This week, Kaid Benfield, director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote an article for The Atlantic calling the Atlanta BeltLine “the country’s most ambitious smart growth project.” Those are big words.
The BeltLine is such an enormous and comprehensive undertaking that it can’t help but be ambitious. Much more than just trails and the (gorgeous) Historic Fourth Ward Park, if it succeeds, the BeltLine will revolutionize transportation, lifestyle, and the economy in Atlanta. In the article, Benfield most particularly expresses hope for the BeltLine’s future, particularly the implementation of transit strategies and the revitalization of some of the more troubled communities that will come as a result of the BeltLine. Which makes sense…after all, in a moment where MARTA is increasingly struggling for funding and community development has slowed somewhat due to the recession, the BeltLine is a crucial part of retaking intown for the future. Benfield also points us to this gorgeous, comic-book-styled “humanist” envisioning of the BeltLine’s future that must be seen: Willa’s Wonderland: Through the Belt Loops.
The article ends thusly: “I am rooting hard for this massive, incredibly complex project. You should, too: If it succeeds, it will create an incredible model not just for Atlanta, but for cities around the world.”
So are we.