Free BeltLine bus tour illuminates Atlanta’s bright future

The BeltLine project is pretty much the biggest thing happening in Atlanta right now.  In fact, it’s actually the largest urban redevelopment project currently happening in the country.   So, about a month ago, when I saw the Facebook post come through announcing that March tour dates had opened for the FREE Atlanta BeltLine bus tour, I immediately went to the website and reserved two seats.   If I remember correctly, by the following day, the March tours were booked.  (PS – the April dates that opened last week are booked as well.  Like the BeltLine on Facebook to make sure you are alerted when May dates open!  New dates open on the 15th of each month for tours the following month.)

This past Friday morning, a colleague and I boarded the luxury, air conditioned tour bus at 9:30am at the Inman Park Marta station and met our tour guide, Derek Duckworth, a realtor and big time BeltLine enthusiast.   Derek greeted the group and we set off on our drive through 45 Intown neighborhoods along the 22-mile BeltLine Corridor.

The BeltLine bus tour runs for three hours and is led by one of six tour guides who have great familiarity with the project.   There are two breaks – including one bathroom break and one stop at the Bellwood Quarry – a stunningly beautiful 450-foot-deep quarry three miles from downtown – who knew?   We got lucky and requested a third stop at the fantastic new Historic Fourth Ward Park.   You can see photos and descriptions of the amazing Bellwood Quarry and the park below.

90% of the tour takes place on the bus as there is a lot of ground to cover – 22 miles and 45 neighborhoods to be exact!   Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, Ormewood Park, Peoplestown, Adair Park, Westview, Washington Park, Bankhead, Berkeley Park and Collier Hills – the tour takes you through every one of them.    And in the not so distant future, 21st century rail transit and a parallel network of trails will do the same.  It’s pretty amazing.

Derek filled every minute of the tour with information about the project – how neighborhoods have embraced it, how it is being funded by the use of a tax allocation district, how affordable housing is included, how it will connect with the Atlanta Streetcar project, how the environment has been taken in to consideration, and so much more.  It was literally a flood of information.   He also pointed out many of the neighborhoods and schools we passed and identified the sites for future parks.   Several realtors participated in our tour so Derek spoke some about the great opportunities for those looking to purchase property along the BeltLine.   We also passed several apartment complexes and mixed use developments already located directly on the Beltline Corridor including some of our very own IntownAPARTMENTS communities such as:  Apex West Midtown, N. Highland Steel, Highland Walk, and Highland View.

Derek also provided some background on the project, including its beginnings as a 1999 Georgia Tech thesis from then student, Ryan Gravel, and its goals:

  • to help people move about the city without increasing traffic – BeltLine users will be 2-3 miles from downtown Atlanta at all times and there are 47 schools within walking proximity to the BeltLine
  • to address unequal development around the city
  • to reconnect 45 neighborhoods
  • to increase green space (the project adds nearly 1,300 acres of new parks and green space)
  • overall, to build Atlanta socially, culturally and economically

Admittedly, as the project is still in its infancy, you do have to use your imagination some to envision how the BeltLine will look as it comes to life over the next 3, 5 and even 10 years.  There’s currently no transit system (though our guide mentioned this could be just a short 3-5 years away), and just a few sprinklings of parks and trails, but what you do see is the enormous potential for what this project will do for Atlanta.   The BeltLine is a roughly 25-year project.  We are just in year five and so much has already been accomplished.

Here are some highlights from the tour.

Tour bus

Bus left promptly at 9:30 am – don’t be late! Our guide pointed out that there are usually one or two no shows (for anyone who wants to try to get a seat the day of the tour.)

Tour guide

Our tour guide, Derek Duckworth, in action.

Tour packet

At the start of the tour, each of us received a packet of maps and other BeltLine information.

Train tracks

Much of the BeltLine project still looks like this, but just you wait…

D.H. Stanton Park

…It also looks like this! D.H. Stanton Park in Southeast Atlanta is a brand new, first generation BeltLine park. The park is “cost neutral” and includes solar panels for energy.

Art on the Beltline

This mural on White St., in the southwest section of the BeltLine, is part of the Art on the BeltLine project and marks the start of the future 33-mile pedestrian trail. It also marks the beginning of a first-of-its-kind linear tree arboretum being planted by Trees Atlanta.

Bellwood Quarry
The Bellwood Quarry (yes, this photo was taken 3 miles from downtown Atlanta) will be the centerpiece of a park that could be as large as 300 acres, making it Atlanta’s largest park and water feature. For comparison, Grant Park is 131 acres and Piedmont Park is 185 acres. The quarry will also serve as a backup water supply for the city.
Historic Fourth Ward Park
Beautiful Historic Fourth Ward Park with the future Ponce City Market (formerly City Hall East) in the background.
Historic Fourth Ward Park

Playground at Historic Fourth Ward Park.

We’ve written about the BeltLine a bunch, but if you’re reading this post and hearing about it for the first time, or if you simply want to know more, I highly recommend heading over to the extremely comprehensive Atlanta BeltLine website to learn about the project’s history, where it stands currently, and the plan for the development that will happen over the next several years.   Exciting stuff, people.

One thought on “Free BeltLine bus tour illuminates Atlanta’s bright future

  1. Wow, I was born and raised in Atlanta. 600 Boulevard is where it all bagan. My Mom had a business on Grant St. at Miledge. This is so awesome. I am so excited for this project. I am hoping to someday take the tour. Thank you so much.

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