The Centennial Group of Cobb/Cherokee/North Fulton
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The Centennial Group
of Cobb/Cherokee/North Fulton

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Urban/Suburban Makeover

The Atlanta Beltline Tour

On Saturday, June 6, 2009, approximately 15 members of the Centennial Group took a tour of the proposed Atlanta Beltline. Although the tour took place a year ago, the issues involved are still quite relevant, and indeed, still in the public eye.

This ambitious, ongoing project is regarded as one of the most comprehensive economic development efforts ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta. The BeltLine will combine greenspace, trails, transit, and new development along 22 miles of historic rail segments that encircle the urban core. Much of the project will make use of the existing infrastructure, some of which dates from the late 1860s.

On parts of the tour, it was apparent that some very attractive urban refitted properties have been developed. This type of development could serve as a template for Atlanta and its suburbs; ideally, moderate density suitable to support light rail transit.

The hope is that, once finished, the Beltline project would contribute significantly to the tax base of the city of Atlanta. The plan is to use estimated tax receipts for up front funding for the project. At the same time 1300 acres of new green space would be developed, all linked with a trail system for pedestrians and bikers. In addition, at various points along the way, the Beltline will be linked with Marta and even Amtrak.

Work and planning continues on this long-term project and tours are still being given. Why not plan to take a tour yourself, or better yet, with a group. Then you can see firsthand how the Beltline will impact so many different aspects of life in Atlanta, from our environment, transportation, to jobs and the economy.

Click here for more details on the Beltline project itself.

Extreme Makeover - Suburban Style

Members of the Centennial Group after touring the proposed Atlanta Beltline


The most surprising aspect of the tour was the Bellwood Quarry. Situated on the West Side of Atlanta, the Bellwood Quarry was until recently, a working operation, providing crusher run and gravel for suppliers to the construction industry.

As part of the Beltline project, the quarry would have a new life as a reservoir for drinking water for the city of Atlanta, holding up to a 30-day supply!

Tour Guide Heather discussing the plans for the Bellwood Quarry.


Photos courtesy of Carina O'Bara.

The 3-hour guided tour is given every Friday and Saturday morning, leaving from the Inman Park MARTA station. Heather, our tour guide, did a fantastic job explaining the concept of the Beltline, its history and planning, and the economic impact that the local neighborhoods and indeed, the entire region can reap from the development of the Beltline.

From the Georgia Sierran

You pass them on your daily commute, or when picking the kids up from soccer, or jogging in the early morning. Maybe you can even see them from your living room window. Or worse, maybe they have gotten so ubiquitous that you no longer notice them at all.
Abandoned strip malls, dead or dying shopping centers, empty big box stores all seem to increasingly be part of the landscape.

In their book Retrofitting Suburbia, Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson highlight a number of projects around the country, and here in Georgia, where abandoned or dying properties have been re-imagined, reengineered, and revitalized. By taking advantage of the already existing infrastructure and convenient locations, developers and local governments have morphed dead-end properties into mixed-use, efficient, pedestrian/commuter friendly, vibrant communities.
Designs are generally open, encouraging pedestrian traffic, which in turn, means less car traffic for shopping areas. Working in the same, pedestrian-friendly community as you live means fewer vehicles on the roads.

And finally, creating a live/work area where people can walk on a regular basis can foster a strong sense of community and civic pride, emotions that seem to be lacking many places where people are overwhelmed by suburban sprawl. In her presentation to the Centennial Group on April 2, Dunham-Jones showed a number of high-profile successful transformations, including some in metro Atlanta.

Projects like Atlantic Station, Lindbergh City Center, the Beltline, and Smyrna Village Green and Market Village, all have their own individual objectives and characteristics. What they have in common is a determination to make things better in terms of maximizing land use while minimizing some of the pitfalls of the current urban/suburban paradigm.

Centennial Group is taking a look at these projects, beginning with a Beltline tour on June 6 and a walk through Smyrna’s West Village, Ivy Walk, and Market Village/Town Center on June 28. We are pleased to have Liza Mueller and others from the Congress for the New Urbanism guide us through these projects. For dates and details on future trips (as well as a more extensive write up on this issue), please see the Centennial Group website.

Click here to read the full article that this was excerpted from.