Envisioning More Green Space in Atlanta with a Park-Capped Highway

March 11,2019

Adina Solomon, Urban Land

While Atlanta has grown rapidly in the last decade, the downtown area lacks green space. A ULI Advisory Services panel was asked to study a proposal to build a highway lid that would provide park space downtown.

The panel of nine national experts in real estate, land use, design, transportation, and finance visited Atlanta in late February to give advice on the funding, planning, and development of the proposal for “the Stitch.” The panel presented its recommendations in March at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. (View the presentation.)

“The quality of experience of downtown—our human experience of place—is an incredibly important piece of economic development strategies,” said James Lima, chair of the panel and president of James Lima Planning + Development of New York City. “Your opportunity and almost imperative in thinking about the Stitch is to imagine it as an equitable and resilient community, anchored by a world-class park and, in doing that, creating a district that is economically resilient, socially resilient, and environmentally resilient.”

The panel’s visit is part of the 10-Minute Walk Campaign, a national movement to ensure that residents in cities across the United States have access to high-quality parks within a 10-minute walk of their neighborhoods.

Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), a community development nonprofit organization, initiated the Stitch plan. The concept envisions building a three-quarter-mile (1.2 km) freeway platform, spanning the Interstate-75/85 Downtown Connector, to connect the downtown area. It would also add 14 acres (5.7 ha) of green space. The Stitch’s platform would extend from the Civic Center MARTA rail station to Piedmont Avenue.

The panel proposed concentrating on the Stitch’s park from the Civic Center on Piedmont Avenue to the MARTA station. This cap is projected to cost $185 million, with the entire Stitch costing $452 million. The panel recommended first focusing on the cap, which has more manageable funding goals. The initial project has a proposed schedule of four years for pre-development and six years to build out the Stitch.

Many panelists compared the project with Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, a park built over Woodall Rodgers Freeway, that opened in 2012.

As downtown Atlanta develops, having connected infrastructure is important, said Wei Huang, one of the Advisory Services panelists and founder of Novus Real Estate in Glendale, California.

“There’s a lot of things going on in downtown,” she said. “However, during this growth momentum, is the downtown ready? There needs to be [improvements on] a lot of the infrastructure to make it a more walkable and livable and more connected city.”

Read the complete article at the link above.