'The Stitch' seeks to bridge the divide created by the Downtown Connector

March 4,2019

Maria Saporta, Saporta Report

Ever since the Atlanta region began carving the city apart with highways in the 1950s and 1960s, civic leaders have explored ways to reconnect the disjointed areas by bridging over our interstates.

In 1981, the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson was about to end his second term in office. President Jimmy Carter, who had just lost re-election, was looking for the right place to build his presidential library.

Jackson made an ambitious proposal. He urged the former president to build the Carter Library and the Carter Center on top of the Downtown Connector – bridging communities that had been destroyed by the construction of the freeway. Instead of heeding that advice, Carter decided to build on land that had been set aside for the defeated Stone Mountain Tollway.

But he needed automobile access to the Carter Center, so that reopened the painful debate that resulted in the building of the Presidential Parkway. Once again, the anti-road activists were pitted against those wanting to build a parkway to serve the proposed Carter Center.

Looking back, building the Carter Center over the Downtown Connector would have spoken volumes about President Carter. It would have brought together black and white communities, and it would have re-stitched the divided downtown area with neighborhoods and the Sweet Auburn retail district.

Over the decades, we have seen a myriad of proposals to build over our interstate system as a way of reweaving the fabric of our city before highways tore us apart.

The late developer Kim King wanted to build a major platform between Fifth and 10thstreets (and ended up with a wider Fifth Street bridge).

The Buckhead Community Improvement District has proposed building a winding park over Georgia 400 north of Peachtree to provide needed green-space to the office, commercial and residential area.

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy is exploring the possibility of building a park over the Downtown Connector around North Avenue.

For the past couple of years, Central Atlanta Progress has been proposing that Atlanta invest in “the Stitch” – building a park-like platform over the Downtown Connector from the Civic Center MARTA Station south to the area where Maynard Jackson had wanted to build the Carter Library.

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