For over two decades, Atlanta has been arduously working on fulfilling an ambitious dream to bring together its disparate communities and neighborhoods and connect its people via the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile necklace of parks, trails, transit and more. In 2012, when the Eastside Trail opened, this vision began to take tangible shape. The Westside Trail added most significantly to that. And progress continues elsewhere today – positively impacting not only the City but influencing for the better how our region grows and develops.
Today, we have an immediate opportunity to fulfill this dream with the creation of the Beltline Special Service District (SSD) which can provide funding that would be difficult to achieve from any other source.
The Atlanta BeltLine has inarguably revitalized the city, spurred economic development and positioned Atlanta as a unique venue option. Initial public and private investments in the Atlanta BeltLine project of approximately $600 million have led to the creation of 18,700 permanent jobs and an estimated $6.2 billion economic impact to the neighborhoods along the corridor. Formerly industrial sites near the Atlanta BeltLine are now well-developed areas with plentiful recreational, cultural and entrepreneurial opportunities. The Atlanta BeltLine project has catalyzed all of this, and it’s not even complete.
There remains significant and important work to complete the corridor. Right now, some neighborhoods are connected while others remain scattered. This means that only some of Atlanta’s communities are benefitting from the Atlanta BeltLine. Consequently, we are missing the mark and not fulfilling our goal to deliver benefits to all Atlantans, increase mobility and create jobs centers and housing opportunities.
We have a finite amount of time in which to act. The Atlanta BeltLine’s primary funding mechanism is the BeltLine Tax Allocation District (TAD). It is projected to deliver $1 billion less than originally anticipated – and it expires in 2030.
City of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, along with the City Council have proposed creating the Atlanta (SSD) to provide critical funding for the completion of the BeltLine trail in the allocated time. This vital financial tool will not only spur a total of 50,000 jobs near the Atlanta BeltLine, it will also create approximately 20,000 more than originally projected. As our city, along with our country, begins to figure out how to recover from the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, completing the Atlanta BeltLine should be part of our city’s plan. The SSD is an integral part of this process.
The sustained assistance of the SSD would provide myriad benefits in addition to allowing for completion of the BeltLine. For instance, the SSD will allow for $7 million to support small businesses and help them thrive. Neighborhoods facing considerable challenges due to gentrification will see an additional $50 million invested towards affordable housing. And Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. has committed to investing up to 50 percent of the funding for trail construction in Black and minority contractors which, in turn, would pump an estimated $150 million into these same struggling communities.
Imagine, for a moment, how much more our city can accomplish once the Atlanta BeltLine is finished. The coming weeks are critical in the SSD’s formation as the Atlanta City Council deliberates its future. Let’s take the necessary steps to get it done and be the great, unified city within our potential.
Michael E. Paris
Council for Quality Growth
February 12, 2021
About the Council for Quality Growth
The Council for Quality Growth is a trade organization that works to ensure continued growth and economic success for generations to come by providing advocacy, information and education to its members. Committed to the mission of promoting balanced and responsible growth, the Council is proactively involved in the formulation of policy and legislation critical to the growth and development industry. The Council addresses, head-on, strategic economic planning, infrastructure needs and tough quality-of-life issues throughout the metro Atlanta region and state.