Stitching together Atlanta with transit and open space


A rendering of The Stitch freeway capping project in downtown Atlanta. (Image: Central Atlanta Progress)

To reconnect two major Atlanta employment districts, the Downtown Atlanta Master Plan suggests putting a cap on Interstate 85 which runs below grade between Midtown and Downtown Atlanta. The suggested “Stitch” would reach from the Civic Center MARTA station to Piedmont Road (a major North South arterial street) and create 14 acres of new space.

This month, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) provided “multidisciplinary advice on the complex land use and real estate issues related to realizing The Stitch.” (Central Atlanta Progress) It’s estimated that it would cost $452 million to build the cap and create a new central park in an area with a dearth of green space. ULI experts compared the space to Dallas’ 5.2 acre Klyde Warren Park which has been a major freeway capping success story.

To fund part of the project, it’s expected that new development proximate to the Civic Center MARTA station could contribute money to pay back $45 million in Tax Allocation District (TAD) bonds the project would need to be completed. In Atlanta TADs act similarly to Tax Increment Financing Districts used for value capture in other cities around the country and at this time only six districts have been created inside city limits.

It is also expected that the addition of green space would bolster property values and tax receipts from existing properties in the area. This increase in value would feed back into the TAD as well.

But there are also skeptics. Opponents believe that downtown Atlanta doesn’t need another big shiny project that takes away from the pressing needs of a people centered core such as bus only lanes, pedestrian improvements, and bike lanes.

Whether the project will be funded remains to be seen but it’s a big idea with potential for great change. For more information on parks and open space in TOD, check out TOD 202: Station Area Planning from the Federal Transit Administration which has an open space typology for TOD on page 14 and principles for making great open spaces on page 20.

What’s new on the pod?

San Diego may be the next big city to get serious about transit-oriented development as local officials and residents feel the crunch from their car-oriented zoning. This month on Building Better Communities with Transit we hear from Colin Parent at Circulate San Diego who talks about where San Diego was, where it is today, and where it could be going when it comes to transit and transit-oriented development. Listen on Soundcloud, Stitcher, iTunes, Overcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

Recent TOD news

Here are a few things that have been happening this week with TOD projects across the country.