Atlanta Turns Old Railroad Tracks into Green Spacesby greenspacewriter 08/18/2013
Guest blog post by Elina Lumbroso
On Saturday August 10th, 2013 a dedication ceremony was held for the Atlanta Beltline’s southwest connector trail. Atlanta Beltline is an innovative urban project supporting the redevelopment of the city. It forms a loop around midtown and downtown Atlanta and includes new transit stations, 1,300 acres of new and improved green space, 40% more parks, 5,600 units of affordable housing, and 14-foot-wide paths connecting wealthy and lower-income areas within a 22 mile radius around the city. The Beltline was conceived ten years ago, when a student in architecture delivered his master thesis. Ryan Gravel imagined transforming the abandoned railroad lines of Atlanta into a network of transit, parks, walkway and bike trails. Today, those abandoned tracks and brownfield sites have become the Atlanta Beltline, a stunning project for the city.
This urban project is reminiscent of the New York City’s High Line and its success, which has influenced city planners and convinced them to convert their industrial heritage sites into potentials green spaces, as well as promoting cultural and commercial revitalization. The High Line founders drew their own inspiration from the project of “Promenade Plantée”, in Paris. It is an elevated promenade that was built in 1988 on an abandoned railroad viaduct.
Brownfields have long been considered as the symbol of urban decay. But today, many city planners have started to consider them as opportunities. There has been a growing recognition among urban governments, community groups and environmental organizations that brownﬁelds hold huge potential for greening urban environments, through the implementation of parks, playgrounds, trails, greenways, community meeting spaces and other open spaces. These sites are often located at the core sections of the cities and are therefore potential locations for green spaces and target for urban revitalization. Many examples of the adaptive reuse of brownfield exist worldwide, and these sites are opportunities for planners to develop some vegetation projects on a small or large scale. Greenway projects focus on the environment and open space rather than commercial use.
Greenways have a lot of interests as they serve multiple functions and offer multiple benefits. They provide open and green space for recreation, permit to improve urban ecological health, and have an aesthetical function. They are also at the core of a potential economic and social appeal for the neighborhood. But most of the benefits identified could be characterized as “human-oriented”. Indeed, people who live in urban areas with more green space tend to report greater well-being than city dwellers who don’t have parks, gardens, or other green space nearby, according to a research published in April 2013 in Psychological Science. In this University of Exeter study, Dr. White, the Director of the Research explains that it is important for policy makers to consider “how to invest scarce public resources, such as for park development or upkeep”. This research could be important for psychologists, public health officials and urban planners who are interested in learning about the effects of urbanization and city planning on population health and well-being.
Learn more about the Beltline here: http://beltline.org/