[Above: Interstate 20 today — and capped in the future! Graphics: Rob Smith/FB]
Buildable intown land is at a premium right now, large green spaces are relatively scarce and, generally speaking, parks generate jack in terms of revenue. So what's a city like Atlanta to do? Create linear parks in the airspaces over our plentiful interstates — that's what! For years, we've been calling for some sort of beautified, public-accessible cap to be built over a portion of The Connector. More recently, Buckhead movers-and-shakers have come together to put a bona fide plan into action — one that will seek expert proposals on how to build it next month. And now, from a historic neighborhood that was sliced in two by interstates 50 years ago, comes the newest unfunded but glorious vision. This extraordinarily detailed idea is the brainchild of Rob Smith, a longtime Grant Park resident and real estate agent with a heart for preserving history. Have a gander at Smith's potential game-changing interstate park after the jump, and then demand that your local representatives make all of this stuff happen.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate System was in full construction mode. Hundreds of houses in the Grant Park neighborhood, as well as a couple of streets, were literally ripped out of the ground as the construction tore right through downtown Atlanta. Today, the neighborhood is separated by this 250- to sometimes 450-foot-wide gulch with three-fourths of the neighborhood to the south of Interstate 20 and the remaining quarter to the north.
The three phases of Grant Park's dream, in detail:
Phase I - Build a linear overpass over the section between Hill Street and Grant Street. This would include a structure that would immediately begin to make use of the space: a small, reversable open-air amphitheatre. Local performances and smaller events would utilize the seating in the theatre itself, while larger events would have the stage performance face the green space while seating would be set up on the "mall" facing the stage.
Facilities like maintenance, restrooms and other necessary in-strucure needs would be housed under the amphitheater seating. The east-facing entrance/exit ramps from Hill Street to I-20 would have raised coverings topped with grass, shrubs and trees, and would terminate close to Hill Street itself. The amphitheatre would have an elevated back or elevated topography with trees and shrubs in the back tied in with the inner walls of the raised entrance/exit ramp coverings so as to mitigate any noise from Hill Street as well as the entrance and exit ramps themselves.
Crushed gravel east-west sidewalks under tress would bank the north and south of the mall, all the way down to a reconnection of the current termination points of Grant Street with a traffic-calming roundabout. The roundabout would be surrounded by a semi-structural garden hedge along with a hedge banking the eastern edge of the overpass that would help mitigate the interstate noise from the mall pending the construction of Phase II ...
Phase II - Add an overpass section from Grant Street to the current Cherokee Avenue bridge. This would include four smaller sections of grassy area to extend the "mall" effect. The hedge from the Grant Street roundabout opens to the mall and becomes the crosswalk to the larger performance mall.
Bryan Street is rebuilt and repositioned to incorporate as a one-way westbound street (entry on Cherokee, exit onto Grant) with parallel parking between the mall and the street, while the newly built Glyn Street (which was destroyed in the 1960s as part of the I-20 construction) does the opposite on the south side with traffic travelling in the opposite direction. This will be the only parking on the park and will constitute the narrowest part. Vents in the lawn will filter CO2 and other combustables from the traffic below.
THE GRAND FINALE:
Phase III - Continue the overpass between Cherokee and Boulevard. This would be a repeat of the small mall sections done in Phase II, and would see a reconnection of the Park Avenue termination points with a large garden roundabout that would incorporate a fountain.
Here, we find a large gravel pedestrian area around the roundabout, with three pavillions between Park Avenue and Boulevard including facilities atop the exit/entry ramps covers for this far end of the park. We would not be able to reconnect Loomis Street as the elevation is too high on the south end of the mall here. We would, however, be able to realize a possible parking area at the cul-de-sac created by the end of Bryan Street, as well as parallell parking on the side of Glenwood Avenue to the south. Sidewalks would connect to the north through the Bryan Street cul-de-sac area, and to the south the park would connect to the current sidewalk along Glenwood Avenue beside Fire Station 10.