Much has been written about the “visionary” status of Atlanta Beltline inventor Ryan Gravel, and now this grainy YouTube video from 2004 has emerged from the Internet depths to lend credence to that label.
Gravel appeared on the live, local call-in show People In Politics in the Beltline’s nascent days, before a single shovel turned. This was five years after Gravel’s famed graduate thesis at Georgia Tech, just months after he and others had created the advocacy group Friends of the Beltline — and 12 years before Gravel would shockingly quit the Beltline Partnership over concerns the project was worsening Atlanta’s inequality.
In the 28-minute clip, Gravel notes the Beltline’s immediate proximity to City Hall East (now Ponce City Market); envisions vintage streetcars (like those that used to run throughout Atlanta) that would be fed by overhead electrical lines; stresses the viability of TAD funding for the Beltline; and gives shoutouts to neighborhoods from Lindbergh to West End and Capitol View to Inman Park.
Keep the context in mind: The host, like many, had no idea what “mixed-use” meant in 2004. Gravel explained: “It creates the kind of communities that people used to live in.”
Below is a sampling of Gravel’s most interesting (and prescient) quotes from this vintage exchange:
“[If the Beltline’s built], people can live in a way that they don’t have to drive their car to get around town — they have other options.”
“One thing we’ve got to deal with in this region, in the state of Georgia, is funding for transportation projects — non-road-related transportation projects.”
“I live off Metropolitan Parkway, and the land and the parks around the [abandoned] railroad are the bad parts of the neighborhood, where the vacant land and abandoned buildings are — crime, drugs, and prostitution ... To attract new development to that area, really starts to make that a desirable end of the neighborhood and will really help these neighborhoods with what they need in terms of economic development.”
“The re-use of these lines to access this underutilized urban industrial land will generate a new kind of development in Atlanta — this mixed-use development, and better quality, more dense urban growth, which is healthy for the city in a lot of ways.
“If the Beltline is built, the industrial land [around] it becomes immediately more valuable.”
“The Beltline is great for neighborhoods, because ... the rail line is buffered by this industrial [swath], and these great neighborhoods nestle up against it, all around the city. Now, 3⁄4 of these [rail] lines are out of business ... It’s great for neighborhoods because it generates a lot of economic impact in these areas for redeveloping into mixed-use condos.”
“Once we get [legal] access to the railroad, we can host hikes, and art projects, and clean-ups and all kinds of things that get people interested and excited about the project.”
“It is a unique project, and I think it’s going to gain some national attention.”