It’s been an eventful few weeks on the Atlanta Beltline front.
In late September, following years of anticipation, the three-mile Westside Trail officially opened to the public. A couple of weeks later, Beltline officials announced that TSPLOST funding had helped purchase 13 acres, all crucial to northward trail expansion, near the burgeoning Armour area. And finally, the ribbon fell during a Friday ceremony for the Eastside Trail’s one-mile extension.
That’s when a bombshell announcement was made that could be the most consequential Beltline news of all.
City leaders will soon allocate $60 million to the Beltline to buy needed real estate along the remaining 22-mile trail-and-transit corridor, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced during the ribbon-cutting, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
The Beltline’s goal of linking 45 neighborhoods is moving forward, and everywhere the trail goes, “the city comes alive and our neighbors come alive,” the mayor was quoted as saying.
It sounds as if the news came as a surprise to even top-ranking Beltline officials, who were reportedly expecting about $40 million in city funds to acquire needed right-of-way. The Beltline, as of today, owns roughly half of the land needed to complete the 22-mile vision.
The funds will come from sales tax increases Atlanta voters overwhelmingly approved a year ago. The recently installed president and CEO of Atlanta Beltline Inc., Brian McGowan, told the newspaper that details are still being worked out in terms of when the funding will be received and acquisitions made, but time is of the essence, in that land costs keep climbing, he said.
But $60 million from city coffers should foot the bill for lighting, too, McGowan said.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Beltline Partnership is hosting a silent campaign to raise funding alongside city contributions, but one official said those efforts will need to ramp up substantially if the entire Beltline loop is to be paved.