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Contest images: Far-flung ideas for the (unlikely) future of the I-285 Perimeter

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In Beltline visionary Ryan Gravel’s competition, pitches range from awesome to adorable to downright horrific

A rendering of high-speed rail over the interstate.
An Interstate 285 monorail? Let’s do this.

If a 22-mile loop of old railroad tracks can (eventually) become a network of multi-use trails, parks, and transit, who says the car-choked Interstate 285 Perimeter can’t become something magical, too?

Should Atlanta Beltline visionary Ryan Gravel have a say, the highway circuit would be much more than a place to white-knuckle and listen to talk radio.

Last month, Gravel kicked off a contest soliciting ideas—practical, impractical, and outright bonkers—for the far-flung future of the Perimeter. Now, his city-planning focused nonprofit Generator has unveiled folks’ plans for a “Bigger Better Loop.”

Let’s have a look at what transpired.

(The prize for “winning” ideas, by the way, was public recognition. And the broader purpose, as Gravel has stressed, was to help Atlantans think big about the transformational possibilities of existing spaces.)

The idea dubbed “Best for the People” came from Travis Bruce, who suggested turning the interstate ribbon into a network of transit-oriented developments dotting a new ring of MARTA stops.

In theory, the idea would boost density and affordability, providing people with easier access to jobs hubs and other destinations around the city.

Travis Bruce, via Generator

Judy Yi submitted a plan that contest judges deemed best for the planet: The “More Trees Please” pitch imagines I-285 as a 64-mile circular forest lined with nothing but trails and trees.

Is it practical? Not in the slightest. Does the air feel cleaner just looking at the idea? Certainly.

An image of an interstate sign in the middle of a forest. Judy Yi, via Generator

Nicholas Mulkey suggested the best tech-minded approach for the Perimeter overhaul, lobbying for a circuit of high-speed railways topped by a line of solar panels.

Beneath it all, Mulkey imagines a string of green space and recreation areas replete with a trail system.

A rendering of solar panels above high-speed rail above a linear park and trails. Nicholas Mulkey, via Generator

Hannah Palmer, lamenting the loss of metro Atlanta’s many creeks, which were largely destroyed as the Perimeter was being built, wants the loop to offer access to waterways.

She drafted a map showing where exit ramps could be placed that would lead to trails, docks, and scenic overlooks.

A map shows where creeks could be accessed via the Perimeter. Hannah Palmer, via Generator

Arguably the most creative suggestion came from 8-year-old Scarlett Partain.

Partain, in her infinite wisdom, wants to see the boring old highway loop turned into a two-way zipline loop.

“Going somewhere should be really fun,” she wrote in her pitch to Generator.

Also: “There will be two types. There’s a zipline that you can hang onto with handles like monkey bars and a zipline that is a car that you can sit in. The cars have different themes. You can ride in a princess car or a superhero car or whatever you like.”

By gosh, if that’s not the most adorable city planning ambition.

A child’s drawing of a zipline system around the Perimeter. Scalett Partain, via Generator

And then there’s David Pope, who seems to enjoy wasting away in traffic, lobbing the idea of a multi-layered interstate loop.

Imagine just copying and pasting multiple I-285 Perimeters and stacking them on top of one another.

The horror!

Aptly, Pope’s design was awarded the title of “Best Dystopia.”