Atlanta Beltline celebrates success - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Atlanta Beltline celebrates success

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FULTON COUNTY, Ga. -

It started as an idea 15 years ago, now the Atlanta Beltline is a huge success, users say. This summer an international panel awarded it the grand prize for "Best Rehabilitation Project" across the globe.

They're also preparing to break ground on an expansion, bringing the Beltline to the Westside of Atlanta. Right now, plans for the $43 Million dollar Westside Trail are ahead of schedule. It's the next phase of the 22 mile Beltline that will eventually circle Atlanta, and connect 45 in town neighborhoods. An area once blocked by tall fences and covered in kudzu is now proving to be a huge hit in Atlanta.

At all hours of the day, you'll find people, and pets, along the Atlanta Beltline. "Bicycling, walking, jogging, or just casual walking, it's even a good place to meet people," Martin Vergara says, you'll see it all.

Back in 1999, while at Georgia Tech, Urban Designer Ryan Gravel had the idea to turn Atlanta's abandoned rail system, into something useful again. "Who knew that that idea was going to happen? I certainly didn't, but it is and it sort of snowballed into this amazing movement," says Ryan.

"This year, 2014, we will likely exceed over 1 million users on this two-mile segment," explains Paul Morris, the President & CEO, Atlanta Beltline.

Just five years ago, all of the cleaned up Beltline was a contaminated wasteland. "It's great when we can do something good, it's even better when we can fix something that's broken," adds Morris.

Earlier this summer the Atlanta Beltline was awarded it's first international award for the makeover. "The idea that they would say, this is the city doing the most transformative urban reclamation project in the world, that's big," Morris states.

"I can go to the grocery store, we can go to the park, our kids spend a lot less time in the car. It's just an amazing way of life and it's not even done," Ryan adds. There's still a long way to go, actually. Later this year crews will break ground on the next three-mile stretch in Southwest Atlanta, from Adair Park to Washington Park.

It's not just people inside the perimeter who are excited about the Beltline. "It's always exciting to see people coming in from Woodstock, from Norcross, from parts south who live in those communities and Saturdays are spent on the Atlanta Beltline," Morris adds.

It will still be several more years before the entire concept is complete. Eventually the plan is to bring in streetcars to connect with Marta as well to provide public transit. This fall will also be the 5th year for the Art on The Atlanta Beltline Exhibition. Look for more than 100 performing art and fixed exhibits. Ryan Gravel encourages people to take ownership in the Beltline and start community gardens, art, workout classes. He really hopes people do what they want and own it.

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