An autobiographical account of the reclamation of Atlanta's Beltline and its potential contribution to building a new urban culture for this century.
Gravel, a civil engineer and architect, knows the story from the inside. He helped draft the 1999 proposal to build a transit line on the 22-mile loop of abandoned railroad tracks that encircles Atlanta's older neighborhoods and separates them from the outer suburbs and more modern sprawl. The plan was intended “to protect and revive historic neighborhoods, facilitate access to affordable housing, accommodate an inflow of new residents, redevelop available land, and provide alternative and desperately needed means of transportation.” The proposal won support from leading local officials and began to give new life to institutions like the city’s Neighborhood Planning Units. The NPUs, a legacy of the civil rights movement, helped give voice to residents in the city's neighborhoods. But this story is about far more than just a political campaign in support of a technical idea. Various citizens and organizations brought further proposals, adding a greenway trail, building new parks, executing brownfield remediation, and more. The idea became a living part of the culture of the city and its people, as well as a focus for their aspirations, well before the groundbreaking ceremony. Gravel attributes the success of the project to certain community catalysts that create “larger opportunities and make comprehensive change more palatable.” Through the process, the author became familiar with other projects underway in cities around the world, including Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and Paris. Gravel and his cohorts are constantly fighting urban sprawl, and Atlanta's Beltline is helping to create walkable spaces that break down the segregation of neighborhoods into residential and commercial areas, divisions enforced by automobiles and roadways.
An uplifting story about what people can accomplish working for a common purpose they make their own.