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The Atlanta Belt Line Project is underway in the southwest Metro area


President of Microsoft, Brad Smith, plans to build a 90-acre campus available to the public. The campus will include green space and marketplaces for small businesses to outreach the community. photo by @Microsoft

 

As newcomers flood into north Georgia, 37% of the city population is choosing to live near the Atlanta Belt Line. The Belt Line is one of the largest urban redevelopment projects underway in the United States. House prices along the Belt Line continue to rise, mostly around the south area of Atlanta.


Despite the conflicts associated with the Belt Line project, it aims to connect 45 neighborhoods in the city of Atlanta through trails, transit, greenspace, economic development and housing. It hopes to provide jobs, improve transit options and attract neighborhood amenities that were lacking, such as grocery stores.


President of the Atlanta Belt Line project, Clyde Higgs said, “What we’ve seen is roughly an $8 billion private investment that has followed the Belt Line.”


Atlanta is a leading city in what some scholars are calling the New South. There are 500,000 citizens within the city of Atlanta. It’s a really rich place to find talent, innovation and research. Growth in the Metro has begun to outpace the city’s growth. From 2000-2022, the city has gone from 4 million people to about 6 million people.


Chief Equity Officer, Nathaniel Smith said, “I saw the value of the loop that could connect poor and affluent communities. Little did I know that other people had different plans.”


A diversity of corporations like UPS, Coca-Cola, the CDC, Home Depot and Delta Airlines have headquarters in the area.


“We are starting to see more people transition to the edges of the city. Not everyone can afford to stay in the city limits. I think there are a confluence of things that have caused that growth,” Co-Founder of Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative, Janelle Williams said.


The idea of repurposing an abandoned railroad into a 22-mile loop around the Metro Atlanta area came from a graduate student from Georgia Tech, Ryan Gravel. A 30 million dollar donation was given for the construction for the Atlanta Belt Line.


The Belt Line is a public-private partnership. The government provides funding and benefits to businesses that invest in the project. The purpose of this project is to provide housing, jobs, grocery stores and educational facilities that do not require the use of a car. The group designing the Belt Line hopes to connect it to the MARTA system and build miles of safe streets in its path. It is projected to be finished by 2030.


“Microsoft is building a 90-acre campus on the west side of Atlanta. This will be close to the Atlanta MARTA station and the west side trail of the Belt Line,” President of Microsoft, Brad Smith said.


With Microsoft building a campus that will provide jobs paying close to six figures, people competing for these jobs are in conflict. The average Black family in the Atlanta area makes an average of $22,000 a year. Housing has had an impact on these families simply because the land is becoming more expensive. Home values in southwest Atlanta soared by more than 300% from 2013 to 2021.


“It became a public-private real estate project and a place to make money and to speculate instead of a place to provide transit and to provide public space,” Professor Dan Immergluck said, “The southwest Atlanta story is kind of a heartbreaking story. A Black neighborhood, low income that had been disinvested and redlined, families have lived through that. The Belt Line has raised prices but they can’t benefit from it because they had lost their homes in foreclosure. That resulted in a big shift in wealth from the working and middle class.”


As the Belt Line project continues to be worked on, the city desires to recover the sidewalks and redevelop neighborhoods that can be more affordable for the average family.


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