The initiative to cap a 3/4-mile section of downtown’s Connector with greenspace, plazas, and more is becoming something of a federal darling.
Congresswoman Nikema Williams’ (GA-05) office announced today the Stitch project has been awarded one of the country’s first Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The award amount, $1.1 million, might be a relative drop in the bucket, given the Stitch’s immense estimated price tag, but it moves the project a step closer to reality and will be combined with other funding for engineering work, according to A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District.
Williams, who authored the Reconnecting Communities legislation, also secured a $1.16 million federal Community Project Funding Grant for the Stitch in March.
“The Downtown Connector divided the Black neighborhoods of Buttermilk Bottoms, Bedford Pines, and Sweet Auburn through the 1956 Federal Highway Act,” Williams said in today’s announcement. “The Stitch will take steps to reconnect parts of our communities that have been divided for far too long.”
The Stitch, if fully realized, would be nearly as large as 16-acre Rodney Cook Sr. Park, located in Vine City on the flipside of downtown. It’s one of three major highway-capping proposals in the city currently in fundraising mode. The others are Buckhead’s HUB404 and the largest (but now smaller) Midtown Connector concept.
The cost for all Stitch sections has bumped up to $713 million, as project backers revealed last year, though that’s likely to change as engineering and design phases are modified and finalized in coming years.
Central Atlanta Progress, the Stitch’s spearhead since inception, estimates the project could take a decade to fully construct and open over the Connector, near the point where downtown’s northern blocks meet Midtown. Construction could begin by 2026, with an estimated completion at the earliest in 2032, per CAP officials.
As of November, the city, ADID, and federal government officials had channeled about $15 million toward making the Stitch a reality. Other potential funding sources could include philanthropy and mechanisms such as tax allocation districts.
The project launched a website—thestitchatl.com—last year that includes information and visuals on the site’s historical context, the latest renderings, and a digestible FAQ section for how the 14-acre project would mend “a torn fabric” that’s existed since freeways sliced downtown nearly 70 years ago.
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