First, the good news for Atlantans who support ambitious infrastructure projects with the potential to make the city more vibrant, functional, and equitable.
As a means of reconnecting intown communities divided for generations, the Atlanta City Council has approved a resolution to apply for U.S. Department of Transportation grant funding to cover preliminary engineering costs for downtown’s highway-capping Stitch proposal.
The city plans to ask for up to $10.5 million from the federal Reconnecting Communities Pilot program, which has set an October 13 deadline for applications.
That means, in theory, Atlanta is a step closer to making one of three highway-capping proposals in the city currently in fundraising mode happen. The others are Buckhead’s HUB404 and the Midtown Connector.
And the Stitch, should all pan out, could be under construction as soon as the year after next, project leaders are predicting.
On a less upbeat note, however, a new timeline for the Stitch’s completion has emerged by way of an 11Alive report this week.
According to the news station, Central Atlanta Progress—the Stitch project’s spearhead since its inception back in 2016—is estimating the project could take a decade to fully construct and open over the Connector, near the point where downtown’s northern blocks meet Midtown. The estimated price tag is now $700 million.
Jennifer Ball, CAP’s chief operating officer, told 11Alive the city should know whether it secured federal grant funding for the Stitch by next spring. In the interim, beginning early next year, CAP plans to conduct public outreach to learn what aspects, including housing, would be most important to Atlantans for the project. After that, engineering and other technical aspects would be worked out.
Ball said construction could begin by 2024 or 2025, with an estimated completion at the earliest in 2032. Recent progress with the long-delayed Atlanta Civic Center redevelopment—located just a block away—could make the Stitch more timely, Ball said.
The Stitch would consist of roughly 14 acres of plazas, paved trails, and greenspace elevated over the I-75/I-85 Connector, functioning to restitch downtown and Midtown back together after 70 years of being cleaved apart by expressways. It would stretch for about three-quarters of a mile, between the Civic Center MARTA station and just east of Piedmont Avenue, creating a “world-class park” that could spur a billion-dollar forest of new housing towers with easy transit access, as zealous project backers have previously said.
In another positive sign for Stitch proponents, Invest Atlanta’s president and chief executive officer, Dr. Eloisa Klementich, took to social media Friday to publicly back the project and espouse its potential:
The concept first emerged to local fanfare six years ago but, until recently, hadn’t progressed much beyond studies and big talk about its positive impact.
As of 2019, the Stitch was estimated to cost north of $450 million, with potential funding coming from state and federal grants, a new tax allocation district, donations, city funding, and public/private partnerships, according to the Urban Land Institute. For context, the Stitch footprint would be almost as large as 16-acre Rodney Cook Sr. Park that opened last year in Vine City, on the flipside of downtown.
The city’s movement on the Stitch project seems to reflect public optimism that creating a park from thin air is possible and worthwhile downtown. In an unscientific poll conducted on these pages last month, a majority of nearly 900 voters said they believed the Stitch is a viable project that will happen.
Just not anytime soon, apparently.
• Recent downtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)