Recent actions by the Atlanta City Council and Georgia legislators could lend hope for greenspace advocates that downtown’s grandiose, highway-capping “Stitch” proposal still has a pulse.

The idea for building a 14-acre greenspace over a serpentine section of the downtown Connector—between the Civic Center MARTA station and just east of Piedmont Avenue—initially surfaced almost five years ago.

In more recent years, Stitch studies, panelist conferences, and calls among stakeholders for launching fundraising and engineering efforts haven’t translated to a shovel’s worth of dirt being turned.

But with a transportation infrastructure push afoot in Washington, D.C., the Stitch concept is showing signs of renewed interest—and possible viability.

As seen in winter 2018, the Stitch would cap this 3/4-mile section of the Connector with greenspace, from the Civic Center MARTA station to just east of Piedmont Avenue. Courtesy of Jonathan Phillips

Overview of the potential park layout. Courtesy of Central Atlanta Progress

In April, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams called for $1.16 million in federal funding to help construct the park. She described the Stitch as a sound use of taxpayer dollars that would “improve mobility and access, create jobs, and boost economic and community development, and revitalize the downtown region of Atlanta.”

Earlier this week, the Atlanta City Council voted to move forward in applying for a $1 million federal grant that would help fund a study for implementing the Stitch, which advocates say would effectively weave interstate-bisected parts of downtown back together.

The funding would come from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s $1 billion program Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE.

The city plans to partner with Atlanta Downtown Improvement District in seeking the grant money, as the AJC reports. Central Atlanta Progress is also a key player.

Still, that federal cash boost would be a far cry from the Stitch’s estimated cost of $300 million or more, per ADID’s ongoing analyses.

Courtesy of Atlanta Downtown Improvement District

But ADID officials are optimistic for what the Stitch could mean for downtown: between $1.1 and $3.1 billion in value creation; up to $58 million in new revenue; and a boost in the city’s bonding capacity from $308 to $847 billion “by increasing the value of existing properties and catalyzing the redevelopment of underutilized properties,” per the most recent summary.  

Meanwhile, outreach efforts continue for even grander highway-capping ambitions in Midtown.

That’s where officials with MCP Foundation—short for Midtown Connector Transportation Improvement Project—are finishing a three-year analysis to determine the feasibility of building 25 acres of active parks and greenspace over 14 lanes of freeway next to Georgia Tech.

Could these ambitious park proposals be Atlanta's next BeltLine, Westside Park, or Atlantic Station? Only time—and whole lot of unidentified funding sources—will tell. 

Recent downtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)