Editor’s note: Following two weeks of email back-and-forth for a Q&A-style report, the following source asked to remain anonymous just prior to publishing. With such a hot take on such an important Atlanta topic, that would normally be grounds to dismiss a potential story. But this topic, as of last week, suddenly became more timely than ever, per this homeowner.
We’ll call her Emily.
Emily feels a section of the Atlanta BeltLine—Southside Trail Segment 6, completed in an interim state in May 2021—is not a boon to her Glenwood Park neighborhood, but a scourge. She says she’s not alone. Case in point came last week, according to her, in what she describes as the “worst [vehicle] crash we’ve had since the BeltLine came through,” but not the only one.
A vehicle exiting Interstate 20 eastbound on Jan. 31 failed to stop at Bill Kennedy Way and blasted through barriers meant to protect BeltLine patrons on a bridge over the interstate, scattering the area in debris and rendering the interim BeltLine section all but unusable. It happened a few feet from a large encampment, positioned between the BeltLine and interstate, that’s largely tucked away from public view but is very much on the minds of neighbors, according to Emily.
Below is a brief compendium of correspondences sent from Emily asking for news coverage to shine a light on issues she says are plaguing her neighborhood. It paints a contrast to the more typical narrative of the BeltLine being a welcome boon for Atlanta’s urban connectivity and intown economy, despite it being an agent of substantial cost-of-living increases.
Dear Urbanize Atlanta:
I hope this story may be of interest as a juxtaposition of a community deeply affected by the BeltLine development.
I have lived in East Atlanta—the Glenwood Park neighborhood—since 2019, right before the BeltLine came through.
Since the Beltline came through, we've had multiple vehicles slam into the BeltLine walkway, we have a huge (and growing) homeless encampment, and a big issue with illegal dumping and littering.
The BeltLine refuses to do anything or work with the city to assist in cleaning the area or keeping it properly kept up.
To no avail, our neighborhood is exasperated with the incredible increase in crime, illegal dumping, littering, and loitering that has been on a steady rise since the BeltLine came through. We’ve had to hire private security (at our HOA expense). The BeltLine turned our section of the BeltLine over to the city to deal with debris, and the city refuses to help.
Poor design, ineffective oversight, and a lack of ongoing maintenance. It's shocking that the BeltLine got this trail approved with no meaningful safety plans in conjunction with [Georgia Department of Transportation], on a strip of a narrow and busy road, Bill Kennedy Way, that is historically dangerous.
[It’s all] an interesting juxtaposition as Atlanta loves to tout the BeltLine [as being akin] to “riverfront premiums”; as such, property taxes have increased substantially once the BeltLine paved its way through our small neighborhood.
When they are done, retail can no longer afford to stay, neighbors are left footing the bill, dealing with crime, rodents, public dumping, camping, and safety and health hazards.
To update, Emily sends word that city officials have been more responsive to concerns following her reaching out to local media, and that “the city is supposedly going to make an effort” though she’s “not holding my breath.”
And we should be clear that Atlanta BeltLine Inc. sees the Bill Kennedy Way trail section on and near I-20 as very much temporary. The agency’s permanent solution calls for building a separate pedestrian bridge for the BeltLine across I-20 and making improvements to adjacent trails on the northern and southern sides of it.
At last check, BeltLine officials had begun the process of soliciting an engineering design team for the bridge portion, but no construction timeline has been finalized.
[NOTE: An earlier photo of an encampment next to Glenwood Park in this story has been replaced with a new one at the request of homeowner sources.]
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