Like the Atlanta BeltLine’s Southside Trail, a grandiose proposal to build a park over the downtown Connector is getting an infusion of federal cash in hopes it can help knit intown neighborhoods back together.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told the AJC today that $900,000 in grant funding is being channeled to downtown’s “Stitch,” which was first proposed to fanfare five years ago but hasn’t progressed much beyond engineering studies.

The Stitch concept calls for a 14-acre greenspace covering a winding section of the downtown Connector, between the Civic Center MARTA station and just east of Piedmont Avenue.  

The federal funding will come from $1-billion program Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE. Buttigieg told the newspaper the grant will pay for Stitch planning studies while helping to further the Biden Administration's infrastructure agenda.

The BeltLine has been allocated substantially more—$16.4 million in RAISE funds—to assist in building about two miles of trail on the city’s southside, between Pittsburgh and Grant Park.

The Stitch would stretch for about three-quarters of a mile and help reconnect parts of Midtown and downtown divided by construction of the I-75/I-85 conjoined expressway. 

In April, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams called for $1.16 million in federal funding to help construct the park, describing it 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.” U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have also publicly backed the project.

Buttigieg called the Stitch a good use of old right-of-way that plans for America’s future priorities.

Early plans for potential uses around the Stitch park. Courtesy of Atlanta Downtown Improvement District/Central Atlanta Progress

“When there’s a vision coming from the community about how to reconnect and create new usable land and greenspace, that’s something we want to accelerate,” Buttigieg told the AJC. “It makes sure we meet the federal government’s priority to reconnect areas that have been divided by past transportation decisions… Interstates are supposed to connect, but sometimes they divide as well.”

Still, the Stitch’s estimated price tag of $300 million or more is daunting. And the project’s main backers, Atlanta Downtown Development Authority, have yet to publicly name viable sources of funding.

ADID officials are optimistic, however, 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 Stitch’s most recent summary.

Meanwhile, highway-capping ambitions a few blocks away in Midtown are even grander.

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

Midtown’s highway-capping park boosters release new video, continue outreach (Urbanize Atlanta)