While 2021 still qualifies as a New Year, it’s already brought an abundance of Atlanta BeltLine news, and along with potentially monumental, big-picture happenings, a key trail ribbon-cutting is afoot.

Most significantly, BeltLine officials announced last week plans to scrap the piecemeal, frustratingly slow process of building out the 22-mile loop one small section at a time, as Tax Allocation District funding allows. Instead, the Atlanta City Council is considering legislation that BeltLine leaders say would fast-track design and construction of remaining sections—all estimated to cost $350 million—at least a year before the long-targeted date of 2030.

The big idea calls for creating a Special Service District within a half-mile of the BeltLine corridor. Commercial and multifamily property owners (but not Regular Joe homeowners) in that zone would pony up additional property taxes— two-tenths of a penny per dollar in assessed value—and bankroll the remaining trail sections. A finished BeltLine, leaders note, would lend the city a $10 billion economic boost and 50,000 permanent jobs, nearly twice as many as originally projected. The proposal has the mayor’s backing but must pass the council before the tax bump is levied. Pushback from the multifamily rental industry is expected. 

But speaking of new trails…

The BeltLine’s latest collaboration with the nonprofit PATH Foundation, the Westside BeltLine Connector, is all but finished and expected to officially open in coming days.

The WBC, as it's called for short, is a relatively small stretch of concrete through sections of town plagued by disinvestment and blight for generations—but its potential for regional connectivity is huge. It's already been a pandemic-era hit, leaders say, with locals itching for fresh air and exercise. Like one gentleman in an electric wheelchair, a former Westside businessowner, who buzzes up and down the path with his dog almost daily.

The trail, which is public-accessible now, adds 1.6 miles of paved pathway and a picnic-ready linear park to Atlanta's growing network. It snakes off from downtown near the Georgia World Congress Center, through Vine City and English Avenue, toward the Westside Trail and under-construction greenspaces at the former Bellwood Quarry.

The BeltLine used $5.1 million in TSPLOST dollars to acquire the corridor in 2019. PATH collected $5.7 million in private dollars, alongside $2.3 million from the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, to cover the new trail’s $8 million cost. 

As the final sections of concrete were curing in November, PATH’s recently installed executive director, Greta deMayo, and longtime project manager, Pete Pellegrini, hopped aboard bicycles and led Urbanize Atlanta on an informative tour of the Westside BeltLine Connector (shown in dotted blue and horizontal purple above.)

In the gallery atop this article, follow a visual journey along this key spoke of BetLine connectivity at its inception—no jacket recquired.