Realizing the BeltLine Promise

Speeding bikes, acrobatic yoga, conversations about daily life, I took a walk down the BeltLine the other day witnessing each of these expressions and more.  They were expressions of health, expressions of youth, of simple pleasures, of the mundane and the extraordinary.  The weather was beautiful, requiring no more than a light sweater and sunglasses, and I was refreshed to see people out simply enjoying themselves.

It had been a few months since I was last on the BeltLine.  I think Murder Kroger hadn’t been torn down yet, so I was interested to see all the new apartments completed and being built.  I was happy that the park is being put to use.  There was no coordinated event going on anywhere, but everywhere people seemed to be creating their own events bringing the BeltLine to life.

Under a bridge, it looked like photographers were offering free photos of people’s dogs.

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A little to the north, another group of photographers were dancing in a thicket of metal posts snapping shots of one another.  Some metal goats stood staring as only goats can.

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My old phone didn’t work well with my lack of expertise to capture the best light, but the day itself was perfectly lit.

Across from Ponce City Market, people stopped to look into peep holes to see art and vintage photos at a construction site.  One person would lean over and look in.  Someone else would see that person looking and then follow in the same action.

The BeltLine has promised so much to Atlanta, and the conversation that I kept hearing over and over during my walk was related to that promise.  A few times I heard people explaining to a companion the idea of what the BeltLine is supposed to be.

“This was an old railroad,” they would say, explaining the corridor.

“And that’s the old Sear’s building,” they went on, pointing at Ponce City Market, “someday there will be a train along here.”

So that’s the BeltLine, a promise that people are eager to realize.  It’s a promise not just of transit but of a pedestrian core and a great public space that people seem eager to bring to life.  It’s certainly something Atlanta needs.  I just hope that the developers building along the BeltLine fully buy into the idea.

The new apartment buildings have access to the trail, but they don’t seem to be as connected to it as I would have imagined they would be.  To me, most of them look like rather conventional buildings with a gate added to a back fence as an after thought.  Then as I approached Inman Park, there was a big, gray parking deck, making me worry that the BeltLine might become another neglected corridor that exists in spite of what’s built around it.

This criticism has probably been articulated before, and that’s not the point that I want to make.  The point I want to make, what made me happy, is that people are making the BeltLine happen despite any obstacles that might exist.

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