ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms lauded the opening of the Beltline’s first Southside section at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this week, saying the city must ensure all communities are included in the project’s success.
“Atlanta is a place and should be a place for everyone, no matter your income,” said the mayor, who was joined by city officials and representatives of the Pittsburgh neighborhood at the Pittsburgh Yards access point.
“We have the solemn responsibility to make sure our communities are not left behind and that we are providing the tools and resources to ensure that our businesses and our residents are equipped for success,” Bottoms said.
The event marked the opening of the first .8-mile section of the Southside Trail connecting Pittsburgh and Capitol View Manor, two of the city’s historically underserved neighborhoods.
“When the city didn’t stick with the community, the community stuck with itself,” Bottoms said.
There are four more sections planned, totaling 4.5 miles of trail on the south side of the city, with construction on the rest scheduled to start in a year or two, according to the Atlanta Beltline.
Clyde Higgs, president, and CEO of the Beltline, said the trail will generate jobs and economic activity in surrounding neighborhoods.
“We are able to think holistically about the Beltline, not just the infrastructure piece that you see here today, but how do you take care of the community,” said Higgs.
Atlanta’s District 12 Councilmember Joyce Sheperd expressed concern for long-time homeowners with the arrival of this segment of the Beltline in her district.
“What I want to see the Beltline bring is an uplifting of Pittsburgh and all of our neighborhoods,” she said. “We have to be careful … that we don’t push anybody out.”
Sheperd said the city has partnered with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, and the Atlanta Land Trust to acquire and renovate dilapidated housing in the community in order to keep and create affordable housing for residents.
Higgs said the Atlanta Beltline and the Atlanta Beltline Partnership, a nonprofit founded to “keep the Atlanta Beltline vision on track,” have launched the Legacy Resident Retention Program to assist current homeowners with rising property tax bills through 2030.
“One of the superpowers for Atlanta is our culture,” Higgs said. “We have to figure out a way for those communities to stay in place.”
“My main thing is that they don’t just do it and leave it, and not maintain it,” said Saleem.
Saleem said that so far, maintenance and investment from the city have not been an issue.