By Matt Westmoreland, Member – Atlanta Board of Education, District 3
Early one morning last July, I ventured out with three friends to explore all 22 miles of the Atlanta Beltline corridor – much of which has yet to be developed.
For nearly seven hot hours, we wandered through dark and damp tunnels, fields of tall grass, burr-filled jungles and muddy construction zones before ending our journey along the ever-popular Eastside Trail.
It was a fascinating way to experience and feel connected to this city that I’ve called home my entire life. It served as a vivid reminder that Atlanta’s neighborhoods are among our greatest strengths. And it reinforced for me that the Beltline, as the most comprehensive revitalization effort ever undertaken in this city, is well on its way to transforming our city.
And that is why this past Friday was such a monumental moment in the history of this project. After years of disagreement and contentious negotiations, the City of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools reached resolution on a new agreement to fund the Atlanta Beltline. The deal ensures substantial (and guaranteed) payments to APS in the years ahead to help fund critical initiatives for kids, while protecting the future success of the Beltline as the largest economic and community development effort in the city’s history.
But most importantly, resolution on this dispute brings with it a renewed promise of partnership between the two organizations with the greatest ability to transform our city— the Atlanta Beltline Partnership and Atlanta Public Schools.
Vibrant communities and safe, affordable
The physical connectivity alone is impressive: The Beltline will link 45 of Atlanta’s Intown neighborhoods in a way they never have been before. Less discussed is the fact it will blaze a trail that connects 22 of our city’s schools.
While in school, the Beltline will enable thousands of students to walk or bike to their schools. And once they graduate, the Beltline and the economic development it helps generate will create jobs once our students from high school and/or college.
Over the last several months, my colleagues and I on the Board of Education have been hard at work with Superintendent Carstarphen to develop a turnaround strategy to ensure that our schools will provide every student with a quality education that provides opportunity and choice in their lives.
At the same time, Beltline projects like the Westside Trail are under construction to bring economic development to parts of the city that have seen far too little of it for decades.
Together, an educated workforce and revitalized communities will lead to neighborhoods full of vision to continue turning them around, and lead them in a new direction.
Thanks to the efforts of Mayor Reed, Council President Ceasar Mitchell, and Board Chair Courtney English, the City of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools have a unique chance at this moment to recommit ourselves to a partnership that is critical to the future success of Atlanta, our families, and our kids.
And I look forward to that day, years into the future, when I can walk those 22 miles again– and witness the transformation of our city and the connections we’ve made with one another.