The Atlanta BeltLine is both simple and remarkably complex. Its simplicity is felt when we connect with fellow Atlantans walking, biking, running and otherwise enjoying the parts of the Atlanta BeltLine that have been built so far. Its complexity becomes apparent when one considers the level of planning and coordination required for a $4.8 billion project being implemented over 25 years.
An aspect of that complexity is evident when discussing the importance of financial support from individuals in realizing such a large vision. Particularly after the recent overwhelming support for the TSPLOST and MARTA sales taxes, I have frequently heard the question: Why are private contributions from individuals needed? There are three reasons:
1 – The Atlanta BeltLine is not fully funded. The $4.8 billion cost to fully implement the community’s vision for the Atlanta BeltLine does not come from a single source. A simplified breakdown of funding based on the 2013 Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) contemplates the Tax Allocation District (TAD) covering about a third of the cost, federal sources (for which we must compete) providing roughly another third, and the remaining third coming from local public and philanthropic sources as well as about $890 million of funding that was unidentified when the SIP was adopted. (Some of this previously unidentified funding was secured via the recently approved sales taxes and the $18 million TIGER V grant for the Westside Trail.)
The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is the organization responsible for securing contributions from foundations and corporations to help fund the Atlanta BeltLine’s completion. To date, we have raised well over $50 million that has been used to help create Historic Fourth Ward Park, the Westside Trail, the Eastside Trail, the West End Trail, Stanton Park, the Atlanta BeltLine Urban Farm, and more. The SIP projects $275 million of private and philanthropic funding to be raised by 2030 to help leverage city, state, and federal funds that will be secured by Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., the quasi-governmental entity responsible for implementing the Atlanta BeltLine. We rely on individual contributions to provide the resources we need to secure large private and philanthropic donations for the Atlanta BeltLine. Individual contributions also signal to foundations and public agencies that the Atlanta BeltLine is embraced by the community.
2 – Strong community and civic support sustains the Atlanta BeltLine. Continued broad-based support ensures the Atlanta BeltLine remains a civic priority. This support was catalyzed in the early 2000s through the grass-roots organizing of Friends of the BeltLine. In 2005, Friends of the BeltLine became the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, and – under the leadership of Ray Weeks – we engaged private sector partners to help make the vision a reality in collaboration with the City of Atlanta, Invest Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and myriad other organizations like PATH and the Trust for Public Land.
Far from taking grass-roots support for granted, over the past decade, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership has developed a portfolio of programs that engage the public to cultivate their understanding of, connection to, and support for the Atlanta BeltLine. Individual contributions help educate and inform residents through Atlanta BeltLine tours and communications, facilitate countless hours of resident engagement through volunteer opportunities like Adopt-the-Atlanta-BeltLine, improve the quality of public health through free fitness classes and the Run.Walk.Go! Race Series, and create vibrant public spaces through funding of Art on the Atlanta BeltLine.
3 – It takes all of us to make the Atlanta BeltLine for everyone. From its inception, the Atlanta BeltLine was intended to improve quality of life and economic opportunity for residents of all income levels, including those living in Atlanta BeltLine communities that had experienced decades of disinvestment. Delivering on this promise requires a continued, concerted effort from public, private, non-profit, philanthropic and community organizations as well as individual residents. The systemic and market forces working against equitable development are too great for any single organization to address alone.
The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership plays an important role in delivering on the Atlanta BeltLine’s promise. As an apolitical organization focused on the Atlanta BeltLine and the communities around it, we have worked extensively with partners to develop programs that empower residents in the areas of health, housing, and economic opportunity. Individual contributions support our efforts to help existing residents stay in their homes through free homeowner education workshops; nurture innovative approaches to health-related programming through partnerships like the Westside Trail Community Health Grant Program; advocate for policies and funding that support affordable housing and equitable development; and provide access to workforce development programs that help residents remain productive parts of their Atlanta BeltLine neighborhoods.
Implementation of the Atlanta BeltLine continues to move forward through the efforts of the City of Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., and other partners, but we cannot take for granted that the rest of the Atlanta BeltLine will simply happen. With your support, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership will continue to enable the Atlanta BeltLine project by raising funds from the private sector and philanthropic community, engage the public through programming and outreach, and empower the residents of the 45 Atlanta BeltLine neighborhoods through targeted partnerships in the areas of health, housing and economic opportunity. We would be grateful to have you become a member and join us in this mission.