Atlanta — March 2014
Future Streetcar Routes Proposed
Atlanta BeltLine, an urban redevelopment project, has sidelined a proposal for a Peachtree streetcar line to link downtown with midtown and now favors other routes. The new streetcar plan will be presented at public hearings and meetings starting in early March.
Streetcar planning began in Atlanta in 2002 when new urbanism advocate Andres Duany told the city that Peachtree Street was created by first generation streetcars, and that bringing them back would lead to a rebirth of the street. This resulted in a 10 year effort by area leaders to build a modern streetcar line along the street. As the new line would need a maintenance facility and as there was no suitable site on Peachtree, plans were drawn for an east-west line that could include the facility. This is the line now under construction and slated to open later in the year.
As streetcar planning was handed to Atlanta Beltline, which advocates rail routes surrounding the city, planning priority has shifted from Peachtree Street to corridors that would link the new line to the Beltline.
Routes now planned include the Atlanta Streetcar East Extension on Irwin Street, the Atlanta Streetcar West Extension on Luckie Street, the Crosstown-Midtown route along North Avenue, the East Atlanta BeltLine, the West Atlanta BeltLine (part of the Southwest Corridor) and a short link to the Multimodal Passenger Terminal. This phase is estimated to cost $661 million.
The second phase includes the Southeast Atlanta BeltLine to Glenwood Park, Southwest Atlanta BeltLine, Atlanta University Center East, downtown to Grant Park for a total projected cost of $497 million.
A third phase would cost $990 million.
The fourth phase, made up of difficult to build projects and finally the Peachtree Streetcar — which previously has been termed “shovel ready.” This phase would cost $1.5 billion.
According to the Beltline group it could take a minimum of 20 years to build all four phases at a cost of $3.65 billion.
Some observers are surprised that the Peachtree line, which was the initial focus of streetcar planning, has been relegated to the last phase. It remains to be seen if the public process, in which government and community leaders, review the plans results in a change in priorities.
Click here to reach Atlanta Beltline's presentation.
Retail Shops to Open
Atlanta has announced the shops that will open this summer along the new streetcar line, the Atlanta INtown site reports. The Atlanta Streetcar has announced the list of 17 businesses that will open pop-up shops along the route. More than 100 businesses had applied for a similar opportunity. The retailers are to open by June 7, though the streetcar may not yet be running by then. Shops will include those purveying vintage home furnishings, music, comics, independent crafts, tea, jewelry, gifts, and interior decorations.
Downtown Economic Development Cited
An op-ed commentary in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the city's modern streetcar line is sparking downtown economic development. Fifty-two projects worth $745 million are completed or in progress, according to the article.
Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District have been using the streetcar as a means of encouraging redevelopment along its route.
Since streetcar funding commitments were announced in 2010, $370 million in capital investment in 26 projects has been completed within a five-minute walk of the route. A further 26 projects totaling $375 million are slated for completion in 2014.
The pipeline of projects is growing steadily, from the restoration of the Atlanta Daily World building and the launch of 11 new restaurants to more than 2,000 new or renovated residential units and new office space in the Flatiron building for entrepreneurial infrastructure.
To build on the attractiveness of the streetcar, a series of programs are aimed at inspiring commercial development along the line:
Opportunity Zone - The Edgewood and Auburn district has been designated as such a making business investments and job creation eligible for tax incentives.
Facade Improvement Plan - A total of $5 million in tax increment funding is available for technical assistance and cash grants to private owners for facade improvements.
Sweet Auburn Works - The Sweet Auburn community has organized a group that will ensure its plans for preservation-based economic development will benefit from the streetcar's presence.
Auburn Avenue History & Culture Project - The Georgia Department of Transportation is funding pedestrian-oriented improvements to encourage more people to walk along the streetcar corridor.