Atlanta’s ‘stitch’ transit project wins $1.1 million federal grant

Stitch project would put massive park over parts of Atlanta’s Downtown Connector.
70 years after downtown connector split Atlanta, there's a renewed effort to "stitch" neighborhoods back together

70 years after downtown connector split Atlanta, there's a renewed effort to "stitch" neighborhoods back together

Two major metro Atlanta infrastructure projects are about to receive significant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Georgia Congresswoman Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, announced Tuesday that the “Stitch” project was awarded $1.1 million from a federal grant. The project would “stitch” together north Downtown Atlanta neighborhoods with the creation of a green space park spanning 14 acres over Interstates 75 and 85, from the Civic Center MARTA station to beyond Piedmont Avenue.

The federal planning award will support research into transportation improvements and infrastructure upgrades for the stitch, according to a DOT news release. It will also fund the initial building stages for the 14-acre green space “cap” park.

The city of Atlanta and Georgia’s DOT are partnered on the project, with extra funding support from the Atlanta Regional Commission, according to the DOT.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Ga., speaks to members of the media next to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as they tour the Sweet Auburn District at Big Bethel AME Church on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Williams said in a statement that I-75/I-85, also known as Atlanta’s Downtown Connector, divided the Black neighborhoods of Buttermilk Bottoms, Bedford Pines, and Sweet Auburn through the 1956 Federal Highway Act. But Williams said the communities will be reconnected through the stitch, which has been discussed among Georgia’s public officials for more than a decade.

In 2021, the stitch obtained a $900,000 federal grant to finance its planning studies. Last year, Williams secured a $1.16 million federal grant for the project’s public outreach and preliminary engineering. The latest award comes from the Reconnecting Communities Program, a new grant based on legislation Williams wrote.

The DOT also used the pilot program to invest $2 million into Roswell’s Big Creek Greenway Community Connectivity Planning Project. Georgia DOT gave Roswell a 20-foot easement along Highway 400 to build a multi-use path. The path would connect the Liberty Square neighborhood with Roswell’s town center, Alpharetta city, and the greater Metro Atlanta.

A rendering showing design concepts of “The Stitch,” a more than $300 million proposal to cover a portion of the Downtown Connector with parks and a restored street grid. The concept would restore links between Midtown and Downtown. Renderings by Jacobs.

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Meanwhile, city leaders in Atlanta are lauding Congressmembers Williams, Sen. Jon Ossoff, and Sen. Raphael Warnock for their support towards the stitch. The project would cost an estimated $713 million, and supporters say it could be completed by 2032.

A.J. Robinson, president of the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District as well as Central Atlanta Progress, which proposed the stitch, said in a statement that the project’s community outreach, planning, and designing should begin this spring.

“As we continue to revitalize Downtown Atlanta, there are historic wrongs that are being righted through projects like The Stitch to re-connect neighborhoods and build a sense of community,” according to a statement from Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

- AJC reporter David Wickert contributed to this report.