Supporters celebrate $1.2 million for The Stitch over Downtown Connector

It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars they don’t have at the moment and would take a decade or more to complete.

But supporters of the proposed “Stitch” over the Downtown Connector celebrated a small victory Thursday — $1.16 million in federal funding to begin public outreach and preliminary engineering for the project.

The Stitch is a proposal to cover three-quarters of a mile of the connector between Ted Turner Drive and Piedmont Avenue. Atlanta plans to create a 14-acre park, affordable housing and other new development over the highway in the heart of the city. The idea is to reconnect neighborhoods decimated when the connector was built in the 1950s and ‘60s.

It’s an idea that’s been kicked around for years without much progress. But U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, secured the $1.16 million as an earmark in the federal budget Congress approved in March. She and other project supporters held a press conference Thursday to highlight the funding.

The project would cost an estimated $713 million, and supporters say it could be completed by 2032.

The next milestone might be another federal grant. Last month the Atlanta City Council agreed to seek a $10.5 million grant for preliminary engineering for The Stitch. The grant money would match $10 million provided by the city and $500,000 from the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District.

Atlanta should learn whether it gets the grant in the coming months.

A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, which proposed The Stitch, said the project is in its early stages. But he sounded optimistic about its future. He cited other projects that might have seemed improbable when they were proposed, including Centennial Olympic Park, Atlantic Station and the Atlanta Beltline.

“Atlanta, particularly downtown, we’re not afraid of big projects,” Robinson said.