Atlanta purchases 4.5 miles for Beltline’s Southside Trail

Atlanta buys 4.5-mile stretch of vacant railroad property to construct Southside Trail that connects to the Beltline. AJC File Photo

Atlanta buys 4.5-mile stretch of vacant railroad property to construct Southside Trail that connects to the Beltline. AJC File Photo

The City of Atlanta announced on Thursday the purchase of 4.5 miles of unused railroad corridor to complete a key section of the Beltline — the multi-use path being developed around the core of the city.

The new section called the Southside Trail will run from Glenwood Avenue near Maynard Jackson High School to University Avenue near Adair Park.

The city used $25.8 million in funds from a special sales tax to purchase the land.

But Beltline Inc. President and CEO Brian McGowan said it will take an additional $60 and $90 million to construct the South Side Trail.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called it the 63-acre purchase “one of the largest remaining transactions needed to finish the Beltline.”

“For many decades Atlanta’s neighborhoods have been separated by physical barriers, such as highways, interstates and vacant railroads,” Bottoms said. “The Beltine, as many of you know, is incredibly important in that it helps us overcome many of these barriers … It connects us in so many ways.”

Plans call for the Beltline to use vacant railroad corridors that once encircled the city to connect 45 intown neighborhoods with a 22-mile main corridor and 11 additional miles of spur trails. So far seven miles of the corridor and four miles of spur trails have been constructed.

But another key component of the redevelopment project — often described as one of the most ambitious in the nation — was to create 5,600 affordable houses and apartments.

An Altanta Journal-Constitution investigationlast year found that halfway into the Beltline's scheduled completion, it has only funded 785 affordable homes.

In August, former Beltline CEO Paul Morris stepped down amid criticism that the agency had failed to create enough affordable homes. McGowan replaced him.

Bottoms, who was elected mayor in December, promised that her administration would create more affordable homes, and said the Beltline is a important part of that effort.

McGowan said the organization would begin meeting with residents for input on the design of the new trail, which will pass through eleven neighborhoods.

“At the end of the day, the Beltline is a community economic redevelopment project,” McGowan said. “Therefore we are recommitting this organization to working with the community to preserve the unique history and identity of each of the eleven Atlanta Beltline neighborhoods.”

McGowan estimated that it would take a year to complete the Southside Trail once funding was available.