The Stitch concept is just that for now, and detailed engineering and financing plans have not yet been drafted. A.J. Robinson, chief executive of CAP, said feasibility studies — including figuring out how to pay for such a thing — would be the next step.
Such planning might cost about $1 million, he said, and CAP would like seek aid from other groups to fund further study.
Robinson said a portion of the infrastructure cost could be financed through leasing air rights above the Connector, federal grants and donations from nonprofits and other groups could be a part of the mix. He said it’s plausible a significant portion of the project could be done within five years.
The project would require the OK of a number of groups, including local, state and federal governments
“I think this project is ambitious and difficult, but I think it is highly achievable,” Robinson said. “It makes a lot economic sense and it will pay for itself.”
The report estimates the project could stimulate $1.1 billion in redevelopment and property value growth, and significantly boost tax revenue.
Robinson said the project could be built in a way that minimizes the impact on commuters on one of the South’s busiest highways.
The $100,000 design study was drafted by the Atlanta office of international engineering firm Jacobs and paid for by the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, which managed by CAP.
The proposal ranks among the more ambitious plans to reinvigorate the urban core, including a long hoped-for but not realized multi-modal transit hub in Downtown’s Gulch.
Robinson ranks the city-shaping potential of such a project with the Beltline, which has stimulated a surge of development east of downtown, and Centennial Olympic Park.
“This is much more of a city and a regional project I believe because it involves so many moving parts,” he said.
Talk of a deck park over the Connector has percolated at CAP since at least 2003, Robinson said, and the state also has considered similar proposals near the state Capitol.
Boston’s Big Dig buried freeways and replaced them with green space and pedestrian areas, rejuvenating the city’s downtown.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called the concept “terrific.”
“We’re really excited about it and we’re in the stages of trying to figure out how to make it so, because we have a unique moment in the life of the city and the region because we finally have revenue streams to figure out how to pay for all of these things.”
Dan Owens, CEO of Emory University Hospital Midtown and a CAP board member, said much of the proposed green space would wrap around the hospital complex and new streets could relieve some bottlenecks.
“Finding the money is going to be critical to this,” he said.
Separately, the Buckhead Community Improvement District has studied a similar idea with Jacobs. The design concept near Lenox Square would create a park stretching from Atlanta Financial Center on Peachtree Road to the Lenox Road-Ga. 400 interchange. It would essentially cover Ga. 400 and the Buckhead MARTA transit station, creating an at-grade and walkable connection to apartment towers and office buildings now cut off by the highway.