Could capping the Downtown Connector rejuvenate Downtown Atlanta?

A nighttime rendering of The Stitch concept that would connect Midtown and Downtown via a “deck park.” Rendering by Jacobs.
A nighttime rendering of The Stitch concept that would connect Midtown and Downtown via a “deck park.” Rendering by Jacobs.

Construction of Atlanta’s interstates severed vital arteries that tied together neighborhoods as well as the city’s central business district.

But an intriguing and ambitious concept unveiled this week by business coalition Central Atlanta Progress would cap a portion of the Downtown Connector and reestablish links between Midtown and Downtown. It would reconnect a disjointed street grid and also open up acres for new parks and high-rise development.

The concept, fittingly called “The Stitch,” is a 14-acre project that would cover about three-quarters of a mile of I-75/I-85 from Spring Street to Baker Street.

The plan is modeled after other so-called “deck parks” such as the 5.2-acre Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, but this concept is much larger and would present greater opportunities for high-density development.

The Stitch also would come with a much larger price tag: estimated at more than $300 million or three times the Dallas project. The Stitch concept is just that for now, and detailed engineering and financing plans have not yet been drafted.

But a portion of the infrastructure could be financed through leasing air rights above the Connector.

The design concept was drafted by 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. The Beltline, alternatively, has stimulated development east of downtown.

“The new Downtown neighborhood of The Stitch reflects the new-again design philosophy of walkable, people-oriented urbanism supporting the ideals of healthy living and sustainable environments,” the study said.

The report estimates the project could stimulate $1.1 billion in redevelopment and property value growth.

Boston’s Big Dig buried freeways and replaced them with green space and pedestrian areas, rejuvenating the city’s downtown.

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.

In Other News