Ryan Gravel, BeltLine visionary, to receive award

Ryan Gravel, the visionary behind the Atlanta BeltLine, and author of “Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities,” will receive the AJC Decatur Book Festival’s inaugural Judy Turner Prize at this year’s festival. Photo: Josh Meister

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Ryan Gravel, the visionary behind the Atlanta BeltLine, and author of “Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities,” will receive the AJC Decatur Book Festival’s inaugural Judy Turner Prize at this year’s festival. Photo: Josh Meister

Ryan Gravel, whose master's thesis at Georgia Tech outlined the vision for the Atlanta BeltLine back in 1999, will be given the inaugural Judy Turner Prize at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival on Labor Day weekend.

The prize reflects the impact of Gravel’s city planning concepts, which are summed up in his book, “Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities.” Gravel, 43, will introduce that book during the festival’s final day.

The Turner prize is named after Judy Turner, a founding board member and president of the book festival, who contributed $10,000 in seed money to establish the award. The criteria for the prize are relaxed: it is awarded to the author of a book published in the current year and the focus of the book should be on community.

“The Atlanta BeltLine is truly a story about community — it’s about people pulling together and working hard to improve the physical, economic and cultural conditions of this region,” Gravel said in a statement, “so it’s really special to receive this prize in honor of a fellow change-maker like Judy Turner, whose commitment to Decatur has been a powerful catalyst that is improving the life of our communities.”

The BeltLine is a 22-mile circle of disused railroad beds that have been reshaped into a greenway of interconnected parks, multi-use trails and transit. The $4 billion public/private project has brought a surge of revitalization to the core of the city.

The festival’s founding executive director Daren Wang said, “I can think of no better choice for the inaugural winner of the Judy Turner Prize than Ryan Gravel. Judy has dedicated her career and volunteerism to the communities in which she has lived and worked and the BeltLine is helping to redefine community in Atlanta, bringing a vibrancy to the urban core. That would not be possible without Ryan’s vision.”