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Atlanta BeltLine Receives National Award for Smart Growth

The BeltLine’s Eastside Trail and Historic Fourth Ward Park won the Overall Excellence Award, the highest national honor bestowed by the EPA.

The Atlanta BeltLine's Eastside Trail contains a 14-foot-wide concrete trail and 30 acres of landscaped greenway, including spaces for both public art and a naturalistically designed exercise station. Credit: Hunt Archbold
The Atlanta BeltLine's Eastside Trail contains a 14-foot-wide concrete trail and 30 acres of landscaped greenway, including spaces for both public art and a naturalistically designed exercise station. Credit: Hunt Archbold
On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed with the Overall Excellence Award for Smart Growth Achievement for the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail and Historic Fourth Ward Park.

EPA’s National Award for Smart Growth Achievement is given for creative, sustainable initiatives that help protect the health and the environment of our communities while also strengthening local economies. The Overall Excellence Award is the highest national honor bestowed by the EPA.

The EPA selected the award winners from among 77 applicants in 31 states, chosen based on their effectiveness in creating sustainable communities; fostering equitable development among public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders; and serving as national models for environmentally and economically sustainable development. Communities from across the country will be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“This prestigious national recognition for the Atlanta BeltLine is an affirmation of the investments we are making to create a more economically vibrant, prosperous and sustainable city,” said Reed in a news release. “The success and impact of the Atlanta BeltLine is a story of national significance with a three to one return on investment to date. The EPA has been a critical partner in our efforts and we are grateful for their partnership and the support of President Obama’s administration.”

“The Atlanta BeltLine has become a national model for smart growth by turning what was once an abandoned rail corridor into a vibrant community space where healthy living is encouraged, culture is cultivated, the environment is better protected and economic development is taking place,” said EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney.

The 17-acre Historic Fourth Ward Park, which opened in 2011, transformed a barren, contaminated site north of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthplace into a vision for sustainable redevelopment. It is the result of years of work between the community, area businesses and property owners, elected officials, city departments, and the Atlanta BeltLine.

Significant support from the private, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors were essential to the funding, planning, design and construction of the park. The final product is a park that reduces energy use, contributes to vital ecological processes and is maintained in an environmentally responsible way. The design principles of Historic Fourth Ward Park provide a successful template of land use, greenspace and sustainable development for the entire Atlanta BeltLine. To date, Historic Fourth Ward Park has helped catalyze more than $400 million in new private real estate development within one block of its borders.

The Eastside Trail, a 2.25-mile section of the Atlanta BeltLine, connects five formerly divided neighborhoods. It contains a 14-foot-wide concrete trail and 30 acres of landscaped greenway, including spaces for both public art and a naturalistically designed exercise station.

This section of trail also connects three major parks – including the Historic Fourth Ward Park and Skatepark – and connects to a 19-mile trail running from downtown to the suburbs. This opens up new and safe alternative commute options and will eventually connect to a new streetcar network between a number of vital work and residential centers. Funded by public sources and private philanthropic contributions, the Eastside Trail has helped catalyze roughly $775 million in new private real estate development within a half mile comprised of new residential, commercial and retail projects.

EPA created the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in 2002 to highlight exceptional approaches to development that protect the environment, encourage economic vitality, and enhance quality of life.
More information on the winners for 2013, see here.


Information in this report was supplied by the City of Atlanta and edited for publication.

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