By Gabriel Owens, contributor
With the looming Atlanta mayoral election and the ever-expanding sprawl of the Atlanta Beltline, many residents are concerned about the Beltline’s future
But what do the prospective future mayors think about the future of the 22-mile network of parks and trails?
Atlanta Loop asked several of the candidates questions regarding the Beltline, and four weighed in with their thoughts and plans if elected.
“Since its inception, the Beltline has brought Atlanta together in expected and unexpected ways,” said Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Councilmember. “As it continues to develop, the Beltline is helping to bring our city together not just in physical and geographic terms, but in community and human terms as well.”
“The Atlanta Beltline may be the most significant development in our city of the first two decades of the twenty-first century,” said Mary Norwood, another city councilmember. “The excitement has reached all corners of Atlanta.”
The Beltline is growing at a rapid rate, with phase one of the Eastside Trail’s expansion expected to finish this month. Many of the candidates have optimistic outlooks for the future of this project.
“I support accelerating the timeline to expand and build the Beltline so we can better connect our communities through transit and trail networks, and improve the livability and vibrancy of our city,” said Peter Aman, former chief operating officer of Atlanta. “It is important that the expansion and build out of the Beltline is not done in a vacuum.”
Other candidates echoed the sentiment. “As mayor, I will use my office to bring the development community together to foster a shared vision of balanced growth while preserving green space,” said John Eaves, Fulton County chairman. “I believe that smart balanced growth can be a win-win for neighborhood interest and developers.”
This balance also includes promoting affordable housing, the candidates said.
“As mayor, one of my top priorities is to remove the ‘silos’ on areas of citywide impact, housing and transportation being among them,” said Aman. His goal is bringing all the city’s major players together to “comprehensively and systematically increase affordable housing options in Atlanta.”
Hall said the city needs to put pressure on the private sector.
“Because Georgia does not allow rent control or inclusionary zoning, we need to focus our solutions on the supply side of the market,” said Hall. “We need to…focus our efforts where we control the land cost and can tell developers exactly what we expect, rather than the other way around.”
One of Hall’s goals is to deliver at least 10,000 new units at a variety of price points.
The candidates were optimistic about the Beltline’s future overalll, and had their own ideas for guiding the progress of the project going forward.
“If the Beltline is to be successful it must solve the problem [of] last mile connectivity,” Norwood said. “Everyone should be able to connect with the Beltline from all parts of the city of Atlanta, whether or not it is by MARTA, the Atlanta Streetcar, or some other hybrid form of public transportation.”
Eaves wants to increase community involvement in the project.
“Entities that impact people should always be represented by people,” he said. “I am in favor of a cross-section of representatives on boards, whether they be the Beltline or a community improvement district of a subsidiary board of an elected body, such as our various development authority boards.”
The Atlanta Mayoral Election is scheduled to be held Nov. 7. There are 10 candidates currently declared, with Norwood currently holding a 27 percent lead, according to a WXIA-TV survey. She is followed by Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell with 10 percent and Hall with 9 percent.
The other mayoral candidates did not respond by our deadline.