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Thought Leadership Views From Peachtree

The Stitch’s benefits far outweigh any challenges in bringing it to life

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By Craig Jones, Board Chair, Atlanta Downtown Improvement District

Cities are filled with interesting and impactful project ideas; however, few are truly transformative. Transformation is complicated due in part to fractured land ownership, political realities, infrastructure challenges, funding constraints and lack of vision. It is difficult at best to move beyond the current reality to see over these hurdles and imagine a bold new future.

The Stitch represents just such an opportunity. It is a big idea with the potential to truly transform, reconnect and even heal Atlanta’s Central Business District. It is an opportunity to fill the void between Downtown and Midtown that has existed since the I-75/85 ‘Connector’ was first constructed and, in doing so, create a vibrant new urban neighborhood surrounding meaningful public open space with a direct connection to transit.

The Stitch, the proposal to cap over the section of the Connector between the Civic Center MARTA rail station and Piedmont Avenue, has captured the imaginations of people locally and even nationally (in the past year, it was featured in Fox News, The Times of London, and the Wall Street Journal). The proposed cap, a 3/4-mile platform creating a 14-acre park, would also reconnect streets and catalyze real estate investment around it. 

By design, the Stitch would attract private investment, increase real estate values, and create an unprecedented opportunity to foster transit-oriented development at the Civic Center MARTA station. Preliminary analysis reveals that with the construction of the Stitch, real estate values in the area are projected to increase between $2 to $3 billion, producing a lasting impact. 

Also, as new residential and commercial development is attracted to the surrounding area, ridership at the Civic Center Station is projected to increase dramatically. The Stitch will transform this neighborhood with a new, dynamic public realm of interconnected public spaces and a vibrant new welcoming front door to Downtown and Midtown, attracting jobs and adding new residents, visitors, and businesses.

The work to date to advance the Stitch vision has been substantial. Existing conditions have been studied, and engineering concepts and costs to construct the vision have been developed by a team of “cap park” design and construction experts. The collective response is that the benefits and positive impacts the Stitch brings to its neighborhood, the City and the State far outweigh any identified challenges.

A recently completed Implementation Plan Report details the next phase of predevelopment work. This next phase will build and expand upon previous feasibility work and address new and emerging priorities, including plans for affordable housing; park and plaza design and programming; transportation and mobility priorities; and development controls and design guidelines. 

Making this idea a reality will take vision, commitment, and a belief that Atlanta deserves a great urban future, and bold steps must be taken. The Stitch will make us all proud to call Atlanta home and it’s happening at just the right time. Atlanta is on the cusp of something great—and it’s up to us to build it. Let’s do it together.

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