ATLANTA (WXIA) – On Wednesday, city leaders broke ground on the next big phase of the Atlanta BeltLine. The three mile trail will run along the west side of the city from Washington Park to Adair Park.
The project comes with high expectations from a part of the city that is desperate for change.
The BeltLine is considered by most to be a big success on the Eastside Trail. Now, city leaders are promising similar results for a more troubled part of town.
Seventeen shovels and more than a half-dozen speakers – all trumpeting $43 million of investment in the Atlanta BeltLine's Westside Trail. But ask anyone who lives on that side of the city --
"The community is actually at its bottom, so there's nowhere to go but up," said west side resident Allean Brown.
Wednesday's celebration stood between broken glass on one side and boarded up houses on the other.
"These are neighborhoods that have meaning," said District 3 councilman Ivory Young. "These are residents that still live next to these boarded houses and are committed to this transformation."
The BeltLine– and its future renderings – come with the promise of activity and investment, and the recent success of the trail on the city's east side. But the Eastside Trail is bordered by Ponce City Market and Piedmont Park.
This trail comes to a community that needs it.
"It's a problem with crime, it's a problem with just how you feel coming into the neighborhood," said Atlanta resident Amy Johnson. "So we just look forward to the spirit the BeltLine will bring."
"We want to have jobs right off the BeltLine," said Brown. "We want to see the growth that's possible for the community to survive."
City leaders say the west side is already seeing investments and purchases because of the trail that will pay off in a few years when the trail is complete.
"I don't want to over-promise, I want to over-deliver," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. "But the bottom line is, the conversation was whether the BeltLine was ever gonna reach Southwest Atlanta at all."
As for safety, the BeltLine's president and CEO Paul Morris made a promise to the crowd. He said the security on the Westside Trail would equal that over on the Eastside Trail.