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City of Atlanta acquires rail corridor, allowing for completion of BeltLine's southside trail

ATLANTA — The BeltLine is expanding to Atlanta's southside.

On Thursday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the City acquired the railroad corridor needed to complete the BeltLine's Southside Trail. The purchase was a result of a $26 million transaction with CSX, who operated the rail corridor up until 2014.

“I am pleased to announce that the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta BeltLine have concluded the largest remaining single purchase of land toward closing the Atlanta BeltLine loop,” Mayor Bottoms said in a statement. “With this historic purchase, the City of Atlanta is taking another step forward in improving connectivity, growth and investment in South Atlanta by providing access to trails, transit options and world-class greenspace for all residents.”

The new acquisition will allow for the connection of the trail's east and west sides from University Avenue on the west to Glenwood Avenue on the east, creating a continuous 14 miles of the BeltLine corridor. The trail – which will run along the Pittsburgh, Capitol View Manor, High Point, South Atlanta, Peoplestown, Chosewood Park, Grant Park, Boulevard Heights, Ormwood Park and Summerhill – will be funded by a $2.4 million grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

On Thursday, the President and CEO of the Atlanta BeltLine Initiative, Brian McGowan, said it is a historic milestone.

“The Southside Trail will connect the east side of the Atlanta BeltLine to the west side for the first time in its history - and that changes everything.” McGowan said. “This inactive rail corridor that once divided neighborhoods can now be used to create jobs, transit and affordable housing options for communities south of downtown."

The trial is expected to open, in an interim state, within the year, but the corridor will remain closed while CSX works to remove the rails.

The announcement comes almost half a year after the popular trail's Westside trail's ribbon-cutting. Last September, 11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross spoke to residents along the west side. Residents said they were excited about the development, but hesitant about what it meant for their future.

"We're hoping that there's going to be a mix," said resident Jay Hope, who moved in about two years ago. "Progress always comes. We don't fear progress, but we want to ensure that there are people here who have been here all the time who get to stay in their homes."

Hope has been deeply involved in the conversation about how to keep his beloved neighborhood affordable for the people who have lived there for decades.

"This is the West End," he said. "It's about tradition and history and we want people who come in to this neighborhood to have a great understanding of these things."

The Atlanta Beltline Inc. is required to produce 5,600 units of affordable housing. At the end of 2016, there were only 785 units, with 900 potential units in the works with current funding and developer commitments. That leaves them more than 3,900 short.

A BeltLine official tells us they are laser-focused on finding those affordable units moving forward.