Were you there?
On a rainy Thursday evening last week, about 150 people came to hear, “What can Sandy Springs learn from Atlanta’s BeltLine?”
This strong show of support underscores how important affordable housing is to the people who live here in Sandy Springs.
Those who joined us heard how the BeltLIne started as a vision by a graduate student at Georgia Tech for his thesis, and how, over time, the idea to convert abandoned rail tracks into a non-motorized walking path gained in popularity. Eventually, the plan was adopted by the Atlanta City Council.
The initial vision was to connect isolated neighborhoods and create a mixture of economic, cultural and racial vitality all while offering a method of mobility that was both economical and healthy.
Moderator, Bill Bolling asked our panelists, David Jackson, Deputy Executive Director for Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and Dwayne Vaughn, Vice President of Housing Policy and Development for Atlanta BeltLine Inc.:
“What would you do differently today?”
The answer is a lesson for Sandy Springs: they would anticipate the impact that this improvement to the community would have on the original residents of the area, and would have found a way for residents to remain and grow with the development.
To accomplish this, the panel continued, ”The city (of Atlanta) would have found a way to control the land sooner,” so that the original vision of providing affordable housing could have been accomplished.
Instead, the popularity of the project took off, the residents were not prepared nor empowered and the original residents were priced out.
This same scenario could occur here. In fact, it’s likely to occur here unless we develop a plan to include affordable housing along with growth.
Research shows that land adjacent to walking paths increases in value by 30%.
What is that going to do to rents and property taxes? They will probably go up.
Where will our workforce live? Farther away from Sandy Springs.
And where will our seniors go when they can no longer afford to pay their property taxes? Likely not in the community they’ve chosen as home.
Washington, DC, took a different approach when the city made it a requirement that developers come up with a plan for a park that focuses on “minimizing the displacement of residents within a mile radius” of the project.
This is why we keep saying, we need to understand the obvious consequences of all of the proposed community projects like the Sandy Springs Master Trail System, the community center, more access to the river and other projects.
And it is a lesson we can learn from Atlanta’s BeltLine.