What makes a vibrant city?
Maybe it's being able walk to the grocery store or post office with ease. Maybe it is the feeling of stores and housing intertwined in a livable town center, where you can work and live harmoniously.
Maybe it's sitting outside on a restaurant patio on a warm spring afternoon, enjoying time with loved ones and listening to the hustle and bustle of cyclists passing by.
These aren’t just fantasies, even in a region like Atlanta that grew up around the automobile. Communities across the region are re-inventing themselves as places built around people, not just cars, through the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Centers Initiative, or LCI.
The latest round of LCI funding will help 17 projects get off the ground. Over the next several years, these projects will work to transform spaces around the region, beginning with the engineering stages and then moving into construction.
Let’s take a look at these transformative projects.
Bells Ferry Corridor is a major commuting artery connecting Marietta and Canton, but it holds promise to be so much more.
A 3.5-mile stretch of Bells Ferry Road in south Cherokee County will be transformed to make it a better place for walkers and cyclists.
The project will build a landscaped median, widen and add sidewalks, and install landscaped buffers to protect cyclists and pedestrians.
Grant amount: $308,000
City of Buford
Traveling busy Buford Highway or Buford Drive, you may not know that beautiful, serene Suwanee Creek is nearby.
The Buford Suwanee Creek Trail will add 1.75 miles of scenic trail connecting neighborhoods to the downtown area, as well as a bridge over Buford Highway to make crossing safer. The trail will meander alongside Suwanee Creek and include a boardwalk portion to make it easy to enjoy the marshy area all the way from Buford Highway to Buford Drive.
Grant amount: $712,000
City of Winder
Downtown Winder is a classic small town. Situated in Barrow County and home to just over 18,000 people, the downtown area is marked by brick storefronts and railroad tracks.
But just a few steps from the downtown area, the sidewalks quickly disappear into narrow roads with limited shoulders. This project will add sidewalks throughout the area to improve walkability and access to services and greenspace in the community.
The sidewalks will connect residents to the downtown area, where services like the post office, restaurants, and banks are located, as well as along Victor Lord Park where people can enjoy the forested area that abuts Fort Yargo State Park.
Grant amount: $280,000
City of Peachtree Corners
Dental and law offices dot Crooked Creek Road in Peachtree Corners. The scenic, two-lane street is flanked with trees.
However, the infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists is minimal – sidewalks are narrow and bike lanes are non-existent. To make the space safer and more usable for the community to enjoy, the Crooked Creek trail project will build a 14-foot-wide multi-use trail with ample, safe space for families to walk their children to nearby Peachtree Elementary School and employees to walk or bike to their offices.
Grant amount: $480,000
City of Atlanta & Little Five Points CID
Little Five Points is known for its bold, vintage character. Residents also know all too well about the dreaded DeKalb-Moreland interchange.
While Little Five Points is a walkable area, sidewalks along Moreland Avenue quickly become narrow and difficult to navigate as you go south towards DeKalb Avenue. To make the area safer and easier to travel through, this project will reimagine the space to make room for pedestrian and cyclist traffic.
The project will study two options for how this vision will come to life on Moreland – both adding critical pedestrian space, and a master plan for revamping the jughandle of DeKalb Avenue into a greener, easier to navigate place to bike and walk.
Grant amount: $240,000
City of Douglasville
Downtown Douglasville is classic Main Street USA. The main drag is dotted with storefronts, sidewalks, and greenery.
But this only extends for a short distance before the space returns to a mini-highway with five lanes, limited greenspace, and nearly non-existent sidewalks.
The Douglasville Fairburn Road Complete Street Project will transform this space into a green, walkable destination that’s also safer. The project will pare the road down to two lanes, with space for street parking, cycling lanes, and wider sidewalks. Plus, over 270 trees will be added along the road.
Grant amount: $1,040,000
City of Sugar Hill
Downtown Sugar Hill brings small town living to metro Atlanta, but two of the area’s major roads – Peachtree Industrial and Alton Tucker Boulevards – are big-city arteries that offer limited options for transportation aside from cars.
To create a more inclusive, greener space, the Downtown Sugar Hill Revitalization project will add pedestrian and cycling connectivity through the downtown area with new sidewalks and a two-way cycling track.
Trees, flowers, and landscaped medians will create a serene, green haven for the community.
Grant amount: $720,000
City of Covington
The Highway 278 intersection in downtown Covington is a busy junction. At present, the space is missing key space for pedestrians. And with the busy car traffic entering and exiting at higher speeds from 278 and I-20, it can be a dangerous place to cross.
This project will focus on improving the safety for people traveling by foot or on bikes. It will add sidewalks and wider paths, roundabouts to help slow down traffic, and medians and trees to serve as a green buffer.
Grant amount: $1,017,280
City of Holly Springs
Holly Springs is a city in Cherokee County that offers small-town charm just 45 minutes from downtown Atlanta.
Winding through quiet, wooded streets to the major intersection in the city's downtown area, wide roads make little space for sidewalks, and the paths to cross the intersection are indirect and require crossing four lanes in any direction. This project will add bike and pedestrian facilities, including a pedestrian bridge, to make the area safer and more usable for all Cherokee County residents.
Grant amount: $545,522
City of Forest Park
Main Street in Forest Park is a classic town center. Old family homes and businesses are divided by meandering streets with large trees along the curb line.
Outside of the downtown space, though, connecting to Main Street is difficult outside of using a car. To make Forest Park a better-connected place for pedestrians and cyclists alike, this project will add a bridge over Forest Parkway in addition to a wide brick sidewalk across the railroad tracks. Each of these pieces will help to make the space safer and more navigable for everyone in the community.
Grant amount: $160,000
City of Doraville
From the airport to Midtown, hopping on the train gives residents the chance to visit the newest exhibition at the High or see an Atlanta United game. For the residents of Doraville, the nearby MARTA station makes the city so much more accessible. But even with the station so close, parking at the station can be a hassle.
To better connect the community to the station with safety in mind, this project will build wide, multi-use paths along streets leading to the Doraville station to improve pedestrian and cyclist access. It will also add crosswalks and medians to prioritize safety for those choosing to walk or bike to the station.
Grant amount: $221,240
City of Alpharetta
From the movies to Macy's, North Point Mall is a hub for retail in Alpharetta. And the bustling area around the mall gives the residents even more spots to eat, shop, and play.
The North Point Alpha Link project will make traveling to your favorite lunch spot easier. The project will add bicycle and pedestrian paths leading to the mall as well as to Big Creek Greenway and downtown Alpharetta to create a truly interconnected space.
The space may one day accommodate a transit hub to further connect Alpharetta to the rest of Fulton County and the region.
Grant amount: $1,000,000
City of Dunwoody
Nestled between I-285 and 141, North Shallowford Road connects Dunwoody neighborhoods to shopping and services. The connectivity, however, is limited to cars.
For pedestrians and cyclists, navigating the area is more difficult. Segments of the road are without sidewalks and bike lanes entirely.
This project will expand the pedestrian and cycling infrastructure along North Shallowford Road and reduce the traffic to two lanes to make space for a wider walking and cycling path. Plans also call for over 100 new trees in the area to add buffer protection for those enjoying the path while simultaneously cleaning the air and beautifying the community.
Grant amount: $560,000
City of Atlanta & Atlanta Downtown Improvement District
Peachtree Street is Downtown Atlanta's signature street. It is known throughout the region as a hub for business and culture. It is a stone’s throw from Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN complex, and the Georgia Aquarium. Yet, despite being nestled in a bustling part of the city, today’s Peachtree Street can lack vibrancy. Sidewalks are narrow, and the street design leaves no quality space for cyclists, pedestrians, and outdoor dining options.
The Peachtree Shared Space project reimagines this space as a complete street. The vision for the new space will expand the street beyond serving cars alone - it will prioritize cyclists and pedestrians in addition to cars and transit. The project will also include green infrastructure that will both beautify and protect the space. Planting trees along the sidewalk and installing permeable pavers to reduce runoff and flooding are a few of these green measures.
Over the next several years, this project seeks to completely transform Peachtree Street into a welcoming, bustling space for all to enjoy.
Grant amount: $1,200,000
City of Powder Springs
The Silver Comet trail is the longest in metro Atlanta with more than 60 miles of paved paths from the Alabama border to Smyrna. The trail’s 2% grade makes it accessible to cyclists and pedestrians with a range of ages and abilities.
The Silver Comet Connector project will extend the trail along Jackson Way and add access points in Powder Spring making a safe, seamless transition from the street to the trail for pedestrians and cyclists and making it easier for more members of the community to take advantage of the trail.
Grant amount: $360,000
Gwinnett County & Sugarloaf CID
Satellite Boulevard cuts through the Sugarloaf Community Improvement District and was built for cars to connect to economic centers in the region. Nearby Wildwood Road divides a wooded residential area with no space for a shoulder, let alone pedestrians.
The Sugarloaf Trail Connector will add 3.5 miles of wide, paved trail to provide space to walk, run, or bike the area. The project will create a more interconnected community, making space for transportation choices beyond driving a car and giving better access to community spaces, like nearby Peachtree Ridge Park.
Grant amount: $1,100,000
City of Suwanee
The Suwanee Loop Trail project matches diverse needs for the community – connecting more rural-style roads while also making busy Peachtree Industrial Boulevard safer for the community. Peachtree Industrial lives up to its name. It’s a wide, busy thoroughfare focused on serving the nearby industrial and commercial businesses but a dangerous place for walkers and cyclists.
The Suwanee Loop Trail project will make traversing the area safer and more enjoyable for residents of the community.
A pedestrian bridge will be built over Peachtree Industrial to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety and remove the need to cross multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic.
In addition, wide, multi-use paths will be built along the much-smaller Stonecypher and Eva Kennedy Road, among others. The loop fill gaps in the current infrastructure needs and also includes art installations, educational elements, and even forest management to make the space usable and engaging for everyone. The trail promises to be a peaceful path where users may not even notice the busy road they cross!
Grant amount: $800,000
What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.