Not many planners get an opportunity to influence their city in the way Atlanta’s Ryan Gravel has.
The concept Gravel laid out in visionary master’s thesis — transforming forgotten railroad tracks circling the city of Atlanta into a recreational and active transportation corridor — laid out an entirely new organizing principle for the city and inspired thousands. Construction is well underway on his “BeltLine,” and national observers including the New York Times have heralded its potential to change the way Atlanta develops — from car-oriented chaos to a more walkable, urban, and connected way of life.
So it was a big deal last week when Gravel announced he was resigning from the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Board — the funding arm of the project — due to concerns about gentrification.
We caught up with Gravel by phone to learn more about why he felt it was important to take a very public stand on this issue.
How long had you been on the board of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership?
I started in 2009, I believe. I was nearing the end of two four year terms.
The [BeltLine] Partnership has always been this sort of philanthropic fundraising for parks and trails, awareness campaigns like bus tours, and advocates for social sides including affordability, but also jobs and health, making sure the BeltLine lives up to its goals.
There’s always been this sort of balance in the Partnership about what’s important.