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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Beltline gets $5 million for Piedmont Park-DeKalb Ave. bike trail

And it's legit: Beltline officials expect to begin construction this fall on a bike trail that would connect Piedmont Park to DeKalb Avenue.

Mayor Kasim Reed, city councilmembers and project officials this morning accepted two checks — each for $2.5 million — from Kaiser Permanente and the PATH Foundation on behalf of Sarah and Jim Kennedy at a scorching event along the Beltline's northeast segment near the Masquerade. A project spokesman says the trail would open to walkers and cyclists next summer.

Nearly two years in the making, the trail project will connect the city's most iconic greenspace and the Morningside, Ansley Park, Midtown, Poncey-Highland and Old Fourth Ward neighborhoods before ending at DeKalb Avenue. (A Beltline spokesman said plans call for the trail to continue, but the $5 million contribution will only cover the proposed portion.) Work-out stations will be along the trail, so you can finally challenge Councilman Kwanza Hall to a push-up contest.

You can read our thoughts about what this project means for the Beltline on our earlier post about the surprise announcement. In short, this trail could only bring more awareness to the project and help with securing vital federal funding.

One thing that's important to note as some wonks might be scratching their heads: The design phase for all 22 miles of the Beltline corridor — a multi-year process in which the renowned firms Perkins + Will and James Corner Field Operations fine tune the Beltline's overall look and feel — is still underway.

An urban designer will tell you it's important to sort out those details before crews start moving dirt and pouring concrete. You want a seamless, fluid design that incorporates every Beltline feature — parks, trails, benches, lamp posts, whatever.

A Beltline spokesman, however, says the objective is to have the design phase completed in the northeast segment before fall, around the same time crews are scheduled to begin construction on the trail.

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