The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed with the Overall Excellence Award for Smart Growth Achievement for the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail and Historic Fourth Ward Park. Reed accepted the award during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 5.
EPA’s National Award for Smart Growth Achievement is given for creative, sustainable initiatives that help protect the environment while also strengthening local economies. The Overall Excellence Award is the highest national honor given by the EPA.
Atlanta was selected from among 77 applicants in 31 states. A total of seven communities from across the nation were honored in Washington, D.C. as national models for environmentally and economically sustainable development.
“This prestigious national recognition for the Atlanta BeltLine is an affirmation of the investments we are making to create a more economically vibrant, prosperous and sustainable city,” said Mayor Reed.
EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney praised the Atlanta Beltline project.
“The Atlanta BeltLine has become a national model for smart growth by turning what was once an abandoned rail corridor into a vibrant community space where healthy living is encouraged, culture is cultivated, the environment is better protected and economic development is taking place,” said Toney.
The 17-acre Historic Fourth Ward Park, which opened in 2011, transformed a barren, contaminated site north of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthplace into a vision for sustainable redevelopment. It is the result of years of work between the community, area businesses and property owners, elected officials, city departments, and the Atlanta BeltLine. Significant support from the private, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors were essential to the funding, planning and construction of the park. The design principles of Historic Fourth Ward Park provide a successful template of land use, greenspace and sustainable development for the entire Atlanta BeltLine. To date, Historic Fourth Ward Park has helped catalyze more than $400 million in new private real estate development within one block of its borders.
The Eastside Trail, a 2.25-mile section of the Atlanta BeltLine, connects five formerly divided neighborhoods and contains a 14-foot-wide concrete trail and 30 acres of landscaped greenway, including spaces for both public art and a naturalistically designed exercise station. This section of trail also connects three major parks – including the Historic Fourth Ward Park and Skatepark – and connects to a 19-mile trail running from downtown to the suburbs. This opens up new and safe alternative commute options and will eventually connect to a new streetcar network between a number of vital work and residential centers. Funded by public sources and private philanthropic contributions, the Eastside Trail has helped catalyze roughly $775 million in new private real estate development within a half mile comprised of new residential, commercial and retail projects.
EPA created the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in 2002 to highlight exceptional approaches to development that protect the environment, encourage economic vitality, and enhance quality of life. In the past 12 years, 61 winners from 26 states have shown a variety of approaches that states, regions, cities, suburbs, and rural communities can use to create economically strong, environmentally responsible development. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities manages the awards program.