By Collin Kelley
The Midtown Alliance is moving full-steam ahead with projects that will offer bold new looks to existing structures in the community.
First up is the Gateway Connector Project, which will “enhance the aesthetics” of Peachtree Street bridges that cross the Downtown Connector, according to Midtown Alliance CEO Kevin Green. The Peachtree bridges at Brookwood Station and just south of the Emory University Hospital Midtown complex will both feature “monumental arches” and bold, up-lip decorative lettering, Green said.
The bridge enhancements will also create bike lanes, widen the sidewalks and planted medians. The Midtown Alliance is working with Central Atlanta Progress on the southern Peachtree bridge enhancement.
“We are in the concept phase now, but will have final design and construction documents by the end of the year,” Green said, noting that Georgia Department of Transportation and Norfolk-Southern approval would also be needed since the bridges cross Interstate 75/85 and railroad tracks.
Green said construction would begin early next year and take about 12 months to complete with an estimated budget of $5.3 million for both bridges.
The decorative bridge arches will reach 30 feet at the top curve and will be made from structural steel, Green said. “Pedestrians using the sidewalks will actually be walking through the archways, which act as a barrier to motor traffic.”
Unlike the demolition and re-building of the 14th Street bridge a few years ago, Green said this project will only require occasional lane closures.
While the Gateway project moves forward, the Midtown Alliance is working with MARTA on a study (funded with an $80,000 grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission) to radically improve the visual appeal of the train stations at North Avenue, Midtown and Arts Center. Concept drawings show radical changes, including one that would add a café to the Midtown station on 10th Street.
“There is a study underway that will be complete by the end of 2013 for implementable solutions for the MARTA stations,” Green said. “We want the stations to act as a gateway as well and give riders a since of arrival into Midtown.”
The study will also look at safety issues, lighting, accessibility, landscaping, the use of public art and environmentally sustainability, which falls under the Midtown EcoDistrict project. Green said the success of transformations to the Midtown stations could eventually be used for improvements at other MARTA stations.
Like train stations in New York, London and other cities, Green said having MARTA stations with shops, cafes and other amenities would only enhance usage of MARTA. “The stations today aren’t particularly inviting,” Green said frankly. “There is lots of opportunity to make them inviting and I’m excited about it.”
Green said the Gateway Connector Project and MARTA station redesign both fall under the larger Midtown EcoDistrict umbrella, created last year. With making Midtown environmentally sustainable as its goal, the program is moving on multiple fronts including adding 9.25 miles of additional bike lanes and working with the Atlanta BeltLine to connect those bike lanes to the Eastside Trail to 10th Street and Charles Allen Drive at Grady High School via the 10th Street Cycle Track. There are also plans to add more public bike racks, which will bring the number to 200 in Midtown.
Also underway is the “greening” of Juniper Street, which will include high-efficiency LED overhead lighting, wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, on-street parking and “bioswales,” stormwater retention areas that will surround new shade trees. The bioswales use special soil and planting materials to reduce bacteria and improve run-off.
Green said Midtown is part of the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, a national project to make cities more environmentally friendly.