An illustration of The Stitch, a proposed project to cap the Downtown Connector with acres of park space from the Civic Center MARTA Station at Ted Turner Drive to Piedmont Avenue. (Central Atlanta Progress)

A plan to cap the Downtown Connector with park space has received a nearly $1.2 million boost in federal dollars. The funding is slated to be used for the preliminary design of the the project that some supporters call “the next big thing” for the city.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams announced the $1.16 million for The Stitch on Oct. 27. This funding is the largest-ever federal investment for the project.

When complete, The Stitch will cap the Downtown Connector from Civic Center MARTA Station at West Peachtree Street and Piedmont Avenue. 

The cap structure will accommodate new local street and pedestrian connections over the interstate and create a platform for 14 acres of new park space. Located in an area identified as suffering from persistent poverty, the cap will redress, repurpose, and reconnect the long-standing major divide among the Downtown, Midtown, and the Old Fourth Ward communities since the interstate was built in the 1950s.

The project could cost upwards of $713 million, according to estimates from Central Atlanta Progress. The organization hopes to start construction by 2026 and complete the project by 2032.

“The Stitch will improve everyone’s quality of life,” Williams said in a statement. “We will reclaim a massive part of our city with a beautiful new greenspace, mitigate environmental damage from highway traffic, and build dignified affordable housing.”

Williams said Downtown Connector was built as part of the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act. “which intentionally divided Black communities across the country.”

” It was racial injustice plain and simple,” she said. “While we can’t and don’t seek to remove the Connector, I can take steps to undo the damage it has caused–starting with reconnecting our communities.”

Atlanta Downtown Improvement District & Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson said the funding for the project would help ” kick the advancement of the Stitch into full gear.”

Stitch Development Manager Jack Cebe said the project would “improve livability and the Downtown value gap.”

“Features of the Stitch include catalyzing and supporting over 3,000 new affordable housing units and 14 million square feet of development, creating a lively and sustainable new 14-acre park in Downtown, enhancing the MARTA Civic Center Station, retrofitting existing streets to be more walkable and bikeable, and improving safety and operations on the interstate,” Cebe said.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.