ATLANTA — As part of its commitment to preserve green space and improve parks for urban residents, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation today announced it is awarding grants to two organizations involved in making the Atlanta Belt Line – a proposed corridor of transit, parks and trails – a reality.
The Belt Line concept, conceived by Georgia Tech graduate student Ryan Gravel in 1999, calls for turning more than 20 miles of old railroad tracks and other land into a linear recreation and transit loop, connecting 46 diverse neighborhoods, as well as city schools, historic and cultural sites, shopping districts and public parks.
"The Belt Line is an exciting and historic opportunity that aligns perfectly with our mission to help develop a system of great parks in metropolitan Atlanta," said Arthur Blank, chairman of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. "We’re proud to play a supporting role in the larger public-private partnership that will be needed to bring the Belt Line to life, and we hope that our involvement will serve as an inspiration to others to join the effort. It’s going to take a broad coalition of partners and a great deal of collaboration to make this initiative succeed."
In 2004, The Blank Foundation awarded a $225,000 grant to TPL that helped fund the development of a plan released in December 2004 and conducted by renowned Yale University Professor Alexander Garvin. Building on Gravel’s idea, TPL commissioned the Garvin team to explore open space opportunities along the Belt Line. The resulting plan, "The Beltline Emerald Necklace: Atlanta’s New Public Realm," calls for the Belt Line corridor to frame a new park system, adding more than 1,400 acres of green space to the city, including four new parks, and five park-centered mixed-use developments. It also proposes adding three new MARTA stations to link the Belt Line to Atlanta’s existing transit network.
The Blank Foundation is making its Belt Line-related grants as part of a broader strategy called Inspiring Spaces, which is aimed at developing a system of great parks in Atlanta through planning, land acquisition, maintenance and public support. To date, working with city and county officials, civic and neighborhood associations and environmental groups, the Foundation has helped preserve more than 1100 acres of land within metro Atlanta. In July 2004, the Blank Foundation awarded $7.6 million in new grants for parks and green space and last month it awarded $150,000 to support Park Pride, a local parks advocacy group.
Formed in 1995, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation ( www.blankfoundation.org ) is focused on enhancing education, preserving green space, sustaining the arts and sparking collaboration among its nonprofit partners, primarily in Atlanta.
Arthur M. Blank is owner & CEO of the Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Force. He co-founded The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, in 1978 and retired from the company as co-chairman in 2001. Through his generosity, the foundation, along with Blank and his wife’s personal giving, has granted over $160 million to various charitable organizations.
Organizations receiving grants from the Blank Family Foundation are:
- Trust For Public Land (TPL) – $2.5 million to support TPL’s campaign for right-of-way and green space acquisition along the proposed Belt Line corridor. Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit land conservation organization that has worked closely with other conservation organizations and led the effort to preserve almost 70 miles of river frontage along the Chattahoochee River, protected land for the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, and recently worked with the City of Atlanta to expand parkland in SoutheastAtlanta.
- Friends of the Belt Line, Inc. – $30,000 for general operating support related to educating the public about the Belt Line. Friends of the Belt Line is a non-profit organization led by Gravel and former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard that is dedicated to the preservation and responsible redevelopment of the Belt Line as a transit line, trail and linear park.