ATLANTA - The Atlanta BeltLine is a 22-mile loop around the city formerly used for freight rail. It is now being transformed into parks, trails and eventually a transit system -- drastically changing the city's infrastructure. With this investment come jobs in construction and in the businesses that are expected to sprout up along the BeltLine corridor.
As Georgia's unemployment rate lingers around 10 percent, the Atlanta BeltLine is working to revitalize both physical spaces and communities. "We are putting people to work right now," said Brian Leary, CEO of the Atlanta BeltLine.
The BeltLine is doing just that -- putting people to work, starting with its Greenspace Jobs Training Program. "It feels wonderful, that was the whole point of the program to help and get you trained to an area where you know you feel you can work in," said George Harris, one of the program's first group of graduates. After graduating from the program, Harris came to work at Stanton Park, one of the BeltLine's many projects currently under way.
"I'm building a park for kids to play in now -- so it's like I am leaving something behind, that is always good," said Harris. Leary told Channel Two Action News that the Jobs Training Program graduated its first 30 participants this past March and 100 percent of the graduates have already found jobs. Many of them are working in their own neighborhoods." Some of the folks who actually grew up in the Peoplestown neighborhood and now live in the Peoplestown neighborhood have been hired by the contractor building D.H. Stanton Park in the Peoplestown neighborhood. So we couldn't have asked for a better scenario," said Leary.
The Atlanta BeltLine has created more than just construction jobs. Chef Kevin Rathbun opened his three restaurants along the BeltLine in anticipation of the project. "I bought this building pretty much because of the BeltLine. It will bring people right by my door, and I think it will help business as well," said Rathbun. He told Channel Two Action News that offering Atlantans a new way to travel around the city will vastly change his business.
"You can get off the BeltLine, walk over, have a little glass of wine, eat some cheese, go to dinner, eat some small plates at Rathbun's, and walk down the BeltLine and come to the steak house and finish your meal there. We are going to call it the Krogg Crawl; it might be the BeltLine crawl by the time it's all over with," said Rathbun.
With public investment comes private growth. "You'll see new development; new shops, new offices, but then those jobs that go into those new buildings, like new restaurants -- places like that will generate new economic activity," said Leary. He told Channel Two Action News that he expects the Atlanta BeltLine to create more than 30,000 jobs.