The neighborhood has fought to be heard for years over the fate of the Freedom Parkway corridor, dating back to the time Jimmy Carter was governor.
Then, in 1992, the Georgia Department of Transportation had plans to build a bridge connecting Freedom Park to Freedom Parkway. Residents at the time were opposed to a simple concrete bridge at that intersection.
But a member of the Candler Park neighborhood master plan committee in 2013, Ken Edelstein, began a campaign to build a more visually appealing bridge.
“My neighbors were saying that they wanted more connectivity to the BeltLine,” Edelstein said. “This whole new generation of people who are biking and walking and want a city that is connected, it really seems to have struck a chord with intown neighborhoods.”
Members of the group advocating for the bridge want to improve safety at the intersection for cyclists and pedestrians. Edelstein said it would be the final link of a bike trail connecting downtown Atlanta to Stone Mountain.
He said the group wants to build an iconic and inspiring piece of architecture in the city’s arts neighborhood.
“This seems like the perfect place, a very high-profile road, to put an inspiring piece of architecture: a bridge that we can look at as not just a utilitarian bridge, but something that adds to the landscape,” Edelstein said.
He said that the group hopes that the bridge will be either entirely or primarily funded with private money.
But since this is all in an idea phase, PATH Foundation Executive Director Edwin McBrayer said it’s impossible to estimate how much it might cost.
“It could be anywhere from a cardboard bridge to a glass sculpture at this point,” McBrayer said.
That uncertainty had Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall taking the long view.
At Thursday night’s meeting, he encouraged supporters of the bridge to collaborate with public and private entities at both the city and state levels.
“We’ve got to look at the whole problem, and or opportunity to make it less congested and a safer thoroughfare from DeKalb Avenue down to Ponce de Leon,” Hall said. “That’s the big idea.”
The PATH Foundation expects to pitch in funding and would help the group get funding from the city and private groups. They would also apply for permits and build the bridge if asked.
BeltLine visionary Ryan Gravel said he supports the idea of a bridge, “as long as it is well designed and includes street-level intersection improvements.”
“A light, airy bridge for bikes and pedestrians would be a great addition to the Greenway,” Gravel said. “Of course, we have to find a way to pay for it, but first we need input on whether the community supports it and how they imagine the experience.”
Melanie Bliss lives in the Lake Claire neighborhood. She said the intersection of Moreland and Freedom Parkway isn’t safe for her and her kids.
“I’d love for us to be able to leave our Lake Claire-Candler Park side and easily access the BeltLine,” Bliss said.
Abigail Leinsdorf said she likes the idea of a bridge, but she thinks other projects like bike lanes would be quicker and more cost effective.
“There should be some sort of barrier, more space between the lane and the traffic, it’s scary out there when you’re not on a bike path. The bike paths can’t go everywhere, so the bike lanes need to improve,” she said.