Navigating diverse goals for a greener Atlanta: Stakeholder subjectivity and socio-ecological tradeoffs on the Atlanta BeltLine

Authors: Rachel Will*, University of Georgia
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Urban greening
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Balcony L, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cities are increasingly turning to urban greening projects to address multiple socio-environmental challenges. Though ample literature has demonstrated the positive or negative outcomes of urban greening projects, few studies have examined how the social and ecological outcomes of these projects are perceived differently by various stakeholders and resident demographics. The Atlanta BeltLine, a 33-mile “green” loop of multi-use trails, pocket parks, and alternative transit lines around Atlanta, GA, is used as a case study for this question. The BeltLine is intended to improve environmental quality, implement new urban parks, promote neighborhood reinvestment, and provide affordable housing and environmental justice for vulnerable residents. Despite the marketing of these goals as universally beneficial, initial project outcomes have been widely contentious. In order to better understand the diversity of resident and stakeholder views, and the challenges and tradeoffs inherent to the project planning process, interviews were conducted with residents, community leaders, project professionals, and city officials. This fieldwork demonstrates how the same project outcomes are differently interpreted based on the subjectivity of individual stakeholders. Further, this research demonstrates various impediments in the planning process that prevent meaningful inclusion of diverse perspectives and project goals, including methods of resident engagement, and the limitations placed on planners. Finally, fieldwork demonstrates that project professionals may not have the training necessary to integrate “informal” and “expert” knowledge. I discuss these barriers in detail, and offer insights into how urban political ecology could offer more engaged research to help address these problems and support local social movements.

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