Ashford Highline Viaduct: Elevated Linear Park

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The City of Dunwoody has a similar problem with daily high volume auto traffic that brings tens of thousands of workers and even more consumers into the Perimeter district. Wide streets and vast parking lots accommodate the car traffic, but also diminish efforts to transform Perimeter into a pedestrian village with walkable landscape.

The Ashford corridor has been built out with giant retail islands – Ravinia, Hammond power center, Perimeter Mall, Park Place shopping center, Restaurant Park, Ashford Wal-Mart shopping center. These islands were constructed before human scale and walkable development became desirable.

The only way to pull these retail islands together is through construction of pedestrian bridges that cross the Ashford – Dunwoody eight lane autobahn with lights to connect the shopping centers on each side of the street: Ravinia to Mall with fly over bridge to power center – Park Place to Mall – Ashford Wal-Mart center to Restaurant Park.

Mayor Davis has informed me that the PID has studied bridges and found the cost high and use limited to warrant investment. I contend that since the Perimeter area’s long term viability is in question due to increasing auto volumes – the PID can’t afford not to build bridges.

But why build bridges when an even better solution is possible: Construction of an elevated linear park that will transform the Perimeter district into a true pedestrian village, make Perimeter a third regional downtown, and produce one of the great destination areas in Metro Atlanta.

I live in the Lofts Apartments and daily attempt to live the pedestrian village lifestyle. I walk and bike everywhere which can be dangerous and unpleasant – crossing Ashford – Dunwoody is always scary. The sea of cars in the vast parking lots makes walking challenging and even un-nerving.

Granted the Perimeter Improvement District and the City of Dunwoody have made significant improvements to the Perimeter’s hard-scape (sidewalks, limited bike lanes) but it isn’t enough. A vision similar to the transformative Atlanta’s Beltline Project is needed for Dunwoody.

Phase I: Build elevated linear park over Ashford – Dunwoody that stretches from Hammond Drive to the Restaurant Park. Park is elaborately landscaped – has benches and perhaps a kiosk or two for refreshments.

The New York Highline has attracted high rise condo development along side its two mile long walkway. Outparcels in the parking lots could be sold to developers to construct high rise condos which would build plazas over the parking lots for condo owners and visitors.

Real estate values would be created to improve the tax digest – bring a core residential population to an area previously considered unthinkable to live – new consumers fill the mall and other shopping centers by using the park and its bridges to scurry about on foot.

Phase II: Branch viaduct off from Ashford to go down Perimeter Parkway West to connect with Target Shopping Center

Phase III: Build next stretch of park down street on west side of mall to Ashford MARTA Station – stops at Hammond and enhances State Farm project going up in that part of district.

Phase IV: Build across Hammond to Ashford to complete encircling of the mall and connection to all retail islands. High rise condos with plazas should cover much of the mall’s parking spaces. Autos come and go into district as usual but much more invisibly.

Phase V: Construction of small tram / people mover to be built alongside the linear park for handicapped access and also serve as a shuttle for people moving throughout the district.

Estimated construction schedule: Ten years. Upon completion, Dunwoody will have one of the great walkable downtowns in Metro Atlanta and perhaps the country. The city will have transformed its greatest negative - a traffic monster and degrader of quality of life -into a positive: A pastoral, beautiful walkway with attractive vistas from virtually every perch on the viaduct.

Conclusion: Yes, this is a big expensive project – but it is also a viable solution that transforms the district from a suburban sprawl concept into a walkable urban zone.