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ATLANTA-When park planner Alex Garvin flew in police helicopter over a quarry, he envisioned more than workers extracting stones and rock from a giant pit.

He envisioned a public park, one that would become part of an ambitious plan for the city called the Beltline. The Beltline is a 22-mile loop of historic railroad that encircles Downtown and Midtown. It will connect 45 in-town neighborhoods with parks, transit and trails for commuters, bicyclists and pedestrians. In 2005, the city approved $1.7 billion in tax-increment financing for the project.

According to those involved with the project, it will not only increase the livability of the city, but will also spur future economic development. “Great park developments increase the value of property around it and encourage development,” says Garvin, president and CEO of Alex Garvin & Associates in New York City. “It becomes a magnet for developers who see parks as a great asset.”

Garvin, a Yale professor for 40 years, became involved with the Beltline in 2004 when the city’s Trust for Public Land commissioned him to study greenspace opportunities along the Beltline corridor. His study, called “The Beltline Emerald Necklace: Atlanta’s New Public Realm”, concluded that a connected park, trail and transit system along the Beltline was achievable and outlined a proposal for its realization. Garvin explains that the term Emerald Necklace refers to the Beltline as being a necklace with the parks being the jewels on the necklace.

This is not the first time Garvin has worked on plans for public spaces. As vice president for planning, design and development for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. in 2003, he worked with the city on plans for the World Trade Center site. Currently, he is working with Memphis on plans for Shelby Farms, a 4,500-acre site just outside the city. He is also working with Prince George’s County in Maryland on a public park master plan.

In Atlanta, Garvin will see his vision for the quarry come to life. Last spring, negotiations with Vulcan Materials Co. and the Fulton County Commission to acquire the Bellwood Quarry and underlying property were completed. Plans for the property are to transform it into the most significant new greenspace along Atlanta’s Beltline. “It will become the largest park in Atlanta,” he says. “I think it will make quite a lovely new facility.”

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