Alpha Loop takes on life of its own

The inner loop is already taking shape behind City Hall through Hedgewood with a boardwalk under construction

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – With the 2018 budget season approaching, proponents of the Alpha Loop are already making a case for getting the project its own line item in Alpharetta’s upcoming spending plan.

Mayor David Belle Isle, who touts the three-mile inner and the five-mile outer loops as the city’s own “beltline,” was authorized by the City Council March 20 to offer matching funds of $750,000 to the North Fulton Community Improvement District for design and construction of the 3.4 mile inner loop encircling the city’s business district.

Councilmembers said they hope to partner with the CID and possibly some corporate landowners to share costs on the loop, which has an estimated cost of $8 million.

Money for the match would come from unallocated capital funds in the 2017 budget.

The City Council has resisted spending any other money from this year’s budget on the project because it wasn’t publically proposed until November, well after the budget was adopted at a public hearing.

Even so, the nature trail stands to receive considerable backing from city leaders when the 2018 budget is considered later this spring.

Director of Public Works Pete Sewczwicz said city staff have already developed preliminary costs for the inner loop which runs from City Center south to Northwinds, then north and east to Avalon. A large portion of the route, which includes pocket parks and some elevated sections, has been broken down into three sections.

Phase A: The Almi stretch would run north of Westside Parkway for one mile. Total cost, including design and engineering, is $4 million.

Phase B: The Northwinds section runs for about a half-mile south of Westside Parkway to Kimball Bridge Road. Total cost, including design and engineering, is $2.6 million.

Phase C: This phase includes a tunnel under Westside Parkway, signal and pedestrian enhancements at Kimball Bridge Road. Total cost, including design and engineering, $1.3 million.

Sewczwicz said plans for the outer loop are less exact but it will call for some connection to the Alpharetta Greenway. Most likely, the streetscape underway at Academy/Webb Bridge could acccommodate a pedestrian crossing over Ga. 400 and onto the Greenway, he said.

Ben Kern, a planner with the city who is helping lead the project, said the inner loop is already taking shape behind City Hall through Hedgewood with a boardwalk under construction.

“They’ve staked in the planks already, so it’s kind of neat to see it take shape,” Kern said. “The guys over next to Jackson Healthcare, they’ve started building some of their portions through the woods along Ga. 400.”

The portions going in along Hedgewood are part of the city’s Master Plan, one link of the loop that was planned years ago, long before anyone envisioned a full loop, he said.

The city requires residential projects to set aside some open space and pay impact fees. But in some cases for those developments along the loop, the city has set aside the requirements in return for a segment of the loop.

“It’s a direct tradeoff in a sense,” Kern said. “We are having ongoing conversations with the office complex through Northwinds. We’re talking with them about partnering. Haynes Park has generously given us a portion of their HOA.”

Kern said he likes the idea of partnering with the community improvement district because half the loop is within the CID boundaries.

“They’ve been very excited in initial talks,” he said. “It’s in their DNA as a group.”

Generally, Kern said, he’s found that property owners who are unwilling to donate money or construct a segment of the loop will grant easements to allow the path to run through their property.

The obvious success of the Atlanta Beltline has shown people the tangible effects that it’s had on economic development and civic vitality down there, Kern said.

“This generation of people are looking for connection, open space that’s interesting,” he said. “One of our biggest complaints is traffic, and with a growing population, it’s always hard to accommodate, so it’s nice to have an option that’s getting people out.”

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