Deck park trend may be coming to Atlanta

Finding and buying several acres of land in any major city's downtown area to build a park is a hard thing to do but what if instead of building out, the city builds up? That's exactly what's happening in several cities, including Atlanta.

Some sections of Atlanta's Downtown Connector span 14-lanes wide. Picture a platform of park space sitting on top of those 14 lanes. There's a new push to add traffic to Atlanta's notoriously strapped highways, that is, foot traffic. Several proposals in the city suggest building up to create more green space for pedestrians.

The most extensive project is dubbed the stitch. Planners from the non-profit Central Atlanta Progress want to cap a three-quarter-mile stretch of the Downtown Connector with urban parks.

"Festivals, gatherings, picnics, throwing a Frisbee. It's hard to envision in this particular space but it can happen and it has happened in other cities," said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress.

Dallas covered part of a freeway with its Klyde Warren Park in 2012. Since then, more than six million people have visited.

Architect Jim Burnett says several dozen cities are currently considering deck park, cities like Seattle, Denver and Pittsburgh.

"As the demand and the resurgence of people moving back to cities becomes more significant, public open space is also significant. They make cities more livable, they make walkable streets, safe places for people to walk their dogs, for children to play," said Burnett, founder of OJB Landscape Architecture.

The stitch is expected to cost $300 million.

Critics say spending that kind of money on a park limits how much can go to other important projects like public transit and affordable housing.

"Building a nice, large piece of infrastructure like this is always appealing on a political cycle, but if this sits in an ocean of automobility, what are we really accomplishing in terms of a making Atlanta a livable, walkable, vibrant community?" said Dr. Jean-Paul Addie, Assistant Professor of Urban Development at Georgia State University.

Project officials hope at least one section of the stitch will open within five years. But it's important to point out, Central Atlanta Progress is still waiting on the completion of its feasibility study, which only then will green light the hunt for funding.