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Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy Has Ambitions Of Building A Park Over Midtown Atlanta's Interstate

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The head of Chick-fil-A is looking to sandwich a park in Midtown over the interchange, a bold stroke for the second-generation leader of one of Atlanta's corporate giants as the city continues to rise.

Midtown Atlanta skyline
Midtown Atlanta skyline

Cathy has been hosting an unknown number of meetings with various Midtown property holders and government officials over a plan that would develop a park along North Avenue that would cap the Interstate 85/75 interchange, bridging together Midtown proper with Georgia Tech.

Bisnow confirmed at least one such meeting on Aug. 10 at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, where Cathy met with economic development officials and Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry to discuss the idea of a green space over the Downtown Connector near North Avenue.

“I am told the meeting was just to present the concept and understand more about what the state and federal requirement would be in a project of this type of scope,” GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale said in an email.

Details on the proposal — including specific properties involved — were not made available as of press time. Cathy declined to comment.

“Dan Cathy has many contacts in the Atlanta real estate world, and occasionally has discussions about opportunities that may interest him personally,” Chick-fil-A spokesperson Traci Messier said in an email. “In any event, none of such discussions would relate to or involve Chick-fil-A.”

Buckhead Community Improvement District
Rendering for the proposed Park Over 400 greenway that would rise over Georgia 400 in Buckhead

Officials with the Midtown Alliance were unaware of Cathy's meetings or plans, said Brian Carr, a spokesperson for the organization. But the idea of a park over the interstate in Midtown has been discussed before. In 2015, Midtown Alliance gathered ideas from residents and workers in Midtown on what projects they would like to see happen.

The desire for more green space was among the suggestions, including possibly a park over I-75/85.

“That was among several other large, ambitious ideas that were at least brought to us,” Carr said. "Nothing else has moved forward."

This is the third group in the city of Atlanta that is eyeing the possibility of adding green space over a major highway. Central Atlanta Progress is underway with a feasibility study to determine the design and cost of a project called “The Stitch,” a deck park that would cover nearly a mile of interstate from Spring Street to Georgia Power's current headquarters on Ralph McGill Boulevard in Downtown, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The Stitch would create a link between Downtown and Midtown and open up underused land to development. Early estimates put the cost of The Stitch at around $300M.

The Buckhead Community Improvement District is studying a plan to create a $250M park within the financial district covering Georgia 400 from the Atlanta Financial Center to the Buckhead Loop, including MARTA's Buckhead Station.

These all follow a national trend of other cities considering caps over highways and roadways to add more public park space. In 2012, Klyde Warren Park — a 5-acre park capped over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway in Downtown Dallas — opened in 2012 at a cost of $110M.

And in Boston, officials developed the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5-mile park situated above a highway tunnel that was part of the city's Big Dig project.

While ambitious and with steep price tags, these parks have the potential to spur new development activity. CAP estimated in 2016 that The Stitch could stimulate more than $1B in redevelopment and property value growth, boosting tax revenue, the AJC reported.

The Atlanta BeltLine — a 22-mile pedestrian loop in Midtown that is underway — has already spurred nearly $4B in new development around it, according to the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership.

“These are some pretty bold and large-scale ideas that would dramatically change the landscape if they came to bear,” Carr said.