Old Train Tracks Gain New Life as a Community Space in Atlanta Arts District

Residents of the Castleberry Hill neighborhood are reimagining a historic space at the edge of downtown Atlanta to foster community and creative expression.
Presented byPresented by New Amsterdam Vodka
Oct 22, 2015·

As in many big cities, open space is hard to come by in Atlanta, which can make gathering with neighbors a challenge. It can pay off to look at old places in new ways, such as “an alley with a couple of old garages,” says Carrie Burns, president of the Castleberry Hill Association, an organization dedicated to the development of the historic Castleberry Hill neighborhood.

The alley Burns is describing is known as the Castleberry Spur, where a spur line, or a section of old railroad track, runs along Walker Street behind galleries and shops. Located in the center of Castleberry Hill, it’s a popular area with a long history of diverse, creative culture.

Clear views of downtown Atlanta and classic architecture make it a picturesque art district. Brick warehouses converted into stylish lofts line the streets, and television and film productions are common occurrences.

While the neighborhood has a lot going on, the Spur alleyway—behind the action on Walker Street—was seen as an opportunity for neighbors to connect, relax, and attend events in a space they have a hand in creating.

Made possible by the Castleberry Hill Association, the New Amsterdam Fund, and the property owner, a section of the Spur will be made into a temporary community space, available for two years. During this time, residents will be able to experiment and figure out how to make the space work best for them.

To get locals’ input on how to develop the area, Project for Public Spaces organized workshops where people shared ideas. During one of Castleberry Hill’s monthly Art Strolls, passersby offered up thoughts on sticky notes.

“We got all kinds of ideas. Some we just couldn’t do, like rock walls and dog parks. But it will have lots of green, at least 20 percent green space,” says Burns.

The ideas that were settled on include a night market, an outdoor screening area, art exhibitions, and performances.

As the next two years unfold, the question of maintenance, says Burns, will be a big one that influences what will be done.

“We may have to hire people to be in charge of bocce ball sets and whatnot,” says Burns.

However the Spur evolves, Burns is looking forward to breaking ground and seeing the fruits of their labor. “Community-gathering areas are what make a community,” she says. “Without it, you’re just some houses and businesses that are next to each other…. You’re not a neighborhood without somewhere to gather.”

The successes of this project will inform the other developments in the Castleberry Spur, and over time, Burns hopes, the community will grow closer and stronger because of what it started with the New Amsterdam Fund.

The grand opening of the project space in the Castleberry Spur is scheduled for Oct. 9 and will feature an Art Stroll, a Loft Tour, and a VIP media event. Learn more about the Castleberry Hill Association, and consider supporting its work and visiting the neighborhood.