Inside Atlanta: Atlanta BeltLine’s Ryan Gravel

Urban Planner Ryan Gravel shares his favorite spots in Atlanta

Inside Atlanta: Ryan Gravel
credit josh meister

We're back with our series Inside Atlanta—each week, we sit down with influential locals to talk about what Atlanta means to them. Today we’re chatting with Ryan Gravel, the urban planner, and designer behind the Atlanta BeltLine. Known as the BeltLine guy, Gravel is the creator of the original vision for the Atlanta BeltLine. He wrote it up as his Georgia Tech Master’s thesis in 1999. Now, many years later, the Eastside trail has become the place to be in Atlanta and soon the other trails will join in.

From biking to the best patio spots and much-needed greenery, the BeltLine connects 45 neighborhoods around the city. Today we get a tour of The Big Peach lead by Gravel himself.

I live in… Inman Park, right smack in the flow of energy coming off the Atlanta Beltline, with my wife and two young kids in a loft on Krog Street. We can walk or bike to dinner, the store, the park, or to my office at a co-working space called Industrious inside Ponce City Market. ”

I Wish People Knew… “This kind of city lifestyle and great schools are not mutually exclusive — they’re both right here in downtown Atlanta.”

You Can Find Me… “On the Atlanta BeltLine. I’m not kidding. I’m out there all the time – please say hello. The not-so-secret motivation in my last sixteen years of work, is to create the kind of place I want to live. And now it’s almost here.”

It’s Dinner Time, I’m headed to… Eats tops the list. And it’s hard to get my Tex-Mex fix anywhere other than Superica — partly because it is outstanding, and partly because it’s right across the street. But when I want to watch the world go by, we leave the kids at home and walk up the BeltLine to the patio at Rathbun’s Steak.”

Clock strikes 5 o’clock, I’m drinking… “Vodka in the winter. Gin in the summer, except when it’s really hot, and then I want tequila. For beer, my go-to for late afternoon meetings is Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall or anywhere they sell ‘A Night on Ponce’ from Three Taverns.”

If I Had to Stay in a Hotel, I’d check into… “I travel a lot and I love hotels. There’s something about a great hotel lobby and the lobby bar that I really enjoy. And while I haven’t had a reason to stay in a hotel in Atlanta, I’ve also never seen one here that I really like. I figure I’m going to have to build my own.”

Atlanta’s Best Kept Secret Is… “I’m obsessed these days with the Central Downtown library. It’s the last masterwork of Marcel Breuer, one of the world’s most famous architects in the twentieth century, and it’s right here in Atlanta. Its future is uncertain, but with a thoughtful renovation, it can become relevant again and redefine the library of our future.”

When I’m Playing Tourist, I go to… “Atlanta’s gift to the world is Dr. King, so I get something out of Sweet Auburn Historic District no matter how many times I go. For a lighter experience, the Atlanta Botanical Garden infuses the city’s verdant landscape with education and art. And for kids, there’s no better destination than the Noguchi Playscape at Piedmont Park — it’s right next to the Garden, it’s beautiful, and it’s free!”

I Get My Sweat On… “long walks at night, and most days I bike to work on the Atlanta BeltLine. When you build exercise into your daily routine, the entire city is your gym.”

I Love Spending My Money At... “I don’t do a lot of shopping. But as a kind of city planner vice, I’ll admit that I enjoy an occasional trip to Lenox Square Mall.”