The head of one of the most ambitious mass transit projects in the city’s history must be a visionary, and Leary fits the bill. Before taking over at Atlanta BeltLine Inc. in October 2009, his path ran parallel to that of Ryan Gravel. Gravel conceived the BeltLine—which would convert Atlanta’s old railroad tracks into a twenty-two-mile loop of transit, trails, and parks—in his thesis at Georgia Tech, where he knew Leary. Leary’s own thesis envisioned a little place called Atlantic Station, and he spent twelve years working to see it established. To ensure the BeltLine has the transformative effect that advocates pine for, Leary will need to be both innovative and realistic. So far the Washington, D.C., native’s priority has been to make the project “real” by quickly delivering finished segments. That includes Historic Fourth Ward Park, with four more parks and a new trail to be completed by the year’s end. A simpatico relationship with Kasim Reed hasn’t hurt. Reed secured $47 million in federal funds for the Downtown streetcar, then pushed the city council to approve $9 million more for new BeltLine-friendly models. Not a bad start.
GOOOALLL! Leary—who played club soccer at Georgia Tech and still takes the pitch twice a week—is a member of CEO Soccer Cabinet, a committee formed last fall to raise Atlanta’s global soccer standing.
Photograph by Christopher L. Martin