The idea to transform acreage along Memorial Drive into a contiguous park, stretching from downtown Atlanta to Oakland Cemetery, has been bouncing around since Jimmy Carter reigned as Georgia’s governor at the Gold Dome.
But now, the Memorial Drive Greenway, as it’s been named, could be gaining steam like never before, according to the concept’s backers.
And visible changes could come within weeks.
Friends of Memorial Drive Greenway announced this week a capital campaign that will aim to raise $200,000 via private and corporate donations by December—en route to an ultimate goal of $1 million by 2021.
The cash dash officially begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, during the next installment of the Movies on Memorial outdoor film series (a free showing of Black Panther, at the corner of Memorial Drive and Grant Street).
The grand vision, leaders say, calls for a 12-acre linear park that would cap the Connector and link together five Atlanta neighborhoods: downtown, Capitol Gateway, Grant Park, Old Fourth Ward, and Cabbagetown.
The concept was finalized after a process of community input last year, and it “certainly has the potential to serve as a town square that connects and strengthens all of these neighborhoods,” said Andrew White, director of the park’s visioning program, in a capital campaign announcement.
The capital campaign will fund near-term improvements on existing park land—think: seating areas, bicycle and pedestrian pathways, shade trees, installation of waste receptacles, and more—programming to activate those spaces, and land acquisition to build out the park, said Katherine Huded, volunteer and spokesperson for the park initiative, in an email to Curbed Atlanta.
Construction on initial park improvements will begin this fall, starting with the installation of bench seating, trash cans, and shade trees on the parcel where movies are shown, she said.
Further improvements are slated for 2019, though construction details and timing are dependent upon corporate and private funding. Construction is expected to continue through 2022 and beyond.
As of now, the City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation owns three acres of dedicated parkland as part of the Greenway project (about one-third of the land needed). Meanwhile, discussions are underway with willing property owners for additional land acquisition, Huded wrote in an email.
Funds from the Eastside Tax Allocation District have been committed to buy more parkland. But the proposed interstate cap—one of several such ideas from Buckhead to downtown—would require both state and federal support.
“This idea for creating a park between the Capitol and Oakland Cemetery has been kicking around for as long as I’ve been involved in the community,” said John Reagan, a Grant Park architect and developer since 1971, in a prepared statement. “We’re finally at the point where public and private investment are coming together to make this park happen.”
Added District 5 Councilmember Natalyn Mosby Archibong, in the same release: “There are very few places left in the core of the city with so much potential to create a transformational greenspace for future generations.”