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Sunday, May 15, 2011

A park is re-born in Peoplestown

Silver tree requires constant watering.
  • Silver tree requires constant watering.
Saturday marked the grand re-opening of in the Peoplestown neighborhood of south central Atlanta! So what, you say? Well, this isn't just any old park — it's an official BeltLine park! — partly funded through the Atlanta BeltLine TAD and a donation from the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Capital Campaign. The rest of the funding came from city park bonds and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

And, frankly, I wasn't expecting much for an inner-city park, but it's really extra nice, with meticulous landscaping featuring miniature hills formed from mulch and rows of flowering plants; colorful playscapes; and, as a centerpiece, a splashpad with an interactive water sculpture (see photo) designed by local artist Robert Witherspoon. The park is also noteworthy for a prominent row of solar panels that overhang and shade the main walkway. From the press release:

D.H. Stanton Park will be the first energy-cost neutral park in the City of Atlanta, and among the first in the country, through the installation of photovoltaic solar panels that act as a shade structure at one of the park’s entrances.

Now, frankly, the other thing that surprised me about the project is that it's hidden away on a side street on the south end of Peoplestown, a fairly rough neighborhood that would not be an obvious candidate for getting something this nice.

In fact, before Mayor Kasim Reed helped cut the ribbon during the city's official reopening ceremony Friday morning, he sent a not-so subtle message to would-be vandals and thieves, announcing, "We will not let anyone destroy what we've built here." Also attending the event were District 1 Councilwoman Carla Smith, Parks Commissioner George Dusenberry, BeltLine CEO Brian Leary and several other notables.

So why did such an out-of-the-way park get this kind of swanky, high-profile upgrade? Because, when the Beltline opens, the site will no longer be located off the beaten track, necessitating a trek through a dodgy neighborhood to reach it. Presumably, it will be a pleasant walk or short bike ride for children and families from surrounding communities like Grant Park and Ormewood Park.

The irony here is that Atlanta BeltLine Inc. doesn't yet own the stretch of track that run along the park's southern edge. That fact was hammered home on Friday when a train — one of only two or three each week — rumbled by during the ceremony. BeltLine officials are not even allowed to formally acknowledge that they plan to acquire the track until an environmental assessment is completed later this year.

But the newly gussied-up D.H. Stanton Park can be seen as another indication of how dedicated the city and its private partners are to seeing the BeltLine become a reality. Let's hope they're able to keep things on track so it happens in our lifetimes.

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