Friday, June 20, 2014

Effort continues to turn fenced-off Atlanta Waterworks into Westside greenspace gem

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 12:30 PM

What could be
  • Friends of Atlanta Waterworks
  • What could be
Imagine jogging alongside a small lake, safe from the speeding traffic on Howell Mill Road but with a full view of the city skyline. Picnickers lunch on the grass beside you. You pass a boathouse.

This is what the Atlanta Waterworks reservoir on the Westside used to look like. And for the past several months, a group of community members has been trying to bring it back. But first they'll have to convince city officials to remove the fence circling the property and open the path circling the reservoir - plus add the amenities that parkgoers want.

Will Jungman, the president of the Berkeley Park Neighborhood Association, one of the community groups pushing the proposal, notes that in the 1890s the reservoir was "originally conceived to both be a water structure site and a green space for residents to use." Cross-country runners raced and bicyclists pedaled around the water.

The area was closed to the public right before the 1996 Olympics out of safety concerns and never reopened. But in recent years residents and others have broached the idea. They have even found support among some Atlanta City Councilmembers, including Yolanda Adrean.

"For all these Atlanta residents who live on the west side of Atlanta, there really is not a lot of big park space," Jungman said. "We really think that this space could be that premier greenspace."

He also thinks the park could help boost economic development in the already booming area. He says he hopes the park could make for a more pleasant bike ride along Howell Mill Road, increase surrounding property values, and help realize the Beltline vision for northwest Atlanta. Part of the Atlanta Beltline's northwest trail might pass near the Waterworks area. And the park could also play off the proposed Westside Reservoir Park, a 350-acre Beltline greenspace centered around a former quarry.

The project, which currently has no cost estimate, is very much in the early stages of planning. The biggest obstacle, in Jungman's opinion, is a lack of funding and a particular reticence on the part of the city's Department of Watershed Management to reopen the park because of "the perceived risk of having people near things that serve the water supply." However, he says city officials appear to be more open now than they ever have been.

Jungman and the Berkeley Park community have established the Friends of the Atlanta Waterworks, a Park Pride group that will gather and concentrate support. Late last month, the BPNA and the Friends of the Atlanta Waterworks hosted a "friendraiser" that raised $17,000 with "very little effort," according to Jungman.

"Our primary goal right now is awareness," said Chris LeCraw, the group's president, who will also succeed Jungman as BPNA president. Friends of the Atlanta Waterworks has an active Facebook page called "Atlanta Waterworks Park" where residents and supporters can find updates and news.

Jamestown, the real-estate company behind Ponce City Market, White Provision, and Manhattan's Chelsea Market, among many other developments, is one of nine sponsors of the effort and the recent "friendraiser" event, where they raised $15,000 of the total $17,000 take.

According to CEO Matt Bronfman, the company thinks the cause is a worthy one. "We really believe in the importance of green space and park space as really vital to a community," said Bronfman. "We see [supporting the park effort] as the right thing to do, but something that, as an investor in a neighborhood, makes it more attractive." Jamestown has also lent 120 hours of staff time to the effort.

Ultimately, it might be Mayor Kasim Reed and the watershed department, which did not return CL's request for comment, to make the final call. "The right amount of political and bureaucratic will to move this forward is what is needed," Jungman said.

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