Significant changes at Oakland Cemetery are expected to continue this year—but in this case, outside the iconic burial ground’s gates.

As part of Historic Oakland Foundation’s $12.5-million “Living History” Capital Campaign projects, the cemetery will see a new 10,000-square-foot Visitors Center built outside the main western gate, the entrance nearest to downtown Atlanta.

The building, as designed by Atlanta-based Smith Dalia Architects, is expected to break ground later this year and require 12 months to construct. Its red-brick façade is meant to pay homage to the cemetery’s signature walkways and walls, while large glass entryways and windows lend a more modern touch, according to the Foundation.

Planned look of the 10,000-square-foot center's red-brick facade. Smith Dalia Architects

Outside the facility, visitors can expect an entry plaza, welcome garden, and a “great lawn” meant to provide additional greenspace for guests, cemetery officials said this week.

Inside, the building will feature a much larger museum store, rentable meeting space, the Historic Oakland Foundation’s offices, and flexible event and classroom areas. A double-height atrium, meanwhile, will see interpretive exhibits geared toward educating visitors on Oakland Cemetery and its history.

A map illustrating the Visitors Center's future placement just west of the burial grounds. Courtesy of Oakland Cemetery

The new building will also provide space “for more diverse, weatherproof, and year-round programming including civic forums, K-12 programming, and adult education programs,” per project leaders.

In the grand scheme, it’s also meant to enhance Memorial Drive Greenway, the linear park that extends from Oakland’s gates to the Gold Dome along Memorial Drive.   

Elsewhere on the property, Oakland Cemetery’s iconic 1899 Bell Tower is being renovated in a way that’s intended to make the Romanesque Revival-style structure more stable, spacious, and engaging for the public, per project leaders. That project is also being paid for through the donor-funded Living History capital campaign.

Positioned outside the cemetery's main western gate, the building will house an expanded museum store and double-height atrium, officials say. Smith Dalia Architects

Richard Harker, Historic Oakland Foundation’s executive director, said the new Visitors Center and other cemetery updates will better connect the sacred grounds with the ever-changing city around it.  

“We’re excited about providing a community resource that also connects to exciting developments around the BeltLine (through Oakland’s new East Gate),” said Harker, in a statement, “[plus] the rapidly changing landscape of Memorial Drive, and the rejuvenation of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood and the forthcoming Hero Walk to our north.”

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