The day that neighborhood advocates along the Howell Mill Road corridor, some city leaders, and other greenspace proponents have been pulling for across three different mayoral administrations will come next week.
The rapidly developing district west of Midtown will officially open its new greenspace—a 2-acre park called The Hill at Atlanta Waterworks—during a ceremony led by Mayor Andre Dickens on Tuesday morning, project reps announced today.
For more than five years, Upper Westside Improvement District and Friends of Waterworks nonprofit groups have been negotiating with city officials to push back fencing around the Atlanta City Water Works Hemphill Reservoir where Howell Mill meets 17th Street.
The fencing was erected to address terrorism concerns in advance of Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Games. It’s remained standing for more than 25 years, rendering former park spaces with skyline vistas from downtown to Buckhead off-limits to Atlantans.
The grassroots initiative to bring down the barriers had gone quiet in recent years and throughout the pandemic—until parks advocates announced in December that a deal had been struck and Atlanta Department of Watershed Management had granted approval for the park.
Fences have been moved back toward the reservoir, opening up views that officials call “spectacular” at one of the highest points in Atlanta. (How long until it’s the setting and backdrop of so many ATL-filmed movies and TV shows?)
Tuesday’s ceremony is expected to feature comments by Dickens, Commissioner of Watershed Management Mikita Browning (another advocate), Atlanta City Council reps Dustin Hillis, Matt Westmoreland, and Byron Amos, and leaders with the CID and Waterworks groups. It’ll be followed by a tree planting on The Hill to mark the occasion.
The Upper Westside Improvement District, a CID formed in 2016, is expected to oversee park maintenance, officials have said. Leaders envision the greenspace as a popular destination for picnics and photos, a rival to Jackson Street bridge’s downtown panorama on the flipside of town.
Collectively, about 147 acres surround the waterworks complex. Chris LeCraw, Friends of Waterworks co-chair, said in December the group hopes to partner with the city’s Watershed Department to open more space eventually.
Atlanta’s reservoirs in the area were public spaces until the 1990s, hosting school track meets, proms, and even a “world-class BBQ pit” near a gazebo and lodge for decades. Browning, the Watershed commissioner, led an analysis last year that found the city could maintain water treatment operations while opening a portion of the land.
The city is planning infrastructure improvements including sidewalk upgrades to support the public uses, and the Upper Westside CID has requested a crosswalk at the point where Howell Mill meets 17th Street.
In another greenspace win for the area, Park Pride awarded $100,000 last summer to help turn 4 ½ acres into more versatile, attractive public greenspace where 17th Street meets Northside Drive.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated UWCID is requesting a stop light where one already exists at the intersection of Howell Mill Road and 17th Street. The group is pulling for a crosswalk to be installed, a rep clarifies.
• Before/after: The remarkable transformation of Atlanta's Howell Mill corridor (Urbanize Atlanta)