Following several years of planning, a legal squabble between neighbors and city leaders over the protection of mature trees, and construction complicated by a global pandemic, fences around the Grant Park Gateway project have finally come down.

Topped with a 2.5-acre “green roof” and modernistic restaurant space, the four-story, $48-million structure officially opened to the public January 2.

Positioned on the eastern edge of Atlanta’s oldest park, it replaces an eight-acre surface parking lot with 1,000 stacked parking spaces, EV charging stations, bike racks, restrooms, and three elevators, according to Department of Parks and Recreation officials.

Gateway plans have been percolating since 2016, coinciding with the $38-million expansion of Zoo Atlanta next door.

The broader goal was always to accommodate crowds for the growing attraction and rising populations in surrounding neighborhoods, but like the 500-space garage carved into the woods of Piedmont Park a decade before, the proposal became a lightning rod for environmentalist criticism.

Opponents lambasted initial plans that called for axing 131 mature trees around the asphalt lot. A legal melee between Save the Trees of Grant Park and the city ensued; the majority of trees ultimately fell, but at least the parking structure and surrounding pathways feature dozens of new plantings now.

The Gateway marks the world’s first project to be LEED, SITES, and Parksmart certified, according to its sustainability consultants at Epsten Group.

Managed by AAA Parking, the cost is $3 per hour, or $12 per day. 

Parks and Recreation officials tell Urbanize Atlanta there are no immediate plans to fill the rooftop restaurant space, though a request for proposals is expected to be issued later this year.

On a recent chilly Sunday, that restaurant structure was serving as a de facto skateboarding pavilion, while in the greenspace families picnicked and flew kites. Others gathered along railings to see new vistas of downtown from the south and—of all things—elephants lumbering about.

Grant Park (Urbanize Atlanta)