Where do the Upper Westside Improvement District projects come from? Why, our Masterplan implementation list of course! In 2021, after 18 months of seeking and compiling community guidance, the Upper Westside Masterplan was created as the CID’s guiding document to achieve our core mission to enhance the transportation network, connectivity, safety, and experience throughout our District. But… how does the grand vision translate into built projects? Let’s use an example, The Waterworks greenspaces, to get you up to speed on our incremental approach.
Reclaiming the Atlanta Waterworks for public use has been a community priority since the reservoirs were fenced off in 1996 for the Olympics. A group of local residents banded together in 2012 and formed Friends of Waterworks to pursue political and financial support for the idea. Their ask was to take down the fences. While the CID shares those aspirations, we work incrementally to chip away at bigger ideas through a set of smaller, more palatable improvements.
In 2017, we were successfully able to partner with Watershed Management to begin to create the ‘OG’ Waterworks Greenspace. No fences needed to be moved to open up 4.5 acres of greenspace; however, funding was needed to get the land ready for the public. The CID, Friends of Waterworks, and the neighborhood planning units (NPUs) cleaned up the site and added amenities like bike racks, benches, and hammock stands to the greenspace.
In 2020, the Friends of Waterworks secured their largest grant ever for $100,000 from Park Pride to create a water treatment-themed playscape and an amphitheater. This grant put the Waterworks Greenspace on the map as a great family-friendly outdoor destination. The successful partnership between Friends of Waterworks, the CID, and Park Pride demonstrated to Dept of Watershed the community’s ability to be great stewards of their land.
In late 2021, the CID received Watershed Management’s blessing to push back the fences at the northwest corner of Howell Mill Rd & 17th Street. This was the first time since the 1996 Olympics that the fences were moved to create more publicly accessible land. We jumped on the opportunity, even before we had a line of sight on funding a sidewalk along 17th Street.
Part of the incremental approach is securing what you can when the opportunity arises. To some, this might seem haphazard, but to our CID it’s critical not to lose out on progress before city leaders change or land values increase.
In early 2022, we had our opening ceremony with Mayor Dickens to celebrate the fences moving back. The greenspace we created was named “The Hill” for its high elevation with sweeping views of Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead. The Hill at the time was just 2 acres cleaned up of invasives, brush, and dead limbs; but it was proof that with an incremental approach, we could take a step towards the long-term vision of an eastern reservoir without fences.
Once the fences were moved, Friends of Waterworks was eligible for another Legacy Grant but this time for The Hill. Park Pride also saw the importance of creating greenspace in an area with no city parks and granted another $100,000 to create a path, a birding pavilion, and to replant native trees and shrubs. Meanwhile, the CID worked with the City to identify funding for a 17th Street sidewalk through the TSPLOST program “Moving Atlanta Forward”.
We’re eager for the 2023 improvements that will bring more amenities and accessibility to the Waterworks Greenspaces. The CID is continuing to work on the community’s vision at The Waterworks spelled out in the Upper Westside Masterplan. We know the best is yet to come!