GSU to restore historic Hurt Park, add stage to greenspace along Atlanta Streetcar route

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with later data about the construction timeline.

By David Pendered

Georgia State University plans to restore Hurt Park in downtown Atlanta, an historic greenspace that was opened in 1940 and later heralded as a major accomplishment in the first administration of legendary Mayor William B. Hartsfield.

Hurt Park at GSU

Georgia State University plans to restore Hurt Park and add a performance stage to the greenspace to create an outdoor gathering place for students and other park visitors. Credit: David Pendered

The park is owned by the city of Atlanta. GSU and the city have reached terms for the university to pamper the park and make it more usable for student activities. The park is located along GSU’s northern border, a few blocks west of Grady Memorial Hospital.

The arrival of more students in the park is expected to disperse a group of folks who lounge and sleep on the ground next to bags of personal belongings. The absence of these folks might attract more visitors via the Atlanta Streetcar, which has a stop at the park on Edgewood Avenue.

Landscape architects working on the plan are mindful of preserving the historic nature of a park named for Joel Hurt. He was one of the city’s most influential business and civic leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, according to a GSU history of the park.

“This improvement plan is focused on bringing back the historic glory that was there,” said Steve Provost, vice president of jB+a, inc., the planning and landscape architecture firm devising the plan.

“As we went through the process, we realized we’re really looking to make improvements to the park as a historic site,” Provost said. “We’re looking to make improvements to the site that work within the framework of the original design.”

GSU is developing a construction schedule and a plan to fund the project, a GSU spokesperson said Monday.

Hurt Park, napping

Hurt Park now serves as a lounge for visitors who take naps there during the day. The clientele is expected to evolve as the park is restored. Credit: David Pendered

The most extensive change that’s planned involves widening a walkway and grading the oval lawn. This will result in the creation of a permanent performance stage that will be slightly above the heads of onlookers. No stage structures will have to be added to elevate the performers above the audience.

Plans call for the lawn to be graded about 2 percent, starting near Edgewood Avenue. This small grade will taper down toward the fountain. The walkway near the fountain will be widened from 10 feet wide to 20 feet wide. This walkway will serve as the stage. It will be about 2 feet higher than the lawn at the point where the two meet.

“We came up with a system that would make a minor adjustment to the historic hardscape and maintain existing forms of the site, while still providing a 20-by-30 foot performance stage,” Provost said. “We’ll rework the oval lawn, which is in poor condition, so it slopes to the fountain. It will be imperceptible, almost.”

Hurt Park, Atlanta Streetcar

Hurt Park has its own stop for the Atlanta Streetcar. As the park is restored, more visitors are expected to arrive via the streetcar. Credit: David Pendered

The park’s original design was produced by William Pauley. Provost said Pauley was the first landscape architect to base his practice in Atlanta. Others had worked in Atlanta, including Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., whom Hurt hired in 1890 to design the landscape of what became the Druid Hills neighborhood. But neither Olmsted nor the others were based in Atlanta.

Pauley served in World War I and moved to Atlanta in 1919 with his German-born wife. He designed parks for lavish estates in Buckhead and moved on to public projects after the Great Recession dampened interest in ornate gardens. Some of his parks, including Hurt Park, included fountains with elaborate light shows that created the effect of “dancing waters,” according to the GSU history of the park.

“The fountain was pretty far advanced,” Provost said. “It had a fantastic light show. Part of is plan is to determine what further studies need to be done to restore the fountain. That’s on the agenda.”

Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission has reviewed and accepted comments that Provost provided at the commission’s July 27 meeting. The UDC voted to confirm receipt of comments. No further action is required.

Hurt Park, fountain

Hurt Park once had an illuminated fountain that used advanced technology for the era when the park opened, in 1940.

Hurt Park, fountain

The fountain at Hurt Park once featured an elaborate light show that created, ‘dancing waters.’ Plans call for it to be restored at some point in the future. Credit: David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

17 replies
  1. terrykearns says:

    Amazingly uncomfortable place, not a people attractor. Worked across the street for 10 years. A green place you just want to pass as quickly as possible. You’d think folks would lunch on the lawn. Only once. Hope this helps.Report

    Reply
  2. Chris Koch says:

    Please consider restoring the “dancing waters” with the wonderful light show. Also, when I was at Georgia State in the 1970s we did eat lunch and have events in Hurt Park.Report

    Reply
  3. Dan Tanner says:

    Anything would be an improvement. It’s like deck chairs on the Titanic now. GSU staff cleans up and it’s trashed daily. “Do-gooders” feed the homeless constantly – in an undignified manner – and thanks to the abysmal policies of the Reed administration, law enforcement has been coached since 2009 to turn a blind eye to it all and ignore the law. C’mon, GSU, turn the Hurt Locker into a Hurt Park we can be proud of.Report

    Reply
  4. Burroughston Broch says:

    ChloeBrown1 Burroughston Broch  I shook my head in disbelief when I read, “The arrival of more students in the park is expected to disperse a group of folks who lounge and sleep on the ground next to bags of personal belongings. The absence of these folks might attract more visitors via the Atlanta Streetcar, which has a stop at the park on Edgewood Avenue.”

    So the students are expected to run off the vagrants and homeless after APD is forbidden to do it? And a stated reason is to generate more Streetcar riders (presumably in addition to the vagrants and homeless already riding the Streetcar)! What universe do these folks live in?Report

    Reply

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