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Five years later, Piedmont Park expansion plan remains a mystery with signs of momentum

A map of the area for the planned expansion of Piedmont Park, as shown in Fulton County property records. The property outlined in blue is a shopping center bought by the City for the plan. The property outlined in yellow was recently bought by the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The two property on the corner, outlined in red, remain in the hands of private commercial owners. Piedmont Avenue is the street at left and Monroe Drive is the street at right.

By John Ruch

Nearly five years since its surprise announcement, the status of a Piedmont Park expansion remains mysterious. But behind-the-scenes rumblings include the Atlanta Botanical Garden, under a pseudonym, recently purchasing local land as an unexplained contribution.

A conceptual illustration of the Piedmont Park expansion as shown by then-Mayor Kasim Reed at a 2017 press conference. (File Photo by Maggie Lee.)

The roughly four-acre park expansion to the Monroe Drive/Piedmont Avenue intersection, and a separate expansion of the Garden along Piedmont, were announced by then-Mayor Kasim Reed at the very end of both 2017 and his final term. The privately orchestrated $100 million concept was presented as getting ahead of redevelopment pressures.

Since then, the Garden – a private nonprofit that leases its space within the park – has bought most of the land for its expansion via a front company called Pine Dear Creations. Last month, the Garden made the surprise announcement of a $44 million land-swap deal with a self-storage company that is the final piece of its property puzzle.

The status of the park expansion onto commercial properties at the southwest corner of Monroe and Piedmont, though, is not so clear. In 2018, the Atlanta City Council approved Reed’s $20.4 million, behind-the-scenes deal to acquire a 3-acre shopping center at 1529 Piedmont as a key piece. Today, that center has huge vacant spaces, but also many businesses, some of whom reportedly have recently signed multiyear leases. Meanwhile, the Garden bought one adjacent property, while another key property owner says he’s never heard from the City at all.

The City – which has gone through two mayoral regime changes since Reed’s announcement – has not responded to questions. But the Piedmont Park Conservancy, a private nonprofit that manages and maintains the park on the City’s behalf, says planning continues quietly.

Several businesses continue to operate in the Clear Creek Center. (Photo by John Ruch.)

“We continue to work with the City of Atlanta and other key stakeholders to formulate the plan and timeline for park expansion,” said Conservancy President and CEO Mark Banta. “We remain excited by, and committed to, the greening of the gardens and park to our northwestern and northern property boundaries.”

Banta added: “We look forward to sharing more as the critical pieces fall into place and a timeline is projected.” Asked what those critical pieces are, he said he “can’t elaborate on specifics as they may involve potential future real-estate activity.”

The Garden continues to partner on the overall vision, according to spokesperson Danny Flanders, though the specifics or depth of that remain unclear.

“Since the city announced its acquisition of parcels back in 2018 for future expansion of Piedmont Park, the Garden has partnered with the Piedmont Park Conservancy on our combined visions for pursuing our individual expansions — but with varying needs, factors and timelines,” said Flanders. “On parallel paths, we are each pursuing and driving our respective visions.”

One recent move for park expansion was the Garden’s $1 million purchase in June 2020 – under the Pine Dear Creations name – of a commercially used house at 1514 Monroe, next to the shopping center and a Piedmont Park Trail entrance. The Garden this year demolished the house.

The remnants of the house at 1514 Monroe that the Garden bought and demolished. In the rear is the recently constructed building at 1518 Monroe. (Photo by John Ruch.)

Banta and Flanders would not detail why the private nonprofit bought or demolished that property for a City park plan. Banta said it is “related to” the park expansion. Flanders said it was “part of our collaboration with Piedmont Park for their future expansion as well as our own.”

The site of the demolished house is now fenced off and marked with caution tape, with a section of the basement wall remaining. The house was once home to the popular 1990s-era restaurant Agnes & Muriel’s and, according to Fulton County property records, dated to 1930.

The nonprofit Atlanta Preservation Center (APC) criticized the Garden’s demolition.

“Historic preservation is not the obstacle to development or growth; it is a crucial addition to a plan that wishes to see a space retain its identity,” said APC Executive Director David Yoakley Mitchell in an email. “These historic homes that stand a lone vigil in these areas of progress are more cautionary anchors of what is lost and what is to come. With each one removed – like the one on Monroe Drive – the memory of Atlanta becomes dangerously more of a whisper, and one hopes that seeing Atlanta will not be relegated to pictures in a book.”

The other two properties that remain in private hands are a gas station at 1539 Piedmont and a commercial building, currently home to the restaurant Octopus Kitchen, right on the corner at 1551 Piedmont. The oil company that owns the gas station did not respond to a comment request.

Octopus Kitchen is currently housed in 1551 Piedmont, right at the intersection, a building whose owner says he has never heard from the City about the park expansion. (Photo by John Ruch.)

John Graham of Graham & Arthur, LLC has been a co-owner of the 1551 Piedmont building the entire time and says the city has been tight-lipped. “Other than Kasim Reed’s surprise announcement in the press years ago and continued rumors,” said Graham, “there has been no contact with the City about the expansion of Piedmont Park or the purchase of the property at 1551 Piedmont Avenue.”

Meanwhile, the City-owned shopping center – a four-building complex known as Clear Creek Center – is giving off mixed signals. A three-story commercial building  was erected there at 1518 Monroe about three years ago and is now partly occupied by a Harry Norman real estate office, which did not respond to a comment request. However, the ground floor remains vacant and apparently unfinished. The same developer at the same time built an addition with basement parking on a building in the shopping center. Both projects were approved prior to the City buying the land.

Also vacant is most of another building in the center fronting on Monroe.

But gossip among other businesses is that the expansion is dead or stalled. “That’s off,” said a security guard encountered by SaportaReport on a recent visit, saying several tenants told him they had just signed five- or six-year leases. He noted a gym is about to open in the complex as well. Tenants were aware of the Garden’s purchase of neighboring land, he said, but that did not seem to sway the opinion.

The roof of the shopping center in the park expansion area as seen from the Piedmont Commons section of the existing park. (Photo by John Ruch.)

One prominent tenant in the center, the Varuni Napoli pizza restaurant at 1540 Monroe, declined to comment through a spokesperson.

A conceptual illustration of the expansion from Reed’s 2017 press conference showed some kind of large building in the area where the 1518 Monroe structure stands today, so it is possible a reuse in the park is planned.

Some local leaders say they are also in the dark about the plans. Lance Orchid, chief of staff for District 6 City Councilmember Alex Wan, said the “extent of my knowledge” is the 2018 shopping center purchase, which dated to the term of Wan’s predecessor, Jennifer Ide.

“I haven’t heard anything from City officials on the expansion plans for the park,” said Debbie Skopczynski, chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit F.


Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly gave the shopping center’s street name as Monroe rather than Piedmont.


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  1. Mayorless Atlantis December 12, 2022 3:00 pm

    Meanwhile, the Piedmont Park Conservancy is also searching for a new CEO. Who’s really in charge of this project?


  2. Frank December 12, 2022 3:48 pm

    …or that the Botanical Garden has purchsed the Innovations/Minotti property at Monroe/10th/Beltline to swap with Public Storage for a replacement facility…adjacent to another existing storage facility. Something’s rotten in Denmark.Report

  3. Bobby D December 12, 2022 4:52 pm

    What we really need is an open, affordable housing space for tents. Use all that foundation money for portable toilets, showers and needle exchange desks.Report


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