By Hannah E. Jones
Grant Park’s northern entrance is about to get a makeover.
This summer, the Grant Park Conservancy (GPC) is breaking ground on its Loomis Plaza project, which will revamp the park’s entrance by Sydney Street and Loomis Avenue.
The space is relatively empty today, save for two picnic tables. There are also two main infrastructure issues — crumbling asphalt and flooding. When neighbors reached out about improving the entrance, the GPC team was quick to agree.
The proposed plans include a new plaza, nature pathway, more picnic tables and bike racks. The nature walk will be constructed from eco-materials and painted rainbow, according to GPC Executive Director Michelle Blackmon, giving the space a “touch of whimsy.” Loomis Plaza will also have improved water drainage, more green space and a smooth walkway.
“It’s really important to us for the park to have a feeling of welcome and open access to anybody who wants to come. We want our park entrances to say, ‘Come in, you belong here. You’re welcome here. This is a place of beauty,’” Blackmon said. “[Currently,] this is not sending that welcoming message.”
The team created their conceptual plans with landscape architect Grace Dials and a steering committee of 12 Grant Park neighbors and released the design last summer. Since then, they’ve focused their sights on raising the $312,000 needed, with only $10,000 remaining. GPC received a $100,000 grant from Park Pride, $35,000 from Bank of America and $25,000 from Georgia-Pacific.
Cars were allowed into the park until 1999 and remnants of that infrastructure can still be seen today. With this project, GPC aims to further cater to pedestrians and cyclists by getting rid of a significant amount of asphalt and changing the entrance dimensions.
With Grant Park’s numerous of pavilions and grills, it’s also a go-to place for barbecues, outdoor birthday parties and casual picnics. Wanting to further lean into that, Loomis Plaza will offer additional spaces to hang out for an afternoon. Blackmon describes the plaza as the most “transformational” component of the plans.
“We want the picnic spots and the plaza there so that people can come and congregate, have their special family events and enjoy looking over the Cherokee Meadow,” Blackmon said. “[We want] to serve the park visitors and protect the park, all at the same time and in a really lovely way.”
The team will break ground by the end of August, and expect to complete the project before the end of the year. Ultimately, Blackmon hopes that the construction will make Grant Park a more welcoming place for neighbors and visitors alike.
“Grant Park is both a neighborhood park and a regional park. We have neighbors close by who love the park, and we also have a lot of folks from all around Metro Atlanta that regularly drive to the park,” she said. “I’m excited that folks who like to come to Atlanta are going to have yet another beautiful place that’s easy to get to and welcoming to them.”
If you’d like a closer look at the Loomis Plaza plans, click here.