By Maria Saporta
Friday, November 5, 2010
Woodruff Park, located in the heart of downtown, will soon be getting a playground.
A unique partnership of civic and business organizations came together to build a playground on the east side of the park.
The idea for the playground came from Cynthia Gentry of the Atlanta Taskforce on Play (ATOP), who proposed the project to Central Atlanta Progress and recommended that there be an international design competition for the attraction.
“A playground was not on our list until Cynthia came along and really educated us,” said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress.
But CAP and ATOP needed a corporate sponsor. And that’s where Bank of America came in, providing $25,000 to cover the costs of building the park and a commitment to provide the volunteers to construct the playground.
“I’m honored to be here to support Woodruff Park,” said Geri Thomas, the Georgia president for Bank of America, at a ceremony on Nov. 2. “What an exciting project this is. We will be making tremendous inroads by installing a playground downtown, and I’m envisioning my two grandchildren playing here. We will absolutely create a healthy, vibrant park that all generations can enjoy.”
Thomas said the project fit in with Bank of America’s commitment to youth and health. “There’s not enough play,” she said about the prevalence of childhood obesity. As part of that commitment, Thomas said: “We will put in the sweat equity.”
Thomas, an Atlanta native, said she used to walk by Woodruff Park every day when she was attending Georgia State University and working for C&S Bank (now Bank of America), when it was located right next to the park.
More than 40 design proposals were submitted for the international competition, which included submissions from Krakow, Poland; Australia; Italy; Singapore and Estonia.
The eight finalist designs were on display at Woodruff Park during the ceremony, and a decision on the winner is expected by Monday, Nov. 8. To view the design finalists, go to http://playabledesign.ning.com.
Robinson said the playground will continue the improvements that have been under way at Woodruff Park for the last several years. “Our park is a healthy destination for downtown,” Robinson said.
Even so, a playground at Woodruff Park — populated with students, office workers, chess players, preachers and every slice of urban life — was a novel idea.
“When they told me about a playground, it had not crossed my mind,” admitted Mark Becker, president of Georgia State University, which has a stake in the park. “But it’s part of getting people back downtown, living and working downtown.”
Once the design is selected, it is expected that it will take about six months to build the playground. The city of Atlanta’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, will help prepare the site for the project.
Wilma Southern, CAP’s head of marketing, said children should be playing in the playground by late spring.