Opening of Lindsay Street Park signals new day for English Avenue and Westside

By Maria Saporta

Although “Mother” Mamie Moore didn’t have a speaking role at the ribbon-cutting of Lindsay Street Park on Oct. 21, she was a spiritual force behind the community’s stake in its future.

It’s no accident that her daughter now owns a house next to the first new park in English Avenue. As for the future? She says they have a hard time getting her grandson to stay in his house because he wants to go play in the park.

Lindsay Park

Sign at opening of Lindsay Street Park shows many of the partners who made it a reality (Photo by Maria Saporta)

For more than five years, a host of nonprofits, governmental agencies, companies, foundations and community activists have been working this day – the opening of Lindsay Street Park.

It is a shrine to what can happen when everyone collaborates behind a community-led vision of what the future should look like.

Yes, Lindsay Street Park is small – only about 1.5 acres – built for about $750,000. But don’t let that fool you. Its significance is looms large.

It has become a place where the community has come together – uniting adversaries and converting skeptics. The seeds of revitalization are being planted in one of Atlanta’s most economically-challenged areas – and it is being done the right way – from the ground up.

The idea for Lindsay Street Park was first suggested by State Representative Able Mable Thomas, an English Avenue resident.

That’s when nonprofit organizations and the City of Atlanta became engaged. Park Pride led a community-visioning effort for parks and green space in the community – called the Proctor Creek North Avenue Watershed Basin: A Green Infrastructure Vision. At the same time the Vine City Park was becoming a reality.

That’s when Rep. Thomas said English Avenue also needed to have a park it could call its own.

Lindsay Park

People listen to Mayor Kasim Reed as he talks about collaboration over conflict (Photo by Maria Saporta)

So the Conservation Fund, working with a number of other organizations, helped assemble and acquire six lots that could be transformed into Lindsay Street Park. The Fund considered it to be part of its “Parks with Purpose” initiative.

The purpose?

“The whole approach is to build a community while you’re building a park,” said Michael Halicki, executive director of Park Pride. “Community members were active participants in creating the green space. You want the community to feel: ‘This is my park.'”

As Halicki sees it, the Conservation Fund “set a new standard” of working with the community and engaging a host of other partners to buy into the vision.

So it is not surprising that at the ribbon-cutting for the park, a wide assortment of people and organizations were standing side-by-side to share the moment.

“This stands for a new day,” proclaimed Able Mable Thomas.

Tony Torrence, founder of the Atlanta Community Improvement Association, was overcome with emotion.

“They said we couldn’t do this. You haven’t seen nothing yet,” Torrence said. “People said we can’t get along in this neighborhood. We learned today that we work together; and we make things happen. We are ready to get this party started on the Westside.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed captured the essence of the moment.

Lindsay Park

A picture-taking moment as the ribbon is cut at Lindsay Street Park (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“This is what happens when you choose cooperation over conflict,” Reed said. “Each and everyone one of you played a role in this. We are going to come back to this park in a little while, and we are going to make it even more beautiful.”

Park Pride’s Halicki reminded everyone that Lindsay Street Park is part of a vision to improve the community with parks and green space that can also help alleviate the flooding that has plagued the area in the past.

“This is really a down payment on a much bigger green space vision,” Halicki said, adding that the next move was the expansion of Vine City Park. He repeated the Conservation Fund’s mantra that Lindsay Street Park showed how “you can build community while you’re building a park.”

The Conservation Fund’s Stacy Funderburke first thanked his colleague – Shannon Lee – for all she had done to bring everyone together.

Then he recalled an encounter he had had two years ago with a 9- or 10-year-old boy from the neighborhood. The boy asked him what he was doing in the neighborhood.

"Mother" Mamie Moore

“Mother” Mamie Moore beams as she witnesses the start of a new day in English Avenue (Photo by Alison Sawyer of the Blank Foundation)

“We’re building a park,” Funderburke said – highly aware of all the obstacles that stood before them.

But the boy, unaware of all the potential pitfalls, simply asked: “When?”

At the ribbon-cutting, Funderburke said he finally could tell the boy: “Now.” Although Funderburke said the boy was not present that day, people of all ages had come to marvel at one of the most uplifting investments that has occurred in English Avenue in decades.

Perhaps none were more pleased than “Mother” Moore – sitting in her wheelchair in the warm sun of a fall day – soaking it all in.

Looking around the park at the dilapidated houses, she said she could now see new residents wanting to move into the neighborhood – fixing up the area’s historic homes to their former glory – so they could be next to the park.

As Torrence said, it was not just about the area’s current residents (who should be able to stay in the community). It was really about the next generation of English Avenue residents.

And so new day on the Westside had begun.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

5 replies
  1. SteveHagen says:

    Great to hear there are people in Atlanta willing to fight and cooperate for parks.   Parks build community.
    I just moved to Tucker from Miami after spending ten years encouraging Miami leaders to build more parks but our efforts fell on deaf ears.  Even with impact fees going to parks they build buildings in existing parks insted of more parks.   Miami, is the worst city in all of the US in terms of park space per resident.  Glad I escaped to Atlanta area!
    You have such a green treasure here!!!!Report

    Reply
  2. SteveHagen says:

    With all the new housing I see being constructed as well as commercial space, it would be teriffiic if leaders could impose impact fees for parks, police fire and education facilities needed with added population and offices.  .  I guess that would take an act of the Georgia Legislature.   Seventeen states do allow impact fees to help maintain and add to public facilities instead of placing the burden on existing existing property tax payers and private donations..  .Report

    Reply
  3. scfranklin says:

    Yeah!!!! This sort of cooperation and investment can build momentum for additional public and private investment in top quality mixed and affordable housing, better sidewalks and intersections, small business retention and expansion and great schools.Report

    Reply
  4. tampasteve says:

    SteveHagen This is a great direction for this area however this is unfortunately an exception in Atlanta. And while Atlanta is praised for being the city of trees, we lack in green space compared to other large metros. But not as horrible as Miami which yes is abysmal. I’m from Tampa Bay and it’s not bad but could be better too. But I am biased. I wouldn’t live in Miami if you gave me Fisher Island! I’d sell it though!Report

    Reply

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