PATHWAYS IN THE PARK
Atlanta Urban Design Commission
Statement on Pedestrian Circulation, July 21, 2017
"While there is no question that the elimination of vast surface parking lots along Boulevard enhances the pedestrian experience along Boulevard and into the park, the Staff is somewhat concerned that there is not a more direct pedestrian path from Boulevard into the entrance to Zoo Atlanta. It would appear that the only such path is to the south of the parking garage along the Ormewood Avenue extension. This route would require someone coming from the north to double back to get to the Zoo Atlanta entrance. Near the Confederate Drive entrance, it seem like a pedestrian would have to go through some part of the parking garage (using an elevator or stairs, for instance) to get down to the path that would take you to the Zoo Atlanta entrance."
Instead of connecting pathways within the park, the city's parking deck plan creates a wide sidewalk along a one block portion of Boulevard. Due to the steep hillsides on either side of the parking deck, continuing the wide sidewalk south would require cutting a portion of the side off of Fort Walker. Extending the wide sidewalk north would require infilling the side of the Bowl and would require removing the entry wall at Confederate Ave. Widening the sidewalk would also require removing two of Grant Park's most loved trees, the water oak at Confederate Avenue, which is the symbol of the summer shade festival, and the large oak at Ormewood Avenue, which has the largest diameter in the park.
The installation of a wide sidewalk is only required by the Beltline Overlay when new construction occurs within one mile of the Beltline. Since new construction is unlikely to occur at the corners of the park, the wide sidewalk would likely never be continued beyond the deck. Nor should it be, we have a wonderful system of wide sidewalks within the park itself.
Our conviction is that the Atlanta Beltline should change their sidewalk requirement to protect large canopy trees to preserve green space, which is one of the primary goals of the Beltline project. In the meantime, the city itself is the one that has to request a variance from itself to avoid installing a wide sidewalk that would remove 19 trees along Boulevard.
A wide sidewalk is already planned 30 feet away over the green roof of the deck. By avoiding a stairway on the north side, the existing bike paths could connect both north-south and east-west.
The city granted a sidewalk variance for Topgolf Atlanta to protect their trees. Grant Park deserves the same.
Currently a large stairway in the plans blocks access to the top of the deck for bikes, stollers and wheelchairs. The safe routes to schools from Confederate is also blocked.
The goal of the stairway may have been to hide the deck, but it ends up adding two additional garage openings. One is very visible from Boulevard and Confederate, the other is visible and from the lake and walkway within the park. A hillside could effectively hide the deck without the tunnel and stairway.