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Guest donaltopablo

Piedmont Park may get parking deck

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Guest donaltopablo

Piedmont Park may get garage

Foes say easy parking not worth the problems

By MILO IPPOLITO

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 04/26/04

A proposal to build a five-story parking garage in the middle of Piedmont Park is causing a stir in Midtown.

"To me, it's a half-baked idea that won't fly," said park advocate Diana Refsland, who is fighting to stop it.

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The Piedmont Park Conservancy is considering the project, said Debbie McCown, director of the private nonprofit conservancy, which manages the park under agreement with City Hall. The idea has been presented to a 45-member citizens' advisory committee for opinion, McCown said, stressing that no decision has been made.

"This is one idea that possibly could be a win-win situation," McCown said.

The garage would be carved into a hillside and screened with vines and plantings, she said.

"We're not going to build an ugly parking deck," McCown said.

The garage, with capacity for 500 or more cars, would be built on an acre of land behind the Atlanta Botanical Garden between the active area of Piedmont Park and the park's undeveloped North Woods. Cars would access the garage by driving into the park from Park Drive or through the Botanical Garden entrance on Piedmont Avenue, she said.

The idea was not well received at a Midtown Neighbors meeting at the Park Tavern on Thursday. After a presentation by McCown, several park users criticized the proposal and were applauded by the crowd.

Midtown resident Troy Hendrick questioned the conservancy's commitment to listening to what the public wants.

"There are pieces of red tape tied around the trees at the proposed site," Hendrick said. "For it to have gotten this far, and now to be asking for public input, shows that it's a smokescreen for a decision that's being made privately."

McCown said her advisory committee includes representatives from area neighborhood associations, recreation organizations and citizens groups representing elderly and disabled residents, festival organizers and other park users.

A final decision would require a public hearing and a City Council vote, she said.

Many people want more parking at Piedmont Park, McCown said.

"I often get asked, 'Well, I want to come to the park, but where will I park?' " she said.

In a recent survey conducted by the conservancy, more than half of respondents said they arrived at the park by car and fewer than 17 percent thought there was enough parking, she said.

Area residents also complain about park visitors parking on their streets, she said.

"Ansley Park is very concerned about all the cars parking in their neighborhood," McCown said.

Piedmont Park has a lot with 150 spaces, and is within walking distance of the MARTA train line.

Refsland, a member of Friends of Piedmont Park, said encouraging people to drive to a garage inside the park is a dangerous idea. "You've got bikes, skaters, baby strollers, walkers," she said. "You don't need to add cars to the mix."

The garage was proposed by the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is seeking to expand its parking.

Botanical Garden director Mary Pat Matheson has said that the deck would be well camouflaged and attractively landscaped.

"We want it to be a signature parking deck for the city of Atlanta," Matheson said.

The Botanical Garden would pay the estimated $15 million to build the garage on Piedmont Park property, McCown said, and the garden would split the paid parking revenue 50-50 with the conservancy.

"We would be remiss not to explore this," McCown said.

Friends of Piedmont Park, a park preservation advocacy group, argues that the Piedmont Park Conservancy is commercializing the park with special events and revenue generating projects such as the parking garage.

"It's a move toward turning the park more into a corporate events facility," Refsland said.

McCown defended the conservancy's stewardship, pointing out that her organization has raised more than $17 million to refurbish the park and is responsible for the improvements made throughout the park since the early 1990s.

Responding to criticism from Refsland and the loosely organized Friends group, McCown said:

"Maybe she would like to raise the next $15 million we need to restore the park."

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No way is this going to happen. There is already tremendous public uproar about the very thought of this happening. I think I would agree with some people that the Piedmont Park Conservancy is going overboard.

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Guest donaltopablo

Garden unveils garage plan

Drawing shows one more floor than proposed

By MILO IPPOLITO

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 05/26/04

image_692532.jpg

The Atlanta Botanical Garden unveiled renderings Wednesday of a six-level, 800-car parking garage proposed for Piedmont Park.

Proponents previously had talked about building a five level, 500-car garage, but that was before any architectural designs were done.

Jova Daniels Busby

A proposed parking garage for the Atlanta Botanical Garden would cover an acre.

"Until we got this, we never knew what the total would be," said Debbie McCown, director of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, who has discussed the proposal at community meetings.

A parking study conducted last fall showed a demand for 500 to 1,000 spaces, McCown said.

The garage would have three levels above ground and three below. It would cover one acre and rise 35 feet out of the ground at its highest point.

Garden director Mary Pat Matheson said the garage would fit its natural surroundings. "You have shrubs growing up and vines growing down and they meet in between," Matheson said.

Architect Stanley Daniels said a 16-foot-tall berm topped with 25-foot-tall trees would help conceal the earth-colored garage, Daniels said.

Opponents say it will add traffic to the park and take up space on a scenic hilltop that overlooks Midtown.

"We don't care that it's green and beautiful," said Susan Abramson of Friends of Piedmont Park. "We know it's concrete and steel underneath, and we know there will be cars coming in and out."

If the garage were built, three parking lots serving the garden, the park and a city maintenance facility would be removed and returned to green space, said Conservancy President John Izard.

"I am pleased that through a considerable amount of effort, they have come up with a solution that I think is aesthetically acceptable," Izard said.

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