A previous version of this story stated that Westside Park is the only city park to surpass Piedmont Park in size. The story has been updated to reflect that Chastain Memorial Park, at 268 acres, is larger than Piedmont.

Fifteen years after the city purchased a quarry in northwest Atlanta and hundreds of acres surrounding it, Westside Park opened to the public Friday, becoming the city’s largest park.

A granite quarry until 2007, Bellwood Quarry was used as a filming location for movies and TV shows, including “The Walking Dead” and “The Hunger Games.” Now a water reservoir holding billions of gallons of water, it’s the centerpiece of Westside Park, which spans 280 acres in the Grove Park neighborhood just north of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and other city leaders heralded the $44 million park as a long-awaited addition to the city that could catalyze economic development on the westside.

ExploreVisiting Westside Park: Directions, hours, things to do

“This is a park with a purpose. This has been a long time in the making,” Bottoms said at the event, alongside city department heads and City Council members. “This park means so much to so many people.”

Westside Park has walking and bicycle trails, open lawns, playgrounds, pavilions for special events and an overlook to the quarry and reservoir, which holds a 30-day emergency water supply for the city and is not open for recreational use. The park connects with the Proctor Creek Greenway and will eventually link to the Atlanta Beltline.

It’s the only city park to surpass Chastain Memorial Park in size.

“If you all knew the work that had to go into acquiring the property in the first place more than 15 years ago, you would not believe it,” said Rob Brawner, the executive director for the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership. Brawner thanked the Trust for Public Land and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which gave a $17.5 million grant to help build the park.

Combined ShapeCaption
People walk around the grounds after the public opening of Atlanta's largest planned greenspace, Westside Park, Friday, August 20, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

People walk around the grounds after the public opening of Atlanta's largest planned greenspace, Westside Park, Friday, August 20, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
People walk around the grounds after the public opening of Atlanta's largest planned greenspace, Westside Park, Friday, August 20, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Construction started on the park in 2018, sparking new conversations about the impact a new wave of investment and development could have on nearby neighborhoods. In early 2020, Bottoms put a moratorium on new development in the area around the park, as investors sought to cash in on depressed real estate prices and distressed properties in the area.

That moratorium expired earlier this year, as Microsoft announced plans to open a massive campus just south of Westside Park at the site known as Quarry Yards. Community advocates in the neighborhoods, which are predominantly African-American and low-income, have spoken out for years about how gentrification and increased housing costs are pushing legacy residents out.

ExploreIn Atlanta’s Grove Park, cautious optimism about Microsoft’s big plans

At Friday’s event, Bottoms issued a message to homeowners in the area: “Hold onto your homes. If somebody’s offering you $75,000 in cash, your home is probably worth 10 times that.”

She said affordable housing remains a top focus.

“We have a huge push in the city of Atlanta to get control of single-family properties, and that gives us the ability to attach permanent affordability to those homes,” she told reporters.

As the event continued, so did construction on a new apartment and condo development on Johnson Road, just across the street from Westside Park.