Atlanta mayor revives talk of Piedmont Park expansion

Keisha Lance Bottoms soldiered through sniffles to address Piedmont Park Conservancy

Rain held off for the 2019 Piedmont Park Conservancy luncheon but its keynote speaker was under the weather.

"Before you lean over to your neighbor and say, 'Is she on something?' Yes, I am," quipped a stuffy-sounding Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the unlucky recipient of whatever bug's been going around her house. "I'm on a lot of things. I'll keep it very brief."

The mother of four children (one of whom passed on a cold), Bottoms reminisced about her slightly less busy days when she and her husband had one child.

“The greatest part of my day, when I had lot more time on my hands, was to drop him off at school and then come and run through the park,” she said. “I’ve been so inspired by the work the Piedmont Park Conservancy has done.”

She and Mark Banta, president and CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, both touched on the planned expansion of Piedmont Park's 185-acre footprint. Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced the $100 million project on his last working day in office in 2017. Initial artist renderings showed modern buildings, an outdoor theater and winding sidewalks.

The scope of the project, how it came about and how it will be funded has sparked misgivings from some area residents, but things have moved forward. The city last year closed on its portion of the plan with the $20.3 million purchase of nearly 3 acres at Piedmont Avenue and Monroe Drive and expects the philanthropic community to come up with the remaining $80 million.

“We’re really excited about these collaborative efforts,” Banta said. “The expansion is going to happen. I know it will. There are some major things we’re working on that I can’t tell you about now.”

Bottoms didn’t go into details, either.

“We look forward to the expansion of the park. Know that we will continue to be a great partner on behalf of the city of Atlanta,” she said, noting plans to increase green space elsewhere as well. “We have a vision that every resident will be within a 10-minute walk of a park in their community. We will continue to make sure we have equitable access to all our parks throughout Atlanta.”

Thursday’s event, co-chaired by Heather Hallett and Lisa Cannon Taylor, was the 23rd annual Landmark Luncheon, marking 30 years of the Piedmont Park Conservancy. It raised at least $376,000 and organizers were hoping on-site donations would push the total past $400,000.

The Piedmont Park Conservancy supports landscaping, capital improvements and various park projects. Its annual fundraiser reliably draws more than 700 of Atlanta’s civic, cultural and political leaders (who often have to dodge the drizzle heading into the venue, a huge tent set up at near the park’s Legacy Fountain). It generally features a Q&A with the keynote speaker but Bottoms skipped the second portion since she wasn’t feeling well.

“When you have four children and two of the four are sick in one week,” she said, “it’s not surprising when it’s your turn.”