Lot beneath John Lewis Atlanta mural to become small park

A rendering of the planned Good Trouble John Lewis Park, which would be at the base of the current John Lewis HERO Mural on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia.

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A rendering of the planned Good Trouble John Lewis Park, which would be at the base of the current John Lewis HERO Mural on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia.

Butler Street CDC says part of a bigger plan to redevelop Auburn Avenue

Every day, dozens, if not hundreds, of tourists make the pilgrimage to Auburn Avenue on the corner of Jesse Hill Jr. Drive to gaze upon the mural of John Lewis.

But between the selfies and group portraits, they are standing in a parking lot. That will soon change.

On Saturday, the two-year anniversary of the day that the former Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader was buried, the Butler Street Community Development Corporation, which owns the property, will formally announce that they will turn the space into the Good Trouble John Lewis Memorial Park.

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People raise a glass of champagne to the John Lewis mural after the election was called for Joe Biden Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

People raise a glass of champagne to the John Lewis mural after the election was called for Joe Biden Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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People raise a glass of champagne to the John Lewis mural after the election was called for Joe Biden Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The mini-park, which will be right across the street from Big Bethel Church and part of a bigger affordable housing project spearheaded by the Butler Street CDC, will be a unique green space on that end of Auburn Avenue.

“Where people will have a place, instead of an abandoned lot, to reflect on the work of our congressman,” Jerome Edmondson, a board member of the Butler Street CDC, formerly the Butler Street YMCA, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He said the park could open as early as next year.

The park, which will be designed with the help of SCAD, or Savannah College of Art and Design, will be what Edmondson calls a “smart park.”

Working with Georgia Power, the park will have Wi-Fi and workstations to allow people to work there. Parts of it will feature an interactive component attached to the mural, which will be enhanced by new lighting.

There will also be lots of grass and an eternal flame to honor Lewis, the long-time congressman who initially rose to fame as a key civil rights figure. He died on July 17, 2020.

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Delilah Davis kneels and prays at the John Lewis memorial on Auburn Ave, Sunday, July 19, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Delilah Davis kneels and prays at the John Lewis memorial on Auburn Ave, Sunday, July 19, 2020.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Delilah Davis kneels and prays at the John Lewis memorial on Auburn Ave, Sunday, July 19, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

“This park is going to identify the past, the current and the future,” Edmondson said. “In order to show the future, you have to be tech-driven.”

Through parking and movie set rentals, Edmondson said the Butler Street CDC-owned parking lot, valued at about $500,000, generates about $250,000 a year. The park will cost about $3.5 million to build and the organization is working with different groups, agencies and businesses to help fund it.

While Butler Street CDC owns the lot, the building the mural is pointed on is owned by another company. Edmondson said an agreement is in place to permanently keep Lewis’ image there. Later this year, the mural will undergo a $40,000 touch-up using money raised by several Sweet Auburn community organizations.

The John Lewis HERO Mural has become an Instagrammable Atlanta landmark, rising above historic Auburn Avenue, less than a quarter-mile from the birth home of Martin Luther King Jr.

The 65-foot mural by Sean Schwab was dedicated in 2012 with Lewis in attendance. AJC readers voted it the best mural in Atlanta in 2019.

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Dajha Smith, 5, shows off her John Lewis T-shirt she got from her grandmother while standing in front of the large John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, July 18, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

 Dajha Smith, 5, shows off her John Lewis T-shirt she got from her grandmother while standing in front of the large John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, July 18, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

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Dajha Smith, 5, shows off her John Lewis T-shirt she got from her grandmother while standing in front of the large John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, July 18, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Saturday’s announcement will be part of a wider celebration of Lewis’ life, dubbed “Good Trouble Day,” at the site.

At 10 a.m., Central Atlanta Progress will host “Reimagine the Legacy,” a rededication ceremony of the John Lewis HERO Mural to “celebrate the life of Congressman Lewis and reflect on how we can positively impact future generations.”

“Congressman John Lewis gave us reason to celebrate his life, but, frankly speaking, it is not enough to revere him,” said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District. “We must instead emulate his actions. We must use his memory to not only seek the moral clarity that resided deep within him, but as an opportunity to reflect on the many questions one of the world’s greatest troublemakers asked his entire life — If not us, then who? If not now, then when? What legacy do you want to leave behind?”

That will be followed at 11 a.m. with the ringing of bells for 80 seconds, representing Lewis’ 80 years of life. There will also be a voter registration drive, as well as small business vendors, food trucks, services for the homeless, a community awards presentation and a happy hour on top of the Odd Fellows Building throughout the day.