Woodruff Park is one of Downtown Atlanta’s most significant green spaces, at the heart of the city’s financial, entertainment, and academic districts. Lawn and plaza areas, a gazebo and fountains combine to make this a flexible open space. Woodruff Park is designed to accommodate large crowds on their lunch hour and for special events almost anytime during Park hours.
Established in the early 1970s, Woodruff Park was formerly known as Central City Park. The park was created thanks to a philanthropic gift from former Coca-Cola Company president Robert W. Woodruff, who donated the money anonymously. After two years of planning and preparation, the park opened in 1973.
In 1980, the park underwent its first revitalization with the addition of a tree-lined central plaza. Throughout the 80’s, many businesses migrated to Downtown Atlanta, and Woodruff Park became a gathering place for lunchtime office workers, as well as faculty and students at nearby Georgia State University.
In 1994 the park was closed for a $5 million overhaul just in time for the 1996 Olympic Games. Between its 1995 makeover and its most recent 2006 renewal, Woodruff Park fell into somewhat disuse, and was in part overshadowed by nearby Centennial Olympic Park. In 2006, after seeing the success of New York’s Bryant Park, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID) began work on developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Atlanta, as well as a Master Plan approved in 2008 that included the removal of the benches, which were replaced with bistro-style tables and chairs that could be moved around; this has proven extremely effective in impacting and expanding the park use. Permanent structures were programmed for construction based on availability of funds, offering a walk up coffee shop/news stand, a quick and convenient restaurant, a dining in/out restaurant, a reading area with an attendant building, a playground, and a proposed operations building.
Woodruff Park Today
Today, Woodruff Park is a shining example of a modern Downtown Atlanta. The Downtown Ambassador Force and Clean Team ensure that the park is a safe, clean and pleasant urban oasis for all, with programs and events being scheduled year-round to draw in diverse and unique crowds, something for everyone.
In addition, ADID provides staffing consisting from 7am – 11pm daily, along with dedicated Atlanta Police Department and Georgia State University Police patrols. Staffing is adjusted as needed to respond to events and daily activities. Police-monitored surveillance cameras were added as an additional safety feature in recent years.
Use of the park for special events and programs can be scheduled through the City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Office, as well as with CAP/ADID Vice President of Marketing, Wilma Sothern, (404) 658-5910, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other capital improvements to the park’s hardscape and landscape include improved landscaping with additional trees and shrubbery; floral accenting throughout with flower planters and gardens for year-round color; major granite and paver repair over the entire park along with the installation of skateboard stoppers; irrigation repairs, to include the construction and integration of a well system; repair and reactivation of the two large fountain water features, which will be supported by the park’s own well system; and the installation of a music/public address system (Muzak) throughout the park that provides a comforting, relaxing effect; as well as the improvement of the lighting, contributing to the safe feel of the park. The removal and reutilization of the large flag pole and platform allowed full use of the green space for a wider range of programs and activities. A temporary flag pole is installed for special holidays and events. The installation of the exercise stations has offered a new dimension, supporting our new health theme in the park. Many of these capital projects resulted from partnerships and sponsorship contributions. A prime example is the children’s playground opening in November 2011, which originated with an international design competition, and is being constructed as a result of partnerships with the City, as well as monetary and in-kind donors.
Many programs have been implemented at Woodruff Park to activate the space and engage the diverse community that uses the park:
- Chess court with scheduled tournaments
- Lunch in Woodruff
- Speakers Corner
- Scheduled entertainment at the gazebo
- Author and group readings in the Reading Room
- Outdoor movies
- Exercise classes
- Many outdoor games with equipment available
- Large festivals, such as the German Bierfest
- Holiday lighting
- New food vendors
The six acres of Woodruff Park are covered with many interesting features, making it an urban oasis.
The International Peace Fountain commemorates Atlanta’s pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement. A geyser fountain and waterwall make a dramatic focus for the park, and a memorable gateway to Auburn Avenue and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Park Site.
- In 1980, the Give Our Police A Hand Monument was dedicated “In Honor of the Brave Service and Dedication of Atlanta Police Officers”
- The 2004 Shining Light Award honors Mayor Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. "His politics of inclusion made Atlanta government and business open to all citizens." Presented by Atlanta Gas Light Company and WSB Radio.
- The Gateway to Historic Auburn Avenue is marked with the West African Adinkra symbol, sankofa, meaning "learn from the past." It reads, "Know your past so that you can understand the present and direct the future." Presented by the Corporation for Olympic Development in Atlanta
Nimrod Long and Associates, Landscape Architects and TVS & Associates created the pavilion for the Summer Olympic Games. This custom design consists of an openwork strut cornice assembly supporting an impact-resistant, ceramic fitted glass dome. The Performance Pavilion accommodates performances by local musicians and students from the Georgia State University School of Music.
The bronze sculpture, "Phoenix Rising from the Ashes" is by Gamba Quirino. The piece depicts a woman being lifted from flames by a phoenix in flight. A phoenix is a bird from Egyptian mythology, and the sculpture is allegorical in nature, symbolizing Atlanta's rebirth after a devastating fire during the Civil War. This piece of history was given to Atlanta by the Rich Foundation in 1967 to celebrate Rich's 100th anniversary. The Phoenix, the symbol of Atlanta rising from the ashes, used to be perched at Spring Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Now it has been relocated to the Five Points entrance of Woodruff Park.