Downtown Atlanta’s Woodruff Park is About to Get Some Love

April 12,2016

Southwest Airlines Awards Heart of the Community Grant to Atlanta Placemaking Program will make Woodruff Park the community’s next great public space

Today, Central Atlanta Progress, Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) and Project for Public Spaces  announced a joint effort that will maximize Woodruff Park’s unique potential to become a popular and exciting downtown gathering place. A catalytic grant, valued at $200,000 including monetary and technical support, from the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community program will enable Central Atlanta Progress to implement its plan to improve perceptions, increase park usage, and enliven this key public space in the “heart” of Downtown Atlanta with the help of the people who work, study, live in and care about downtown.

The Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community program focuses on placemaking, a movement that is revolutionizing cities around the world by boosting community participation in the creation, design, and programming of their unique public spaces. Southwest Airlines believes that public spaces, whether neighborhood parks, small plazas, or downtown squares, are the true hearts of communities, as the places where people gather, connect, and enjoy each other and the cities they live in. The placemaking process highlights the capacity for ordinary spaces to achieve excellence by becoming vibrant, authentic, functional, and well-loved places that will benefit the community socially, culturally, and economically for years to come. The Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant will allow Central Atlanta Progress to fully engage the community through workshops, visioning, interviews, surveys, pop-up activities and other placemaking events on enlivening Woodruff Park.

By bringing the communities together around building a shared vision for Woodruff Park, Central Atlanta Progress will strengthen the connections between people and place and generate a greater sense of belonging and inclusion through the co-creation of a great public space where everyone feels welcome and comfortable.

 “Established in 1973, Woodruff Park underwent its first redesign in the mid-1980s and became a popular gathering place for lunchtime office workers,” said A.J. Robinson, President of Central Atlanta Progress.  “In 1994 the park was closed for a $5 million overhaul just in time for the 1996 Olympic Games. Following the Olympic Games, Woodruff Park experienced years of decline until 2004 when the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District assumed responsibility of the property from the City of Atlanta.  While the Park has been improved over the past decade, it has not yet reached its full potential to be a great public space.”

Atlanta is among five communities receiving grants today, selected out of a highly competitive pool of over 90 applicants from 60 cities.  Each year, Southwest brings placemaking to the cities they serve through the Heart of the Community program, highlighting the importance of “place” and encouraging communities to take part in the creation of the public places they love. For Southwest, placemaking is more than building great destinations, it is about strengthening local communities at their “heart.” 

“At Southwest, we connect People to what’s important in their lives,” said Linda Rutherford, Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at Southwest Airlines. “That commitment extends beyond the skies and into the hearts of our communities through our investment in public spaces. We recognize the power public spaces have to transform communities and are excited to support the efforts to reimagine Woodruff Park in Atlanta, a city we’ve been serving for four years.”

Woodruff Park is at the heart of an abundance of planned and existing real estate redevelopment projects.  Along the Park’s perimeter, there is $255 million in development planned and underway.  This investment comes in the form of other public space improvement projects at the Equitable Building at 100 Peachtree St.; the Five Points MARTA station; and at Park Plaza, in front of Georgia State University’s 25 Park Place building. Several private developers have also undertaken adaptive reuse projects along the Park, including the newly opened FlatironCity and the recently announced conversion of the Candler Building into a Curio hotel. These projects will work in tandem with the Heart of the Community engagement in Woodruff Park to enhance the city’s historic center, build on its cultural richness and make Downtown Atlanta more attractive, vibrant and livable for the local community. 

Through the placemaking process, Central Atlanta Progress will engage Woodruff Park stakeholders, including downtown residents, students, neighboring businesses and local government, to build consensus for improvement priorities within the Park.  Information from key stakeholders will be used to identify the most effective ways to enhance destinations in the park through programming, activities, capital improvements and more. More information on Woodruff Park and the Heart of the Community grant can be found here:

Through its multi-year partnership with Project for Public Spaces, the nation’s pioneering placemaking organization, Southwest Airlines is leveraging the power of placemaking to spur social, economic, and wellness benefits in communities across the U.S. and abroad. With the addition of the five newly announced grant recipients, the program has supported 18 innovative and transformative projects.