Revitalized Woodruff Park a downtown draw

April 20,2018

Source: Melanie Lasoff Levs, Atlanta Business Chronicle

In the early 2000s, if someone did an online search for Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta, most of the hits would be information on feeding the large population of homeless people who congregated there. Conditions in the park lead to a vicious cycle: well-meaning groups would bring food and toiletry items to distribute, which lead to more homeless individuals settling in the park, which created pile-ups of trash and even human waste. The six acres of green space in the center of downtown Atlanta were not a place many Atlantans, let alone tourists, sought to visit.

“It had a bad reputation,” said Wilma Southern, vice president of marketing at Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), who has been with the organization for 17 years. 

In 2007, the city of Atlanta under then-Mayor Shirley Franklin and the city council approved a Memorandum of Understanding that put control of Woodruff Park in the hands of Atlanta’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID). The groups created a two-phase master plan, which is funded from a CAP-created program that targeted donations from both private and corporate organizations including: 

  • Bank of America;
  • Kendeda Foundation;
  • Park Pride;
  • The Rich Foundation; and
  • Southwest Airlines.

Over the years, funding has gone to clean-up and infrastructure repairs in the park, landscaping and installation of the ATL Sculptural Playground, which opened in 2012. The Atlanta streetcar stops at Woodruff Park, and the Fairlie-Poplar district in which it resides is brimming with restaurants and foot traffic during the day.

Today, Woodruff Park is becoming a destination for workers in surrounding office buildings, students at Georgia State University and tourists soaking up Atlanta’s city atmosphere, said Ansley Whipple, who was hired by CAP a year ago as the public park’s full-time manager.

“A lot of things said about Woodruff Park can be said about downtown Atlanta too,” said Whipple, adding that the area has had its own “issues, successes and recent resurgence. There are a lot of parallels there.”

Read the complete article at the link above.