Proposal to transform vacant Vine City lots into ambitious 16-acre park gets greenlight from Atlanta City Council committee

Greenspace envisioned as tool to help revitalize long beleaguered neighborhoods


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  • Greenspace would include statues of notable Atlantans, 80-foot tower

Last December, CL looked at two different and ambitious plans aimed at revitalizing Vine City and English Avenue, two historic and beleaguered intown neighborhoods just a few blocks from downtown Atlanta, with parks.

One of those two proposals — transforming 16 acres of city-owned, mostly vacant land along Joseph E. Boone Boulevard into Historic Mims Park, a majestic $55 million greenspace celebrating Atlanta’s role in civil rights — took a major step yesterday toward becoming a reality. (There’s also gossip that it’d be one of the community projects Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons would help fund as part of a new stadium. More on that in a moment.)

An Atlanta City Council committee today OK’ed consolidating parcels owned by the city and Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, and executing a 50-year lease with the nonprofit organization that wants to build, operate, and maintain the park that would span three city blocks on the edge of Vine City. The proposal now awaits the approval of the full City Council and Mayor Kasim Reed.

The total cost to the city: a little more than $488,000, most of which will be used to pay off debt to the federal government related to a failed affordable housing project once proposed for the site, which is bounded by Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and Elm, Thurmond, and Walnut streets.

The years-in-the-making idea, which supporters say will help create jobs, nurture the community, and attract new residents and economic development, is the brainchild of Atlantan Rodney Mims Cook. Cook’s a well-heeled booster of classical monuments who, along with his organization, the National Monuments Foundation, helped create Atlantic Station’s Arc de Triomphe-esque Millenium Gate. He’s also a descendant of former Mayor Livingston Mims, the park’s namesake. (Interesting factoid: Mims once lived at the corner of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Peachtree Street where the Georgian Terrace now stands. Hence the hotel restaurants’ names The Livingston and Cafe Mims.)

The greenspace Cook’s proposing is modeled after the original Mims Park that once stood in the area but was razed in the 1950s to build a school. That park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned landscape architect who designed the U.S. Capitol Grounds and Manhattan’s Central Park, among many others, was home to the city’s first integrated playground. Cook says his father, a former member of the Atlanta Board of Aldermen (the precursor to the Atlanta City Council), compelled him to rebuild the greenspace.

The proposal is filled with nods to Atlanta’s complex history stretching back to the state’s founding. Much of the park would be located on land where German immigrant Edward Wackendorff opened a nursery and seed store in the 1870s which gave Vine City its name. Statues of notable Atlantan “peacemakers,” including the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Julian Bond, W.E.B. DuBois, former Mayor Maynard Jackson, Coretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (who lived on nearby Sunset Avenue), former Mayor Livingston Mims, and Booker T. Washington, would dot the greenspace. An 80-foot-tall “Peace Column” topped with a statue of Chief Tomochichi of the Yamacraw Tribe, considered a co-founder of Georgia, would serve as a centerpiece and offer views of the surrounding area and skyline. Downtown’s erstwhile Carnegie Library would be replicated on the property and, Cook hopes, become the new home of Prince Charles of Wales’ Foundation for the Built Environment, you-know-who’s private foundation that champions sustainability.