The Alliance to Improve Emory Village dedicated Emory Village Park on November 8, 2012 and what a grand evening it was! An Emory brass band welcomed more than 200 supporters of the new green space. The crowd oohed and aahed over the bubbling fountain, the trolley rail sculpture that soars over the brick plaza, and newly planted trees and shrubs. There were, of course, speeches, plentiful appetizers donated by Saba Restaurant, and profuse thanks to the scores of contributors who helped make the new park possible. See more photos.
“Tonight is an evening to celebrate this historic area and revitalization in this inviting, lovely and safe gathering space that honors our history and looks to the future,“ said AIEV former Chair Lois Berthaume.
She thanked DeKalb County Commissioners Kathy Gannon and Jeff Rader for their leadership, encouragement, and support to help make the village revitalization and the park a reality from the inception of the idea to its realization.
The dedication capped off efforts to “Save the Village” that began in 1998 when the former Emory Kroger—the long-time unofficial gathering place for many neighbors—announced that it was closing. Despite community protests, the market left. But in its wake emerged a coalition of neighbors, Emory representatives, and business and property owners, who came together to envision Emory Village’s future and doggedly work to make it a reality. More than a decade of community efforts have resulted in a pedestrian and business friendly center for neighbors, businesses and Emory University.
Commissioner Gannon noted that the equal partnership grew stronger with the support of the Urban Land Institute, a Living Communities Initiative grant, and DeKalb County.
Today sidewalks and road changes, including a roundabout, now safely welcome traffic of all types—walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs and autos move fluidly and safely through the village. More than 40 trees and countless plantings are in place, new and existing businesses are thriving, others are planned, and the stage is set for redevelopment of Village properties consistent with revitalization goals adopted by the community.
Commissioner Rader said the village streetscapes, roundabout, and park were designed from “robust public inclusion and participation. The results are that the cars are moving through the intersection, the people are moving among the cars and to the businesses, and we’re standing tonight in this gracious and welcoming place. Imagine the future when there will be new buildings and businesses.”
Todd Hill, current AIEV and park chair, noted that this was the first time so many people could gather outdoors in Emory Village’s “living room.” Hill, who designed the park, thanked the many people and businesses who had given their time, talents and more than $70,000 in financial support to the village. Among those recognized were Ted Kelly, owner of Architectural Fountains and Pools, who donated the “Mary Kelly Fountain” in honor of the Marys in his life (his wife and mother).
The fountain sculpture—created from old trolley rails unearthed during roundabout construction—was designed and donated by Charles Calhoun, Calhoun Design and Metal Works. Hill also thanked Cousins Development for diverting pavers from the Emory Point project so the park project could be completed.
While the fountain provides a soothing background ambience of flowing water, Hill noted that it was designed as well for sustainability. Water from the nearby 465-foot well recirculates in the fountain and will irrigate the plantings in the park as well as some of the Village landscaping.
He also thanked Taylor Wright and Monty Rawls who oversaw the streetscape and park project for DeKalb County; Steve Probost and jB&a Landscape Architects who created the park documents; Lewellen Construction and FOSCO who were responsible for the park construction; and Ruppert Landscape Co. who installed the plantings. In addition to financial support, Emory swapped land in exchange for Georgia Power to bury utility lines under North Decatur Road. Emory has also agreed to maintain the park for seven years.
A month before the dedication, passers-by saw mostly dirt in the small patch of land between the roundabout and the Chevron station. But by Thursday November 8, the plaza had been bricked, trees and shrubs installed, the 2000-pound sculpture placed, the power turned on, water was flowing, and the first outdoor public gathering in Emory Village Park was a huge success.
“AIEV has set a great precedent with this party,” Gannon observed, predicting many more public gatherings in the new space. “Our community will have much more fun here than we did at Kroger.“
AIEV is still seeking donations for the finishing touches for the park. Click here to make a donation today.