By Amy Wenk

Although initially unsupportive, Neighborhood Planning Unit C (NPU-C) approved July 7 a name change for Coronet Way Park, located on Coronet Way at Bolton and DeFoors Ferry roads on the western border of Buckhead.

The green space is to be renamed Sara González Park in honor of the businesswoman and leader in the Hispanic community who died in February 2008.

Relatives have agreed to raise $2,500 for signage and look to adopt the space through Park Pride to ensure future maintenance funds. The family plans to dedicate the park during National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Cuban-born González and her children came to Atlanta in 1975 after fleeing Fidel Castro’s Cuba in 1960. After spending a decade in New York City as a Saks Fifth Avenue model, González settled at the Cross Creek apartment complex on Bohler Road.

In 1977 she opened a Cuban sandwich shop called Sarita’s on Bolton and Moores Mill roads. It was a neighborhood hit but closed after relocating to Collier Road.

After the restaurant, González took a job as a receptionist for the Latin American Association, which helped newly arrived Latinos acclimate to Atlanta. There she discovered her calling as a community advocate.

“She became a pillar of the Latino community, helping the disenfranchised, the entrepreneurial, the unequipped,” her family wrote in a tribute booklet. González is survived by three children, Luis, Ofelia and Isabel. “She’d been there, done that, so she knew she had lessons and wisdom to impart. She gave people the tools to fulfill the American dream, a dream she herself fulfilled.”

Among many activities, she directed Hispanic relations for the 1996 Olympics; served as president and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce from 1996 to 2008; and in 2001 founded the Hispanic American Center for Economic Development, which has fostered around 11,000 new businesses in Atlanta.

“She really was a leader in the Hispanic community,” said Atlanta Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Dianne Harnell Cohen.

Cohen visited NPU-C on July 7 to appeal for support and apologized for the atypical naming process for Sara González Park.

NPU-C initially rejected the park renaming May 5. Neighbors felt the city failed to engage the community as it did when naming Louise Howard Park on Collier Road last year. The group asked that residents be better informed.

Cohen explained that the renaming request went first to the mayor and City Council, not the park staff as usual.

Since May, she said, “we have done the things the NPU asked” by sending neighbors fliers and mailers and engaging local leaders.

That was enough explanation for NPU-C, and the board approved the renaming 15-0.