An iconic “gateway arch” entrance is being planned for Brookhaven Park with designs slated to be unveiled next month. Construction of the new entrance, to front on Peachtree Road, would be paid for with money from the recently approved $40 million parks bond, according to city officials. But how much the new entrance would cost remains unknown and getting buy-in from the state Department of Transportation is also necessary.

A years-old watercolor painting of what the Peachtree Road entrance to Brookhaven Park is expected to look like. (City of Brookhaven)

The location and look of the entrance are key in defining the city’s overall aesthetic, according to Councilmember Linley Jones. She said she is seeking an iconic entrance into the city’s “premier park,” which spans some 20 acres at the corner of Peachtree and Osborne roads.

“I don’t think [the city] views this as just a Brookhaven Park feature,” she said. “[T]hat’s a major city feature.”

The City Council approved the Brookhaven Park master plan at its Dec. 11 meeting, but were told by Parks and Recreation Director Brian Borden the new entrance was being designed separately. Initial design plans are expected to be presented to the council next month, he said.

The new entrance must first gain design approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation, because Peachtree Road is a state road, according to city officials. Discussions city and GDOT officials are having about the entrance include ensuring it is accessible for those with disabilities and also the possibly of a necessary retaining wall.

Design of the new gateway entrance is based on a years-old watercolor painting from the Brookhaven Park Conservancy. The painting, dating back to at least 2015, shows tall, granite columns with a black, wrought iron arch between them where “Brookhaven Park” is spelled out.

City spokesperson Burke Brennan said the same painting discussed three years ago was provided to city officials by Mike Elliot of the Brookhaven Conservancy when public engagement began Sept. 13 on the current Brookhaven Park master plan. How much new community input was included for the gateway entrance is not clear.

The illustration is conceptual, Brennan added. Borden said the gateway is intended to look like the massive granite and iron entrances at Piedmont Park in Atlanta.

The Brookhaven Park master plan approved Dec. 11 includes a larger playground at the center of the park, a bigger community garden and a new full-court basketball court. (City of Brookhaven)

Councilmember Bates Mattison agreed with Jones that the entrance on the major Peachtree Road thoroughfare and across the street from the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA Station would serve as a major component of branding the city’s identity. He said the city should “spare no expense” in ensuring it portrays a positive image of Brookhaven.

No estimate of the gateway arch entrance’s cost has been publicly stated. The Brookhaven Park master plan is to receive $6 million from the $40 million parks bond approved by voters in a November referendum.

Slightly more than $2 million from $6 million is being used to purchase from DeKalb County approximately 7 acres at the front of the park, fronting Peachtree Road and where the entrance will be built. That leaves about $4 million for the gateway arch and for any master plan renovations.

City Manager Christian Sigman said Dec. 11 that constructing the gateway arch entrance is a top priority for the city and for Brookhaven Park. The city would likely have to phase the park’s master plan, he added.

“I don’t believe this master plan can be funded with $4 million. We will have to come back [to council] on how to phase the work,” he said. What this process may look like is not yet known.

The $6 million amount to approve in the $40 million parks bond for Brookhaven Park was hotly debated in July when members voted to put the referendum on the ballot.

Detail areas of the Brookhaven Park master plan with what is planned for each area. (City of Brookhaven)

Brookhaven Park was originally budgeted to receive $8 million. But because the park did not yet have an approved master plan, the council voted to eliminate $2 million from that total; doing so also brought the total parks bond amount from $42 million to $40 million. A 2014 Brookhaven Park master plan proposal included a $4.5 million budget.

In July, Mattison, who voted against putting the parks bond on the ballot, voiced concerns about reducing Brookhaven Park’s master plan budget. Mayor John Ernst said he believed the $4 million would cover the master plan design and improvements. He said the city has also built in $9 million in contingency funds in the parks bond that likely will not all be used. Some of those remaining contingency funds can be used at Brookhaven Park if needed, he said.

This year, the City Council approved dividing Brookhaven Park essentially into two parks by agreeing to fence off the back 5 acres for an off-leash dog park. Dogs are allowed in all areas of the park, but only are allowed off-leash in the fenced off area.

The final master plan for Brookhaven Park’s dog park area includes: replacing the existing pavilion and patio; adding restrooms and a grilling area; repaving the existing walk area and adjusting grading for Americans with Disabilities Act access; mulching the natural trail areas; adding a new pavilion with tables at the lower field; adding play equipment and washing and splash pad stations for the dogs; adding waste stations; and adding pedestrian-level lighting along paths and pavilion areas.

At the front of the park, a concrete pad to be used a stage during festivals will be added; a new full-size basketball court with timed lighting is planned; and the community garden area will get a cleanup and expansion with a restrooms and storage space.

The new playground will be ADA-accessible and much bigger than the one now, and will include equipment for various ages. Landscaping will be added along the playground to provide a natural buffer between it and the dog park. Also included are an open play area, shaded seating, a new pavilion with restrooms, and a drinking fountain.

Lose Design completed the master plan for Brookhaven Park and is designing the gateway entrance.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.