“The Hill” at the Hemphill Reservoir will reopen to the public after being closed for 25 years.

Two acres of greenspace around the Atlanta City Water Works’ Hemphill Reservoir will reopen next year offering visitors sweeping views of Buckhead, Midtown, and Downtown.

Fenced off in 1996 due to terrorism concerns during the Summer Olympics, “The Hill” will once again be open to the public. As one of the highest points in the city, the park at the corner of Howell Mill Road and 17th Street will be perfect for picnics and Instagram-worthy moments.

Upper Westside Improvement District (UWID) and Friends of Waterworks have been negotiating with the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management for five years to get the fences pushed back and the park reopened to the public.

“Upper Westside Improvement District has never given up on the effort to open the reservoir grounds,” said UWID Executive Director Elizabeth Hollister. “The residents and the businesses tell us they want more parks in the Howell Mill – Marietta area, and we have a huge, magnificent space which was once open to everyone and will be again.”

The city determined it could maintain safe water treatment operations while opening some of the former parkland. Atlanta City Councilman Dustin Hillis also voiced his support for the reopening, as did Mayor-elect Andre Dickens.

Friends of Waterworks has advocated returning the land to the public for more than decade.  

“Friends of Waterworks is grateful to the Upper Westside Improvement District for taking the lead on moving the fences back,” said Friends of Waterworks co-chair Chris LeCraw. “Opening the hilltop has been a successful public, private and philanthropic effort, and we hope to continue to grow our relationship with Watershed to open even more of the Waterworks.”

In 2018, UWID and Friends of Waterworks were instrumental in transforming four-and-a-half acres on the northwest corner of Northside Drive and 17th Street into public greenspace. In June, Park Pride awarded a $100,000 legacy grant to create a water-themed learning landscape and amphitheater on the site.

Residents, business leaders and planners have identified the waterworks campus as a solution to the lack of greenspace, which is reflected in local planning documents, including the Upper Westside masterplan. 

Work is expected to begin at The Hill before the end of the year, with accessible sidewalks and a crosswalk at intersection of Howell Mill and 17th Street. 

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.