By John Schaffner

The Atlanta City Council March 3 authorized the Chastain Park Conservancy to move forward with its $36.3 million master plan for a facelift of the 268-acre park in north Buckhead — the city’s largest park and one of the region’s most popular concert venues.

Council members approved a resolution accepting the plan — which includes replacing the tennis center, building wider sidewalks and constructing a parking deck — on behalf of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

As part of the plan, the Chastain Park Conservancy proposals include:

A new recreation and community center featuring two basketball courts (double the current capacity) as well as other multi-use, community and recreation facilities, and an attached parking structure;

Kiosks and way-finding signage throughout the park;

Pedestrian safety improvements including the widening and extension of the current path system;

The reclamation of 12 acres of current park space that has been overgrown by invasive plants;

Parking improvements and traffic calming and control measures in the surrounding community;

The rehabilitation of the historic Chastain Arts Center building, along with two new outbuildings for additional studio space.

“Under this new master plan, Chastain Park will be a state-of-the-art park in the years ahead,” said City Councilmember Clair Muller, who represents the area. “The goal of the community and the park conservancy is to have a safe, clean, green, educational and entertainment venue that all Atlantans can be proud of.”

The implementation of these improvements under the new master plan will be funded primarily through capital campaign fundraising, said Chastain Park Conservancy Executive Director Mark Root.

The plan was developed through broad public input, including suggestions from park lease holders and local civic associations, Root said.

The parking deck, which likely will be three levels, would be located next to the park gymnasium, about a quarter-mile from the amphitheater. The proposed deck would be covered by trees, which they claim has helped in the presentation of the plan to each of the city’s 26 neighborhood planning units in recent months.

Neighborhood Planning Unit-B, which surrounds much of the park, supports the plan.

A team of consultants hired to assemble the Chastain Park plan found that the lack of parking was the top complaint among those who use the park.

The Chastain master plan includes a new aquatic center, more drinking fountains, 12 additional acres of parkland and shuttle service to the park, possibly from Lenox or Lindbergh Center MARTA rail stations.

It is anticipated it could take eight to 10 years to complete major portions of the plan. The city has committed $2 million in bond money for some Chastain improvements and the Conservancy is planning a major fundraising effort.