But Miss Mattie, as she was known, stayed and anchored her corner of the neighborhood. She was like everyone’s grandmother and her home was open to anyone who needed a meal or a place to sleep. In 2008 she asked the pastor of New Life Covenant Church if the church would help clean up an abandoned lot across the street from her home, as it was the view from her porch where she spent a great deal of time. For years, it had been filled with abandoned cars and she wanted to see something nicer in her community. The church and neighbors worked together to clear out the cars and clean up the space. Miss Mattie passed away before her vision of improvement was realized but she continues to serve as the inspiration for on-going enrichment of the space.

Mattie Freeland Concept
Mattie Freeland Park concept drawing.

A Comprehensive Approach to Conservation

As a tribute to Miss Mattie, the church and residents decided to build a community garden and create a small space for neighbors to gather. When the adjacent property owner (also a vacant lot) saw the improvements, he wanted to help expand the greenspace. He offered for them to use his land and residents and volunteers got to work clearing more weeds and trash and seeking donations to help them with improvements. Sod, trees, even playground equipment were donated and soon the vacant lots began to resemble a park. The community now hosts block parties, summer concerts, movie nights, even an annual Christmas tree lighting in the park. Their efforts and activities haven’t gone unnoticed. The Conservation Fund began acquiring the lots on behalf of the City of Atlanta Parks Department so that the space could become part of the Atlanta Park System and be permanently protected community greenspace. The Friends of Mattie Freeland Park also received a Park Pride ‘Visioning Grant’, which included a landscape architect and design team to help them develop plans for their space.  

why this project matters

During the visioning process, residents had many ideas about what they’d like to see in their new park, including a new playground, BBQ area, planters, benches, and a community pavilion. They also wanted to expand the footprint of the park by closing off a short, abandoned street and incorporating the adjacent property that currently includes a boarded-up apartment complex.  In addition to all the ideas they had for the park, they also expressed a desire to see Miss Mattie’s house transformed into a community center. With support from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and HHRM (the construction company for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium), the church purchased the property. HHRM redeveloped it into a vibrant community center, open for meetings, workshops, and classes to enable neighbors to learn new skills and connect with one another.