12 May Bowen Choice: Watkins Park Community Design Day
KB Advisory Group, Sycamore Consulting, and TSW enjoy working with Atlanta Housing on the Bowen Choice Neighborhood Transformation Plan, especially when it takes us outside to play!
Designing Fun and Dreaming of New Outdoor Spaces
On April 30, 2022, Atlanta Housing and LongLine Holdings/Urban Oasis Development invited the Bowen Choice Neighborhood to Watkins Park in Carey Park to share their ideas and help develop concepts for creative play and outdoor gathering space. The folks from Living Playgrounds and PlayLark provided a variety of activities for kids and adults, refreshments, and the opportunity to color their dreams. Children from the nearby Etheridge Court Apartments were encouraged to tell their play stories using Play Maps and inspirational photos. “Loose Parts” and other “manipulatives” were also available for building temporary play structures.
Great memories from former Bowen residents
While at Watkins Park, staff from KB, Sycamore, and TSW had the chance to talk with members of the Bowen Choice Neighborhood and spend time with former Bowen residents. We talked to several about their memories of playing at Bowen. Here are a few recollections from Freda and Rezenia, who arrived at Bowen in 1964.
The Grant girls (their childhood surname), their parents, Mildred and Rocky, four older children, and the “final four” (which include Freda and her younger sister Rezenia) lived in Apartment No. 182 of the yellow building at 1135 Wilkes Circle. They had lots of stories to share.
One of the neatest is their recollection of lots of roller skates on the road at daylight on Christmas. Kids with bikes would join the kids with skates, and everyone would hang out together on Wilkes Circle. Rezenia and Freda also talked about playing inside the painted area of their patio until they were tired and dirty or trying to grow things around the shelters. They also remember Midred Grant calling them in just before the street lights would come on each night.
Community activities at Bowen
Old fashioned cookouts at the shelters with hula hoops, four square, and board games came up when talking about the community at Bowen. So did the bookmobile that came once a week and parked on Wilkes Circle. There were roadshows and free concerts by the likes of K.C. & The Sunshine Band and others on the hill (where the AD Williams Rec Center basketball courts are now) too!
Adult former Bowen residents and their stories
We also learned about some adult activities at the former Bowen Homes.
Children like Freda and Rezenia Grant opened the fire hydrants on hot days for wet, cooling play. The water would shoot across Wilkes Circle forcefully. When that happened, Ms. Willie Mae told us that she ran her car through the water jets as if it were a car wash. It seems a lot of folks did this!
From Ms. Patricia, we learned that Salem Baptist Church “adopted” Bowen in the 90s. Soon after that adoption, she was married in the chapel. Ms. Patricia is hugely proud to be the first official “Bowen Bride” of Salem Baptist Church.
Play with us!
Next up, more input! The Community Design Day provided ideas, goals, and requirements for the new outdoor space. Living Playgrounds and PlayLark will use the drawings, stories, and other information gathered in April to create a preliminary concept for the activation at Watkins Park. Living Playgrounds and PlayLark will share their vision for Watkins Park in public meetings and online surveys in May so the Bowen Choice Neighborhood can share feedback to inform the proposed design. The resulting site plan will include circulation patterns, the location of various play areas, gathering spaces, and plantings, and indicate the phases for construction.
We are excited to see the Living Playgrounds and PlayLark design!
For more on the Bowen Choice Neighborhood Transformation Plan, see these posts: