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Downtown Atlanta’s Big Year

By Stan Washington | 3/21/2014, 3:59 p.m.
The year 2014 is slated to be the biggest year for Downtown Atlanta in nearly two decades.
Atlanta Streetcar.

The year 2014 is slated to be the biggest year for Downtown Atlanta in nearly two decades. At this week’s annual Central Atlanta Progress/Atlanta Downtown Improvement District meeting more than 80 projects and events were announced that will either come online or will be starting this year.

“2014 will be the biggest year for Downtown Atlanta since the Olympics,” said CAP/ADID President A.J. Robinson. “The efforts that will be realized this year will change the face and dynamic of Downtown Atlanta for decades to come.”

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College Football Hall of Fame.

A few of the major projects announced were the opening of the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (summer), the Atlanta Streetcar Project (summer), the Downtown Daffodil Project, a beautification project, Downtown Pop Up Retail program, the move of 2,000 Coca-Cola employees to the new Coke Technology Square at Sun Trust Garden, groundbreaking for the new Atlanta Falcons stadium, reopening of the iconic Polaris lounge at Hyatt Regency Atlanta, the selling of Underground Atlanta, the opening or renovation of 16 restaurants and the opening of three new hotels and the renovation of the Westin. Also construction of new housing units is underway. (See the complete list at: www.atlantadowntown.com)

“There’s a new Downtown narrative unfolding and gaining real momentum,” Robinson added. “Today’s Downtown is a dynamic, youthful and diverse intown neighborhood that is the most visible part of the city and the region.”

Even before the Olympics Downtown Atlanta carried the stigma of being one section of the city that people should avoid – especially at night. There were many reasons – some true and some not for the demise of the downtown business districts.

Corporations started to move to the suburbs or to Midtown or Buckhead. Nightlife was virtually none existence despite Underground Atlanta which could not sustain itself as a fun destination for tourists or residents.

Throw in a few random robberies and Downtown Atlanta unjustly gained the reputation as a den for muggers and aggressive panhandlers.

Restoring the perception of downtown being a safe place has been going on since the Bill Campbell administration that started off addressing the growing homeless population which was mostly removed in time for the thousands of visitors who came to Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

To help lost or confused visitors to get to their destinations Central Atlanta Progress started the uniformed Atlanta Ambassador Force and the Downtown Clean Team which helps in keeping the district clean.

Credit for keeping downtown from becoming a total ghost town must be given to Georgia State University and Turner Broadcasting. Over the past decade, GSU has doubled in size and took over a number of buildings that had become vacant and bought others like the Citizens Trust Bank and Atlanta Life buildings in the Auburn Avenue area. Turner kept CNN studios in downtown while expanding its original Midtown location.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told the nearly 1000 business executives attending the breakfast meeting at the Georgia World Congress Center that they should be happy about the projects and events that are taking place downtown, but he also elicited their help in a problem that has been plaguing Atlanta and the metro area – repeat offenders.