By Collin Kelley
Editor

Downtown Atlanta continues to grow and evolve as evidenced by the slate of projects – big and small – under way right now.

According to Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson, one of the most talked about projects is the new streetcar line, which will ferry riders from Centennial Park to the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District.

In late January, 15 utility companies began moving wires and pipes and construction should be underway by spring.

“The streetcar will be up and running by mid-2013,” Robinson said. “That seems fast, but the coordination is more complicated than the actual construction. Once the building begins, it will happen quickly.”

Four streetcars will make the 2.62 miles east-west loop along multiple streets, including Auburn Avenue. These will be the first streetcars in Atlanta since 1949.

In other transportation-related news, the Georgia Department of Transportation received funding for a study on bringing high speed rail into the city for a new multi-modal passenger terminal on the site called The Gulch. Located between Forsyth Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive, The Gulch is a below street level area created by viaducts during the heyday of freight and passenger trains in the city.

The GDOT also signed a contract with a private development team consisting of Cousins Properties, The Integral Group and Forest City Enterprises to develop the area around the terminal station. The plan calls for condos, office buildings and retail space.

Robinson said the reclamation of the The Gulch would be not unlike what happened with Atlantic Station. Eventually, the terminal station would be the hub for new commuter rail and intercity passenger rail services, as well as intercity, regional express and local buses. The station would also link to MARTA, since the Five Points station is just west of the site.

“Figuring out how to connect MARTA rail to the hub is part of the study,” Robinson said. “We want to make it more appealing than the concrete bunker that it is now.”

Also still in the mix is the Green Line, which would create a linear park from the State Capitol building to the World Congress Center and incorporate the new terminal station. The promenade is envisioned with paths, water features and plenty of new retail, office and living space.

Also under discussion is the future of the Atlanta Civic Center on Piedmont Avenue. The 4,600-seat facility built in 1967 still hosts regular concerts, theater productions and events, but the adjoining space, formerly the SciTrek Museum, remains largely unused except for occasional touring exhibitions like The Titanic, Princess Diana and King Tut treasures.

“The question is whether to revitalize it, enhance it, add something,” Robinson said. “We’re looking at all options. It’s an 18 acre site and it’s not being used to its full potential.”

Kids will have something to look forward to this spring when a new playground opens at Woodruff Park. Jeff Santos of from British Columbia in Canada won an international design competition to design the playground and Bank of America provided funding for construction. Robinson said a bit more funding is needed, but the playground is expected to be ready in time for warmer weather.

Other things Downtown dwellers and workers should look for this year: new planters in front of Peachtree Center and a improving the timing for traffic signals.

To keep up with all the ongoing Downtown projects, visit atlantadowntown.com.

 

Around Downtown

Step back in time at Vintage The Barbershop
At Vintage The Barber Shop, the barbers are smartly dressed in vests and ties, while the customers perch in antique swivel chairs. An ancient vending machine offers peanuts and snacks, while a drink machine has Cokes in the bottle. With the smell of powder and shaving cream wafting through the air, along with lively conversation, you might just think a time machine has whisked you back to the 1920s.

Just down Forsyth Street from the Rialto Theater in the circa-1913 Healey Building, Vintage is owned by Herbert Williams, who bought the shop from original owner, Bill White, in 2004. Williams said he had a vision for the historic property and began collecting items for the shop. The shop has such an authentic look that it’s almost like a movie set.

But on a recent Friday morning, every chair was filled with men of all ages getting shaves and haircuts, while the hosts of Internet radio show The Ugly Truth broadcasted live from the waiting area discussing politics and news of the day with customers.

Customer Keith Harrison, who was getting a trip from Williams, said he’d been coming to Vintage for several years because of the “good service, conversation and camaraderie” he found at the shop.

Vintage is located at 57 Forsyth St. You can set an appointment online at vintagehairgallery.com or call (404) 521-1451. The shop is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

 

Imperial Hotel renovations planned
The 102-year-old Imperial Hotel at 355 Peachtree Street in Downtown has been saved from foreclosure and is getting a new lease on life.

Columbia Residential, an Atlanta-based developer of multifamily affordable housing communities, and the Ohio-based nonprofit National Church Residences (NCR), worked with the State of Georgia and City of Atlanta throughout 2011 to purchase the property.

Built in 1910, the Imperial has provided affordable housing, particularly to residents with special needs, since 1996. In the past few years, the building’s owner has fallen into financial difficulties and struggled to be able to afford needed repairs. The new owners will continue to serve low- to moderate-income residents exiting homelessness and others with special needs.

The renovated building is expected to contain 90 fully renovated units, with improved floor plan configurations, fully updated leasing and management offices, resident amenities and spaces for case managers and service providers and onsite security. The extensive repairs will require a relocation of existing residents, but they will have the opportunity to return to the newly renovated building. In the meantime current residents will be provided with replacement housing and continuation of supportive services by Columbia and NCR staff.

 

Mobile professionals find space at 200-Office
The historic 200 Peachtree building, former home to Davison’s/Macy’s department stores, has become a go-to for wedding ceremonies, trade shows and other special events on its grand main floor and mezzanine level, but there’s much more happening on the upper floors.

200-Office (200-office.com), a cutting-edge, co-workspace for mobile professionals and budding entrepreneurs, opened last fall.

The space provides broadband Internet, video conferencing, meeting rooms, scanning and photocopying, and mail handling. In addition, 200 Office provides a highly comfortable work environment with cushy sofas and chairs, a variety of work settings, and a Rising Roll Gourmet café.

200-Office is affordable with a monthly membership costing less than $60. Members are afforded full use of the facilities and Internet and are only charged for extras, such as video conferencing or meeting rooms, when actually used.

With easy access to parking in an attached garage and MARTA’s Peachtree Center station directly across the street, 200-Office is accessible from throughout the entire metro Atlanta area.

 

For more about Downtown, read Kyle Kessler’s picks for our Keep It INtown feature at this link.

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.

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