Photo by John Becker
Photo by John Becker

By Collin Kelley
INtown Editor

When the New York Times put Downtown Atlanta on its list of 52 Places to Go in 2014 last month, it was confirmation of what local leaders already knew – it’s going to be a transformative year for the city’s core.

With the Atlanta Streetcar set to come online and the openings of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the College Football Hall of Fame, Downtown’s destination status is about to get a huge boost.

Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson said Downtown hasn’t seen so much activity or received so much buzz since the 1996 Summer Olympics, which spurred the revitalization of the district. He wasn’t surprised by the New York Times designation at all.

Photo by Darin Givens

“The New York Times did their research and realized there is a lot going on in Downtown Atlanta,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that 90 percent of the track is in place for the Atlanta Streetcar, which will make a 2.7 mile loop from Centennial Olympic Park and The King Center. “The construction is still messy in certain areas like around Woodruff Park, but you’ll soon see poles and wire going up to power the streetcars.”

If all goes well, the streetcar will be running by Memorial Day, which will coincide with the opening of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights next door to the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola. The much-anticipated center will house the personal papers of Martin Luther King Jr. from Morehouse College among other collections and exhibitions.

The College Football Hall of Fame, which just had a “topping out” ceremony last month, is expected to open in August next door to the Georgia World Congress Center and is expected to draw sports fans from around the country.

Photo by Shelease Roberts.

While those tentpole attractions are receiving the most buzz, Robinson said there are even more projects set to open or starting construction, including the new ALOFT Hotel in the Luckie-Marietta District, new dorms for Georgia State students on Courtland Street, the new Hyatt House Hotel, the new Georgia State Law School and work on the new Falcons stadium, which is set to begin this summer.

Robinson said he’s also excited that the Polaris will be reopening soon at the Hyatt Regency. The iconic blue “flying saucer” atop the Downtown hotel has been shuttered for years, but is getting a new lease on life and is expected to reopen in March. Built in 1967, the revolving bar and restaurant will offer one-of-a-kind views of the Downtown cityscape.

“Each project is just one more notch in the city’s belt,” Robinson said. “It gives the economy a real push an will give a whole new level of tourism for the city.”

Rendering the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Robinson also cited the move of 2,000 employees of Coca-Cola into new offices at SunTrust Plaza as a big boost for Downtown. He said projects set to open adjacent to the heart of the city, such as Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market, will also be beneficial.

Another big Downtown project still to come is the proposed transportation hub near Philips Arena, which would put trains, buses and MARTA all in one central terminal. Robinson said the Georgia Department of Transportation was reviewing plans submitted by a development team for the billion-dollar project. “What we have to wait and see is who will run with it – the state or city?” he said.
Environmental reports on the hub won’t be complete until year’s end and then there will be a push to seek federal dollars for the project, Robinson stated.

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.

12 replies on “Downtown Atlanta’s next transformative year”

  1. But as long as there is such a huge problem with vagrants and panhandlers downtown, and the Five Points area remains so slummy, downtown will never fully revitalize.

    If the Mayor could possibly focus less on the stadium deal and attending awards functions and more attention on cleaning up ALL of downtown (not just steering people to the Centennial Park area instead), then this will all work.

  2. But as long as there is such a huge problem with vagrants and panhandlers downtown, and the Five Points area remains so slummy, downtown will never fully revitalize.

    If the Mayor could possibly focus less on the stadium deal and attending awards functions and more attention on cleaning up ALL of downtown (not just steering people to the Centennial Park area instead), then this will all work.

  3. RobM, as a resident of downtown Atlanta, I can atest that if he hasn’t been downtown lately, he’s a real good guesser. DTATL is a haven for those that can’t, for whatever reason, ge it together, and their continued presence there is doing no one any good, least of all those in need. When will someone consolidate services in an area not attempting a commercial revitalization?

  4. RobM, as a resident of downtown Atlanta, I can atest that if he hasn’t been downtown lately, he’s a real good guesser. DTATL is a haven for those that can’t, for whatever reason, ge it together, and their continued presence there is doing no one any good, least of all those in need. When will someone consolidate services in an area not attempting a commercial revitalization?

  5. Downtown Five Points from the Five Points Train Station Alabama Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Peachtree Street and Broad Street is a haven on a daily basis for 20 to 30 drug dealers, gamblers, hustlers and panhandlers . The disrespect and sexual harassment of women is unbearable. They block the businesses with their drug deals and all you have coming in the area are addicts which limits the tourist from coming and those that will come are terrified to the point of no return. This is so unbearable that conventioneers are told to stay away and go to Lenox for shopping. Small business owners find it very difficult to operate under these circumstances. The police say that the courts let these criminals out on bond even though they are consistently arrested. The courts need to monitor these criminals and band them from Downtown Five Points.

  6. Downtown Five Points from the Five Points Train Station Alabama Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Peachtree Street and Broad Street is a haven on a daily basis for 20 to 30 drug dealers, gamblers, hustlers and panhandlers . The disrespect and sexual harassment of women is unbearable. They block the businesses with their drug deals and all you have coming in the area are addicts which limits the tourist from coming and those that will come are terrified to the point of no return. This is so unbearable that conventioneers are told to stay away and go to Lenox for shopping. Small business owners find it very difficult to operate under these circumstances. The police say that the courts let these criminals out on bond even though they are consistently arrested. The courts need to monitor these criminals and band them from Downtown Five Points.

  7. As a downtown resident in the historic Fairlie-Poplar district, I am truly excited to see efforts underway to restore this hidden gem. We have beautiful architecture, history, and charm in spades down here. Major efforts must be put into cleaning up the drugs and panhandlers or it will all be in vain. My friends and family refuse to visit me because of the harassment they recieve. I can only imagine what tourists are told about exploring past centenial park.

  8. As a downtown resident in the historic Fairlie-Poplar district, I am truly excited to see efforts underway to restore this hidden gem. We have beautiful architecture, history, and charm in spades down here. Major efforts must be put into cleaning up the drugs and panhandlers or it will all be in vain. My friends and family refuse to visit me because of the harassment they recieve. I can only imagine what tourists are told about exploring past centenial park.

  9. I live downtown and cannot wait to move north to the burbs. The parking downtown is totally unfeasible. Just last night I received yet another parking ticket for parking in what I have reason to believe is a legal spot. I invited a dozen friends to meet me for drinks and dessert tonight for my birthday – half declined over parking. Why come downtown to pay for parking when there are countless options elsewhere?

  10. I live downtown and cannot wait to move north to the burbs. The parking downtown is totally unfeasible. Just last night I received yet another parking ticket for parking in what I have reason to believe is a legal spot. I invited a dozen friends to meet me for drinks and dessert tonight for my birthday – half declined over parking. Why come downtown to pay for parking when there are countless options elsewhere?

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