Centennial Olympic Park makes mark as public-private urban renewal project
By David Pendered
As Centennial Olympic Park became a backdrop Monday for the Atlanta United parade, the park again solidified its position as a regional touchstone that remains a center of major developments – more than $2.3 billion since 1996.
Along with the investments already on the ground, an additional $725 million in projects are either under construction or in the pipeline, according to a report by the Georgia World Congress Center.
As an urban redevelopment project, Centennial Olympic Park has transformed what had been a gritty, quasi-industrial neighborhood into a greenspace surrounded by significant investments. To establish the park, the private sector donated $75 million to pay the park’s development costs, and the state agreed to lead the development project and to own and operate the park after the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
The state, which sometimes has a rocky relation with Atlanta, is among the park’s largest boosters. The GWCC describes the park in these glowing terms:
- “Centennial Olympic Park is the center of a dynamic downtown entertainment district, a place where residents and visitors have fun, feel safe, and create lifelong memories. This unique 21-acre park, the country’s largest downtown park developed in the last 25 years, performs a dual mission: to serve as Georgia’s lasting legacy of the Centennial Olympic Games and to anchor efforts to revitalize residential and commercial development in the heart of Georgia’s capital city.”
There’s no indication the accolades, or building boom, is nearing a lifecycle. Current construction projects include:
- The 11-story Hyatt Place Centennial Park, slated to open in August 2019. Features include 175 rooms, pool, fitness center, on-site food service, parking deck, 2,100 square feet of meeting space and retail facing Luckie and Marietta streets;
- The 17-story Generation Atlanta apartment building, slated to open in the winter of 2020. The building is to provide 336 units and prices are not listed on the website. The amenity package includes pool, sky deck and lounge, yoga studio, fitness center and clubroom;
- The iconic Georgia Aquarium is being expanded by 68,000 square feet, to provide space for a predator exhibit, new entrance, gift shop and gallery. The facility opened in 2005 with 9 million gallons of water, was expanded to hold 10 million gallons and will contain 11 million gallons after the latest expansion. The work is to be complete in November 2020, according to a timeline by Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm and financial supporter.
The state is continuing its development projects near the park.
Just last week, on Dec. 5, the GWCC’s authority announced that it had selected Hilton Hotels & Resorts to operate a high-rise hotel the state will have built on the site of the former Georgia Dome.
The state-owned hotel is projected to become a major economic engine. A report by PKF Hospitality Research predicted that an 800-room hotel would boost attendance at trade shows by 116,000 a year, boost GWCC’s revenues by $3 million a year, and create 1,676 permanent jobs once the hotel is opened, according to the GWCCA’s report.
The hotel is an integral part of the 2020 expansion plan for the overall GWCC campus. The hotel is to connect with the $55 million expansion project now underway at the Georgia World Congress Center. Gov. Nathan Deal led the groundbreaking ceremony on this project July 31 and work is to be complete in late 2019.
The plan is to link two existing exhibit halls, named Buildings B and C, with a new 100,000 square foot exhibit hall. The addition also is to include 48,000 square feet of new meeting space and a lobby measuring 20,000 square feet.
Meantime, the GWCC and private donors are seeing that the park itself is being spruced up with the projects slated to open this month, according to a report. Of note, the ice skating rink and Holiday in Lights were cancelled because of the park renovation projects and preparation for Super Bowl 53, according to the park’s Twitter account.