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Central Atlanta Progress to honor key downtown leaders

Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank at the ribbon-cutting of John F. Kennedy Park during the Super Bowl weekend in 2019. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

By Maria Saporta

Few people have done more to strengthen downtown Atlanta than Arthur Blank.

As a way to acknowledge Blank’s contributions, Central Atlanta Progress will present him with the legendary Dan & Tally Sweat Award at its annual meeting on Feb. 14 at the Georgia Aquarium at 11:45 a.m.

The award is named after the late Dan Sweat, who served as president of Central Atlanta Progress during a tumultuous time when the city’s power structure was shifting – both at City Hall and the business community.

The leadership team of Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus at the Home Depot created Georgia’s largest public company. (Photo by Ellis Vener courtesy of the Billiand Bernie Marcus Foundation.)

Blank, co-founder of the Home Depot, is now recognized for his diverse business and philanthropic endeavors. He championed the development of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Home Depot Backyard.

As owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, Blank has been a major contributor to making downtown Atlanta a sports and entertainment hub.

On the philanthropic side, Blank also is a major donor to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights as well as to Atlanta’s westside neighborhoods, especially Vine City and English Avenue – just west of downtown.

Blank will join an impressive list of previous honorees, including former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young; Bernie Marcus, also a co-founder of the Home Depot; developer Tom Cousins and civic leaders Ann Cramer and Bill Bolling.

Central Atlanta Progress also will honor Sally Flocks with the Warner Bros. Discover Community Leadership Award, which was established in 2003 by Turner Broadcasting to honor private citizens who have done good work on behalf of downtown.

Flocks founded PEDS, a nonprofit aimed at creating greater safety for pedestrians by improving crosswalks, sidewalks and access to transit, schools and urban amenities. Flocks recently retired as president and CEO of PEDS, which later merged with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to become Propel ATL.

When Flocks moved to Atlanta in 1977, she was diagnosed with epilepsy and told to stop driving. Since then, Flocks’ primary modes of transportation were walking, bicycling and public transit.

Sally Florcks (left) founder and former president of PEDS, and Carden Wyckoff, of the Save Share Peachtree Coalition Organizing Committee, at the March 14 rally for the Peachtree Shared Space project. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

She decided to start PEDS in 1996 after walking home from the MARTA Bus stop to her home near Rhodes Hall, and she found herself stranded at an intersection with drivers passing dangerously close. It really hit Flocks how dangerous Atlanta’s major streets were for pedestrians. With the establishment of PEDS, Flocks realized she was becoming a “self-trained engineer or planner” often working with the Georgia Department of Transportation and multiple other agencies.

Among previous winners of the Warner Bros award include Downtown Healthcare workers during Covid; Tom Key, artistic director of Theatrical Outfit; George Turner, former Atlanta police chief; and Marcia Bansley, founder and former CEO of Trees Atlanta.

The final award that will be presented is the Marcus Downtown Economic Impact Award, which has been given since 2008 to individuals, companies or projects that have stimulated revitalization efforts in the center city. In honor of the significant contributions, he has made to downtown, the award was renamed in honor of Bernie Marcus in 2016.

This year, the award will go to the H.J. Russell & Co. and the Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (RICE).

Several years ago, RICE was established to be an economic mobility engine for the community by driving entrepreneurs and small business owners to innovate, grow, create jobs and build wealth.

The center is housed in a 50,000-square-foot building that used to serve as the headquarters of H.J. Russell & Co., one of the largest minority-owned contractors in the country. The Russell family helped launch the center, which is near Castleberry Hill. Jay Bailey serves as president and CEO of RICE.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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