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ATL Business Chronicle

Column: Civil Rights Center will be built in phases

By Maria Saporta
Friday, December 9, 2011

Because of the economic climate, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights will be built in phases rather than at one time.

The center’s board recently met and made two decisions — to go forward with the project with the money it has in hand and to have a business plan that will make the facility 100 percent self-sustaining the day it opens.

The first phase of the center, which will be located next to the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coke on Pemberton Place, will be about half the size of what had been envisioned — 30,000 square feet versus a little more than 60,000 square feet.

But Doug Shipman, CEO of the National Center, said it will be big enough to house parts of a collection of Martin Luther King Jr. papers that are under the care of Morehouse College as well as an event space/auditorium and broadcast facilities.

Shipman said he is meeting with the architectural team of Durham, N.C.-based Freelon and HOK of Atlanta to see how the project can be built in phases.

The team won a design competition that included two interlocking structures that symbolized Civil Rights marchers who would walk while interlocking arms.

Asked if the current design could be adapted so it could be built in phases, Shipman said: “I hope so.”

The center’s board decided to build the project in phases at a meeting on Dec. 1, when it decided that it could build a substantial amount of the project with the money it has in hand — $65 million. That includes a $5 million endowment to help ensure the building is self-sustaining.

Shipman said the center’s board also is hopeful that it will be able to secure up to $10 million in federal “New Market Tax Credits,” but those would go toward the second phase.

Now the plan is to break ground on the center next summer and open in 2014.

“The exhibition space in the first phase is going to be smaller than what we had projected initially,” Shipman said. “But it has got to be substantial enough and relevant enough from the beginning where people say this is a great place. I fully believe we can do that in the first phase.”

For the first phase to begin, nearly $30 million in financing from the Tax Allocation District is needed. Although the Atlanta City Council and the Atlanta Development Authority already have approved that funding, the center needs flexibility in when and how those dollars are spent.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he would like for the original vision of the center to be realized.

“I hope we don’t scale back the plans any more, and I’m more than willing to partner and join the efforts to avoid them having to scale back the plans,” Reed said. “It’s a vital project for Atlanta.”

But the center would have to raise another $30 million to $35 million in order to build out the 60,000-square-foot facility and have it be self-sustaining the day it opens, Shipman said. That would include a more robust endowment that would subsidize the center’s annual operations.

“We are being very thoughtful of how we are fulfilling the mission in Phase 1,” Shipman said. “This is a responsible approach in building a new cultural institution in this environment.”

Atlantans leading United Way

Atlanta’s presence at the United Way of America continues.

Phil Baldwin, the new CEO of CredAbility who moved to Atlanta this summer, took over as the United Way’s board chair in May and will serve in that role until May 2013.

He followed Ann Stallard, CEO of Lawrenceville-based Graphic Communications, who served as United Way board chair for two years. But that’s not all. Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way of America, spent years working in Atlanta.

“Atlanta is taking over United Way,” joked Baldwin in a recent interview.

Atlanta has even one more link.

Milton Little, president of United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, is the incoming chair of the National Professional Council, a group of the executives of the top 60 United Way cities in the country that provides counsel to Gallagher.

“We have got a unique opportunity to have some influence,” Little said about working with Baldwin. “The fact that we are both here allows us to do some things that we might not have been able to do if we were in two different cities.”

Hannan takes chair at ACP

The high-level “business and civic cabinet” of the Atlanta Committee for Progress has a new chairman, Jim Hannan, CEO of Georgia-Pacific LLC.

Phil Kent, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting System Inc., had been serving in that role for the past two years.

The committee also has designated Rick Smith, chairman and CEO of Equifax Inc., as its chair in 2013.

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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