Downtown became more challenging

Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  However, in true Henry Ford style, he did not ask for opinions and what we got was the “horseless carriage.” And the world has never been the same. Americans have long had a love affair with the […]


Homeless in Atlanta by Kelly Jordan

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Philips Arena overhaul could include The ‘Gulch’

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta The $192.5 million renovation plan for Philips Arena could also include upgrades to land between Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Underground Atlanta and Centennial Olympic Park. According to this week’s Atlanta Business Chronicle, that includes what some call the “gulch.” The gulch is the property under the Georgia World Congress Center […]


Richard Bradley

Commentary: Perceptions about downtowns are changing

Original article on WABE by Maria Saporta

More than 700 people from around the country descended on Atlanta from Sept. 7 to Sept. 9 to attend the International Development Association meeting at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. The event harkened back to 1977 – the last time the IDA came to Atlanta. At the time, Dan Sweat, who was heading Central Atlanta Progress, hosted the organization.

Richard Bradley

Richard Bradley receives IDA’s Dan Sweat award from Jim Cloar and Tally Sweat (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Downtowns have changed dramatically in the four decades since the last time the International Downtown Association met in Atlanta.

For instance, the organization’s members were the top executives of downtown groups – and at the time, they were all male. So Atlanta put together a “ladies program” for the spouses. Dan Sweat’s wife – Tally Sweat –helped organize the program.

Today, the association’s members include staff members in addition to top executives and industry consultants – and a large portion of the attendees were women.

Richard Bradley was president of the association in the 1980s. He remembered journalists calling when downtown department stores started closing and asking him whether their downtowns were dying.

Bradley optimistically told them downtowns were changing.

In the 1970s and 1980s, stores and businesses were moving away from central cities as suburbs were booming.

Today, downtowns are rebounding. More people want to live and work in urban centers – choosing authentic and historic locations rather than cookie-cutter suburbs.

The lingo also has also changed. Now downtown leaders talk about “place making” and creating experiences – a sharp contrast from the previous perception that downtowns were dirty, dangerous and dull.

Richard Bradley’s efforts have come full circle. He was recently presented with the IDA’s Dan Sweat Lifetime Achievement Award. One of the people presenting the 2016 award was Sweat’s widow – Tally Sweat.

Commentary: Sprucing up park honors Atlanta Olympic history

Original story by Maria Saporta on WABE

Centennial Olympic Park water feature (photo: Britton Edwards)

Centennial Olympic Park water feature (photo: Britton Edwards)

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation has awarded $10 million towards the rejuvenation of Centennial Olympic Park. A $25 million fundraising campaign to improve the park will launch in January, 2016 ─ all in an effort to mark the 20th anniversary of Atlanta’s hosting the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago, Centennial Olympic Park replaced acres and acres of parking lots and vacant industrial buildings.

The park, the most significant legacy from the Olympics, has become a new front door for Atlanta.

The park’s owner, the Georgia World Congress Center, wants to reinvest and refresh the green space that has transformed downtown Atlanta.

The $25 million  campaign includes the acquisition and demolition of the metro Atlanta chamber building and turning that into green space.

It also will create a new special events space and a new park’s maintenance facility next to the aquarium. Major entrances to the park will be more welcoming to visitors and residents. The amphitheater will be upgraded and expanded with a band shell, a stage and additional seating.

And perhaps most symbolic of all ─ Andrew Young International Boulevard will become a pedestrian plaza, connecting the Fountain of the Rings with the rest of the park all on one level.

The public will have a new opportunity to buy commemorative bricks that will be placed in the plaza’s pavement.

Ideally, the Georgia World Congress Center and the Atlanta business and philanthropic community will take this opportunity to highlight Atlanta’s Olympic legacy.

The Olympic exhibit could be moved to the park.  The flags of all nations that have hosted the Olympics since 1896 could decorate the green space.  And plaques could be placed around the park, informing people of the role the games played in Atlanta’s history.

Let’s be bold and creative as we begin to spruce up Atlanta’s front lawn.


Commentary: Amusement rides good for Downtown Atlanta

Original Story on WABE

Who says the thrill is gone? If the owners of the SkyView Ferris wheel in downtown Atlanta have their way, the thrill is just beginning.

The owners plan to open a few new rides by next June, pending state and local approval.


A rendering of SkyTower at night (Special: SkyView)

The three new rides would offer people a variety of experiences. SkyDrop will strap people in a seated ride, elevate to 225 feet and drop in a free fall to the bottom in 4.6 seconds.

SkyShot will strap two people back to back and vault riders more than 200 feet into the air — ending with either a free-fall descent or one with somersaults.

The third ride — SkyTwist — is for people of all ages who want to enjoy the view without the adrenaline rush. Passengers will ride in a glass-enclosed gondola that will twist its way to the top of SkyTower – and circle around before making a gradual descent.

The SkyView Ferris wheel is so popular the owners have signed a 20-year lease for the land below SkyView and the proposed SkyTower — where two parking lots will become an urban amusement park.

Todd Schneider, a co-owner of SkyView, says of the nearly half a million people who have ridden the Ferris wheel each of the two years it’s been in business — half are from out of town while the other half live in metro Atlanta.

He says the rides are giving people in the suburbs a reason to visit downtown — adding to the area’s vitality.

There are differing opinions about using two prime blocks overlooking Centennial Olympic Park for amusement rides. Does it make our downtown feel like a carnival? Or does it add new life to the city — especially during evenings and weekends.

I believe the latter is true. SkyView and the proposed SkyTower add excitement and fun to our city — two key ingredients essential to a healthy downtown.