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Mirror Images by Kelly Jordan

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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.