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CAP Backs Atlanta Civic Center Study

January 31,2012

Read the full article by Julie Wolfe at 11Alive.com

The brick building stands at the corner of Piedmont and Ralph McGill like a time capsule. It was there before the gleaming black glass Georgia Power building cast its shadow. It was there before the clean-cut-condos and apartments replaced a field strewn with an outlandish number of soup cans and a homeless man everyone called "the rat man".

The Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center has stood like a solid rock while the neighborhood around it has swirled and changed. Now, it's their turn. It's change or die.

The Atlanta Civic Center is owned by the City of Atlanta Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs. It is not subsidized by taxpayers. It's supported by an enterprise fund which is supposed to make it self-sustaining. Parks Commissioner George Dusenbury said the center took a hit with other arts centers when the recession saw a drop in theaters sales and traveling exhibitions. 

Central Atlanta Progress is paying for a team to study the Atlanta Civic Center and decide if and how it should survive. The study includes a three-part plan:

(1) How much would it cost to fix the Atlanta Civic Center? Given the current economic structure, are there things they could do differently to bring in more money; should they focus on a different niche market? Many other cities subsidize their civic centers, often through special tourist taxes. Would the survival of the Atlanta Civic Center depend on a subsidy from the city of Atlanta, and if so, how much?

(2) What is the demand for the elements the Civic Center has right now? It current holds the largest stage in the Southeast, including 4,600 seats; a 100,000 square foot exhibition hall; a banquet area for 900 guests; the abandoned SciTech building; and about 900 parking spots. Is there a demand and use for all of that, or should some of it come down?

(3) Should some of the campus be redeveloped into something else? If so, what?

HR&A Advisors has been hired to lead the team of companies; the real estate and economic development company specializes in redeveloping struggling urban centers. Their portfolio includes the High Line in Manhattan, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and Fountain Square in Cincinnati.
In 90 days, HR&A Advisors will pass along their recommendations for the future of the Atlanta Civic Center campus.