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Mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta VIPS Celebrate Margaret Mitchell Square Restoration, New Playground at Woodruff Park

July 5,2012

Downtown Atlanta is bustling with activity as people are walking more,” states Camille Russell Love, Director of the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs.  “They walk to lunch, to meetings and to join friends and family for arts and entertainment activities.  It’s routine to encounter visitors from around the globe on our downtown streets.  And Atlanta looks better than ever as numerous improvements are underway. 

To celebrate the completion of two projects, the restoration of Margaret Mitchell Square and the installation of the new ATL Playground in Woodruff Park, a number of VIPS including Craig Jones/Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, George Dusenbury/Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, and AJ Robinson/Central Atlanta Progress will join Mayor Kasim Reed on a short walking tour on Tuesday, July 17 at 10 am.

The first stop on the tour will be Margaret Mitchell Square to admire the restoration of the graceful, stainless steel sculptures and granite fountains.  The plaza honoring the legacy of Atlanta’s Pulitzer Prize winning author Margaret Mitchell is located in the Fairlie-Poplar district at the intersection of Peachtree, Forsyth and Carnegie Way.

Originally installed in 1986, the square features sculptures by renowned artist Kit-Yin Snyder, inspired by Southern antebellum architecture.  The square is nestled among some of Atlanta’s most historic buildings like the Rhodes-Haverty and Candler Buildings. It looks out on the contemporary architecture of the Atlanta Fulton Public Library and Peachtree Center MARTA station.  The sleek Georgia Pacific skyscraper across Peachtree Street is on the site of the Loew’s Grand, where the premiere of Gone With The Wind took place. An ideal location, the square reflects the essence of Ms. Mitchell, who had a keen respect for the past, but who was also fiercely independent and modern.

The restoration work at Margaret Mitchell Square was overseen by City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program.  Working with Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), The Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID), adjacent property owners and neighbors, they handled all the details of the plaza’s facelift.  Vital to the project was the support of Norfolk Southern.  “We had tremendous help from the community,” says Eddie Granderson, Manager of the Public Art Program. “Norfolk Southern was an ideal partner because Atlanta was established due to the railroad line ending downtown.”

“Norfolk Southern is proud to support the restoration of Margaret Mitchell Square, given the deep historical roots in Atlanta that we share with Ms. Mitchell and her iconic novel,” states Joel E. Harrell, Resident Vice President at Norfolk Southern.  “Restoration of this beautiful landmark not only honors the memory of a great Atlanta author, but will enhance the downtown experience for the more than 2,000 Norfolk Southern employees who work there.”

Strolling down Peachtree Street, the group will pass several other Public Art projects including the monument “In Honor of Atlanta Police Officers” and the bronze sculpture, “Phoenix Rising From The Ashes” by Gamba Quirino. The sculpture, a gift to the city by the Rich Foundation in 1969, depicts a woman being lifted from flames by a phoenix in flight.  The phoenix is the symbol of Atlanta's rebirth after a devastating fire during the Civil War. The next time you are downtown, take the Public Art Audio Tour featuring artwork in 22 locations from Ralph McGill all the way down Peachtree to Underground Atlanta.  It’s a wonderful way to discover more about Atlanta and enjoy some of the city’s most beautiful art. For more information: www.ocaatlanta.com/public-art-audio-tour. 

The next stop on the tour will be Woodruff Park to attend an unveiling event for the newly installed ATL Playground. Jeff Santos of British Columbia designed the original concept of the playground, after being named winner of the 2010 Playable 10 Contest held in partnership with Bank of America, Georgia Institute of Technology, CAP and the Atlanta Taskforce of Play.  Minnesota based Landscape Structures (LSI) engineered and constructed the playground.

“Landscape Structures is dedicated to creating innovative play areas,” said LSI President Pat Faust. “The playground is a work of art, but it gives children infinite ways to interact with the sculpture.”

Shaped with Atlanta in mind, the playground’s design mimics the letters “ATL,” and features climbing walls, monkey bars and two slides. The playground’s installation is a part of the larger Woodruff Park Master Plan, which is a detailed vision of Downtown’s most distinctive green space.
“Great cities have great public spaces,” adds George Dusenbury, Commissioner of the Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs.  “Margaret Mitchell Square and the ATL play sculpture will provide exceptional downtown experiences for residents and visitors alike.”

Looking ahead the assembled dignitaries will not be resting on their laurels.  There are a number of high profile initiatives in the works, including the Atlanta Streetcar.  This modern transit system will link key downtown locales, support projected growth, and promote economic development. It will run in an East-West loop from historic Auburn Avenue to Centennial Olympic Park traveling on multiple streets with mixed traffic, helping to provide connectivity to locations such as the Georgia Aquarium, Georgia World Congress Center, CNN, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, ML King National Historic Site and Georgia State University.