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Centennial Olympic Park has profound impact on metro Atlanta
Lisa R. Schoolcraft | Atlanta Business Chronicle


The Empire State Building is shown in Midtown Manhattan on April 30, 2013. (Credit: AP)

Urban Land Institute’s Atlanta chapter, at its Sept. 11 awards ceremony, recognized downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park with a special 20-year project award.


The park, built as part of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, has been an enduring part of the Games’ legacy, as well as a catalyst for economic development around it.


Here, David Allman, founder and chairman of Regent Partners LLC and chairman of ULI Atlanta, explains the decision to honor the park and the vision of its creators.


Q: Why did ULI choose Centennial Olympic Park for its 20-year project award?


ULI chose Centennial Olympic Park for its 20-year project award because, more than any other project we could identify, it has had such a profound catalytic impact on the development of an entire area, an area that was somewhat distressed prior to its creation. It actualized Billy Payne’s vision for a much needed “gathering place”’ for downtown that would become the central, unifying space in a walkable, connected mixed-use district. It has also had a dramatic positive impact on the tourism industry for Atlanta.


Q: Why do you think Centennial Olympic Park has endured the way it has?


Centennial Olympic Park has endured the way it has due to its central, strategic location and to good management by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. Both day-to-day management of the facilities and periodic capital reinvestment has been critically important. Also, quality year round programming has made it a central gathering place for both locals and tourists alike.


Q: Are you surprised at the development that has arisen around it downtown?


I’m more pleased than surprised with the development that has arisen around it. With the recent additions of the Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum and the College Football Hall of Fame, there is now a critical mass and clustering of attractions that provide an extraordinary experience for locals and tourists.


Q: Do you think when the park was first envisioned, its developers and supporters believed it would become a catalyst for economic development downtown?


When it was first envisioned, I believe the park had both its supporters and skeptics. I do think its catalytic effect on economic development has matched the more optimistic expectations. Its effect on transforming the perception of downtown and drawing locals downtown has exceeded most everyone’s expectations.


Q: What do you think is next for Centennial Olympic Park?


As the park approaches its 20th anniversary in 2016, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority has pursued an updated plan for the park, which includes the closing of Andrew Young International Boulevard through the park, reducing perimeter landscaping so that it contributes to make the park more open and inviting, adding on-street parking and a cycle track, and upgrading the existing amphitheater. In addition, possible acquisition and replacement of the Metro Atlanta Chamber building would allow more open vistas across the park and connectivity to the balance of the GWCCA campus.