The Changing Face of Atlanta in 2006
by Amanda K. Brown
As the clock's face changes, the seconds tick...tick...ticking down to the beginning of the New Year, change is on the horizon for the face of Atlanta as well. New cities. New ZIP codes. New museums. These are just a few of the catalysts of change that will inspire growth, improvement and excitement about living in the capital of the Southeast in 2006.
In their heyday, the "downtowns" of the world were the epicenters of culture and entertainment, where you went to "forget all your troubles, forget all your cares." It's been a while, however, since Atlanta's downtown has been a happening hub of hustle and bustle, but that's changing-and quickly.
In the past few years, several Atlanta-area businesspersons have invested lots of time and lots of money to ensure the change, including Georgia Aquarium benefactor and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus. Thanks to a generous donation by Marcus and several corporate sponsors, the new aquarium-with its more than 100,000 animals in over eight million gallons of water-is the largest aquarium experience in the world. Located at the north end of Centennial Olympic Park, the aquarium is one of Atlanta's most ambitious projects.
It's fitting, really, that Centennial Park, the enduring symbol and result of the last big revitalization push-the 1996 Olympics-is the place where the downtown revolution is finally playing out. Soon, the park will be a veritable "museum row" with the opening of the new World of Coca-Cola in early 2007 in its northeast corner, and the planned relocation of the National Museum of Patriotism to the park as well.
Also, if Atlanta wins the bid to be named the site of the new NASCAR hall of fame, an effort spearheaded by downtown business group Central Atlanta Progres s, it could add an estimated $1 billion to downtown's economy. With the lower crime rates and constant, proactive initiatives being brought to the center of Atlanta, there's no doubt that in 2006, "Things will be great, when you're-downtown."
As of December 1, it's official. Sandy Springs is a city. After decades of being part of unincorporated Fulton County, residents of the area north of I-285 and west of GA 400, otherwise known as Sandy Springs, overwhelmingly voted in June 2005 to incorporate, an effort 30 years in the making.
The inaugural city council and mayoral elections occurred in November and yielded six council members, one from each district, and a new mayor, Eva Galambos. As founder and long-time president of the volunteer citizen group, Committee for Sandy Springs, Galambos played a pivotal role over the years, campaigning for a referendum to create the city.
So now what? With its incorporation, Sandy Springs becomes the seventh- largest city in Georgia, and according to an analysis done by the finance and accounting task forces, the economic outlook is good, especially if the estimated $13.6 million surplus for the first year of the city's operation comes to fruition. With more businesses and families moving to the area already, it's almost assured that the fledgling Sandy Springs is looking forward to a very bright future.
A 60-foot smoke stack and refurbished steel presses now serving as "park art" are all that's left of the Atlantic Steel Company mill. Rising from the ruins of that old steel mill, however, is a new 138-acre corner of urban energy called Atlantic Station. Coming complete with its own ZIP code, this mixed-use hot spot across the 17th Street Bridge from Midtown is quickly coming into its own as the place to live, work and play in Atlanta.
Luxury condominiums and lofts, affordable apartments and big business offices are all within walking distance to Atlantic Station's open-air shopping district, and buyers have been clamoring to rent or buy these spaces that are located in the middle of what is sure to be a lot of excitement.
Offering more than 30 stores such as Banana Republic, Dillard's and Express, the retail village intermingles with a 16-screen Regal Cinemas theatre, Swedish home furnishings powerhouse IKEA and a plethora of restaurants, including Geisha House Japanese restaurant, Italian eatery Dolce and high-end bowling club and cocktail lounge Kingpin-three ventures slated to open early 2006 and backed by a collective of Hollywood stars that includes Ashton Kutcher and Wilmer Valderrama of "That '70s Show."
The Changing Landscape
"Atlanta is growing," is an understatement. With six of the 100 fastest-growing counties in the country located in the metro area and an all-time high 100,000 new residents relocating to the area in the past year, developers looking to accommodate the rising population are realizing they're running out of room. Many of these developers have decided that if they can't expand out, they must expand up-hence the rise in popularity of the high-rise condominium.
Novare Group leads the pack of high-rise condo developers literally changing the landscape of Atlanta with their shimmering, regal residential towers of glass and steel. Properties recently completed or in development for Novare include Buckhead's Eclipse, Gallery and Realm, Midtown's Spire and two new mixed-use ventures, TWELVE Hotel & Residences Atlantic Station and TWELVE Centennial Park, both featuring upscale condos and 101- and 102-room boutique hotels, respectively.
Sales are also happening quickly at other high-rises around town, including Lincoln National Life's Paces 325 condominiums in Buckhead, which offers a more European-like vibe in its architecture, and The Reynolds, which also offers a more traditional construction and convenient proximity to the countless dining, shopping and entertainment options of downtown.
When it comes to eating, "less is more" at many new Atlanta restaurants. M!X, a lounge/bar/restaurant opened near Brookhaven by Haven owners Michel and Tonya Arnette focuses on modern, small plates with Italian, Mediterranean and Asian influences such as shrimp dumplings and ostrich carpaccio.
The High Museum's new restaurant and tapas lounge, Table 1280, takes a minimalist approach to both its contemporary interior design and its tapas menu. Featuring hot plates such as grilled octopus and cold plates such as Spanish pork lorno, the tapas lounge is the perfect place to share and compare in a few quick bites.
Quinones, opened recently by Baccanalia chefs/owners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison, features an intimate, elegantly Southern setting and seats at most 38 people only once a night. The prix fixe, multi-course menu incorporates fresh ingredients from Quatrano and Harrison's 60-acre farm.
Get ready! It's election sign time. Before you know it, the littering of campaign paraphernalia will be congregating on street corners, canvassing for candidates, vying for your eye's attention with their brightly colored stars and spangles and promises of a better tomorrow. You, as a new resident of Atlanta, and perhaps of Georgia, have a duty to make sure their efforts are not for naught by making your voice heard on election day.
On November 7, 2006, many government offices will be up for a vote, including governor. Republican incumbent Sonny Perdue will try to fill the seat for a second term, and other positions up for election include lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state school superintendent, 13 U.S. representative seats and several state commissioner posts.
There are several ways to register to vote: download and complete a voter registration application online at the secretary of state's Web site, www.sos.state.ga.us, contact your local county board of registrars' office or election office, public library, schools and other government offices for a mail-in form, register when you renew or apply for your driver's license, or, if you're a college student, check your school registrar's office.
Opportunity. Optimism. Openness. These are the three "timeless truths" that form the foundation of the Brand Atlanta Campaign, a $4.5 million initiative inspired by Mayor Shirley Franklin and the Atlanta Development Authority's New Century Economic Development Plan that is being led by a team of volunteers and professionals to create a new, compelling identity designed to brand Atlanta as a destination for tourists, businesses and new residents.
The new brand comes with a simple, red and white logo, a tagline that proclaims, "Atlanta: Every day is an opening day," and an anthem composed by music producer Dallas Austin called "The ATL." Several well-known artists lend their talents to the theme song, including T-Boz of TLC, Monica and the Blind Boys of Alabama. B rand change is afoot statewide as well. Even with the renewed interest in the past year of homegrown Georgia boy Ray Charles, the state's tourism tagline, "Georgia on My Mind," is getting retired by the Department of Economic Development for the updated "Put Your Dreams in Motion."