Get on the Atlanta Streetcar Gravy Train.
New Siemens Trains have arrived and the tracks are almost finished.
Atlanta has experienced its greatest central city growth for many decades
and will very likely surpass that growth.
In June, the Atlanta Streetcar will send it’s first gleaming trains whooshing around 36 blocks of Downtown Atlanta. The route has modern and historic skyscrapers, interesting parks, historic districts and some of the very best locations of Downtown Atlanta. Still, there are several great sites for new towers fronting Centennial Olympic Park, multiple sites for residences, offices and great retail/restaurants.
By 2030, it is projected that Downtown Atlanta will experience 5.1 million square feet of retail absorption and an increase of approximately 4.4 million square feet of new office space thanks to the Atlanta Streetcar.
By 2034, the Atlanta Streetcar and Atlanta BeltLine light rail is expected to have been expanded to 63 miles of track including Peachtree Street, North Avenue, Tenth Street, Luckie/Marietta St, Irwin Street, Turner Field/Grant Park and the East and West BeltLines.
The Atlanta Streetcar links these unique landmarks:
The ultra-modern sparkling blue streetcars will turn north on Peachtree Street from the fountains of Robert W. Woodruff Park,
just north of Five Points, Atlanta’s commercial center for about 180 years. First passing the 35-story 1968 bronze modernist landmark of the Equitable Building, next is will be the slim art-deco 21-story Rhodes-Haverty Building (now Residence Inn Atlanta Downtown) and on the right, the 1906 17-story sculpted white marble Candler Building.
The first stop is at Margaret Mitchell Square with its modern sculptural fountain and Peachtree Center MARTA subway station. Also here are The Central Library (1980), the last building completed by great modernist architect Marcel Breuer, who also designed the Whitney Museum in New York, and the tall red granite modernist 52-story tower of the Georgia-Pacific Headquarters from 1982.
The train will turn left onto Ellis Street between the classic 1927-1992 Davison’s-Macy’s Department Store and the infamous Winecoff Hotel built in 1913– now the boutique chic Ellis Hotel. Across the street is the luxury Ritz-Carlton Downtown Atlanta and close by is the 70-story Westin Peachtree Plaza— for many years the tallest hotel in the world, but still topped with a revolving restaurant with stunning views. At Spring Street, just past a tiny triangular park with obelisk commemorating Atlanta’s first spring water source, the streetcar will veer left upon Andrew Young International Boulevard where it will pass AmericasMart— one of the world’s largest permanent wholesale trade centers– and heading straight for Centennial Olympic Park. Here are the Fountain of Rings, the Georgia Aquarium (the world’s largest), the World of Coca-Cola museum, the Georgia World Conference Center, the CNN Center, the Atlanta Skyview Ferris wheel. Later this year, the National Center for Human & Civil Rights and College Football Hall of Fame will open alongside the great park.
The streetcar will turn left on Luckie Street passing the 1911 Tabernacle (several times voted as the best medium-sized music venue in the country). At Ted’s Montana Grill, you can get the best free-range buffalo steak you’ve never imagined– as well as a possible sighting of Ted Turner himself. The next stop is the Fairlie-Poplar Landmark Historic District, one of Atlanta’s largest collection of historic buildings with pedestrian-friendly narrow streets, art galleries, cafes and clubs. The train then passes the Rialto Theatre and Theatrical Outfit centers for performing arts while bringing you back to Woodruff Park where we started the tour.
However, we’re less than half way through the route of Atlanta’s first streetcar in about 70 years.
The train will turn south on Park Place along Woodruff Park’s eastern edge, which contains fountains, the sculpture Atlanta Rising from the Ashes (The Phoenix), food vendors, shady trees and grassy greens. The 1971 Trust Company of Georgia (now SunTrust Bank) will be on your left as you turn onto Edgewood Avenue. The 17-story 1913 Hurt Building will be on the right with its elegant Georgia marble entrance rotunda. The next stop is Hurt Park. Joel Hurt was the developer of Atlanta’s first streetcar suburb, Inman Park, and cofounder of SunTrust Bank (Coca-Cola’s Bank). Speaking of Coca-Cola, on the right at 125 Edgewood at Courtland Ave, is the Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Co., the oldest Coke building to remain– an ornate 1891 corner Victorian owned by Georgia State University whose buildings are multiplying this area. Also on the right is the beautiful 1903 classical revival Coca-Cola Building Annex.
The next landmark is Sweet Auburn Market (or the Municipal Market) which is a great southern urban market experience and a wonderful place to get fresh foods from the farm in the center of a great American metropolis. The streetcar will pass under the I-75-I-85 Connector into the sousthern end of very trendy Old Fourth Ward or O4W as it is known colloquially. On the left is Dobbs Plaza, named after John Wesley Dobbs, born in 1882, known the “mayor of Auburn Avenue”. He coined the phrase “Sweet Auburn” and was the grandfather of Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, in elected in 1974. The streetcar turns left at Jackson Avenue and at the corner of Auburn Avenue is the church where Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father preached– Ebenezer Baptist Church. This is the stop for the 35 acre Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic District. MLK’s family home, The King Center and burial site, museum, International Civil Rights Walk of Fame and new Ebenezer Horizons Church.
Heading back toward the center of downtown, this is historic Sweet Auburn which, in 1906, Forbes magazine called “the richest negro street in the world”, a phrase coined by John Wesley Dobbs. On the left is historic Wheat St Baptist Church, built in the Gothic revival style from limestone. The renaissance revival Prince Hall Masonic Temple, on the right, was built in 1937 and has also been the home of the first African-American radio station in the US and the SCLC headquarters. The Odd Fellows Building housed offices, retail, 1,296 seat auditorium, movie theatre, and a roof garden– where most of black Atlanta’s dances and social functions happened during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Big Bethel AME Church is next, on the right, built from Georgia granite in the Romanesque revival style. Once the center of African-American music and entertainment in Atlanta, Egyptian revival styled Royal Peacock Club was originally called the Top Hat Club when it opened in 1938. The club hosted local talent and national acts such as Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, the Supremes, the Four Tops, and Atlanta’s own Gladys Knight & The Pips.
The Beaux-arts style (1890-1927) Atlanta Life Insurance Company Building is on the right and was established by Alonzo Herndon. Once a slave, Herndon became the first black millionaire in Atlanta. On the left is APEX Museum (African American Panoramic Experience). The beautiful limestone Art Deco 14 story tower on the right is the Southern Bell Telephone Company Building (AT&T). Planned to be 25 stories, it was constructed as only six stories in 1929. Newspaper articles at the time described its “technologically advanced and environmental features”. Subsequent additions in 1947, 1948 and 1963 brought it to its present height. Renaissance Walk at Sweet Auburn is a new construction of 158 unit condominiums with 7,000 square feet of street level retail. At 25 Auburn Avenue are two beautiful old buildings of which I can find little provenance, and everyone could benefit were these little gems to be restored, one-half block off Woodruff Park.