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City plans to sell Underground Atlanta

Underground trying to rise up again
LOUIE FAVORITE / lfavorite@ajc.com

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Underground Atlanta’s history

1869: Georgia Railroad Freight Depot built.

1870: Atlanta population surpasses 37,000. Alabama Street is filled with traffic, including a horse-drawn trolley.

1910-1929: Bridges are built over the area for cars, raising the street level by one to 1 1/2 stories. Businesses move to the second floor. During Prohibition, ground floor storefronts are used for storage and occasionally speakeasies. By the 60s, the lower level is largely abandoned.

1967: Underground Atlanta is incorporated.

1969: Underground Atlanta opens with bars and restaurants, an immediate hot spot for Atlanta nightlife, including Dante’s Down the Hatch and The Blarney Stone.

1980: Underground is largely closed.

1982: Mayor Andrew Young proposes to redevelop Underground in a bid to revive the city’s downtown district.

1987: Rouse Co. begins a $142 million renovation of Underground.

1989: Underground reopens, primarily as a shopping mall.

1990: Atlantans gather at Underground to celebrate the awarding of the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta.

1990: The World of Coca-Cola opens adjacent to Underground.

1992: Rioters smash windows in the wake of the Rodney King verdict. Sales drop quickly.

1996: Underground Festival Inc., a private entity that operates the center, loses $6.5 million despite boost from the Olympics.

1999: Atlanta hires a team led by O’Leary Partners to manage the district.

2004: Atlanta passes a special ordinance allowing bars in the complex to serve drinks until 4 a.m.

2006: Attendance at Underground hits 6 million.

2007: World of Coca-Cola closes its Underground location and moves to Centennial Olympic Park.

2009: Dan O’Leary and John Aderhold, the leaseholders at Underground, propose casino-style gambling at Underground that would benefit the HOPE Scholarship. The idea ultimately goes nowhere under then-Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Lottery board, which would have to approve the plan. Kasim Reed, as a candidate for Atlanta mayor, was opposed as well.

2012: City officials step up conversations over Underground’s future, developer Dan O’Leary vows to search for “big idea” to change Underground’s dynamic.

Source: Staff research

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