A review of the news that made The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front pages through the decades.

In the 1970s, the potential remaking of downtown Atlanta came relatively cheap.

The $2.75 million contract initiating the work on Atlanta’s Five Points rail hub in 1976 is a fraction of the $150 million recently slated for Five Points’ renovation, set to end in 2025, or the $646 million MARTA plans to spend updating its railcar fleet through 2028.

Much was expected of the future Five Points station, and it wasn’t only viewed as the center for MARTA’s planned network of rail lines. According to Joel Goldberg, then president of the Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta, the city risen from the ashes of the Civil War, was possibly poised for yet another rebirth.

“We’re going to have doomsday people with us forever,” Goldberg said in the Feb. 12, 1976, edition of the Journal. “But one day you will see a rejuvenation in downtown Atlanta the likes of which has never taken place in any city.”

The sound of MARTA jackhammers, Goldberg continued, “is music to my ears.”

Credit: Steve Deal / AJC Photo Archives

Credit: Steve Deal / AJC Photo Archives

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When the transit authority’s ambitious plan for a rapid rail system became reality 45 years ago, it was a gala event.

“The wrecking ball crashed into the brick wall, a flood of balloons soared up over Forsyth Street, the band played, the crowd cheered and MARTA’s first rail construction in downtown Atlanta began,” the Journal’s Sharon Bailey wrote, painting a vivid picture of what MARTA called a “construction happening” to kick off work on Five Points station.

“A parade of local dignitaries, huddled under a tent bedecked with streamers in the blue, orange and yellow MARTA colors, told each other and a crowd of about 300 how happy they were to see downtown rail construction underway,” Bailey reported.

Costumed superheroes capped off the festivities 45 years ago. “MARTA Woman” and “MARTA Man” — in white leotards and capes bearing blue, orange and yellow stripes — handed out hardhats while entertaining those in attendance.

“I don’t mind a little schmaltz,” MARTA General Manager Alan F. Kiepper said.

Five Points opened to bus and rail traffic Dec. 22, 1979, with the East-West platform in operation; the North-South level wasn’t completed until Dec. 1981. The current $150 million overhaul of the downtown landmark includes a new plaza and rebuilding parts of the existing station.

Nowadays, MARTA aims for function over flash.

“Yes, we can deliver this project on time,” Assistant General Manager Marsha Anderson-Bomar said in June 2021 of the planned Five Points revitalization. “We will deliver this project on time.”


ABOUT DEJA NEWS

In this series, we scour the AJC archives for the most interesting news from days gone by, show you the original front page and update the story.

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