Center for Civil and Human Rights pushed back a year

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights planned for downtown Atlanta has been delayed by a year, even as Delta Air lines announced a $1 million pledge to the project.

The $100 million center is now expected to break ground in late 2011 and open in 2013, instead of breaking ground late this year and opening in 2012. The center is planned for Pemberton Place, next to Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium.

"We’ve always said that we wanted to build and open the center without debt, because a cultural institution like this really needs to not carry debt in order to be sustainable," said Doug Shipman, executive director of the center. "That basically has meant we need to meet a certain funding threshold before we start. Obviously the economy in 2008 and 2009 slowed down this project, as it did with most projects. We’re just simply reacting to that and doing it in a prudent manner."

Organizers have raised a little more than $70 million of the $85 million needed to break ground, he said.

"We are working very hard to break ground by the end of  next year, raising that additional $14 or $15 million." Shipman said the rest of the $125 million goal -- including $100 million for the center and a $25 million endowment -- would be raised during the two years that the center is being built.

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The delay comes as other projects have also been hit by slower-than-expected progress, including the College Football Hall of Fame, which plans to move to Atlanta.

The Delta contribution, however, marks some progress for the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Shipman said Delta is a "natural fit" as an Atlanta-based company with international reach.

Delta chief executive Richard Anderson said in a written statement that the center's mission "is a vital one for our community."

Other local corporations and corporate foundations have also contributed to the center, including Turner Broadcasting System Inc., Coca-Cola Co., the Home Depot Foundation and the UPS Foundation.

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