Civil rights center to break ground in October, open in 2013

After three years of fundraising, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights will break ground in October, a year later than anticipated and in a smaller building than envisioned.

At a Monday meeting, announcing the groundbreaking and a $1 million donation from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the center's Chief Executive Officer Doug Shipman said the size of the project was reduced to make it more efficient and eliminate wasteful space.

The move helped cut the overall cost of the project from $100 million to $85 million, center officials said. They have raised $73 million and hope to raise the remaining $12 million by the groundbreaking.

Center Executive Vice President Deborah Richardson said $40 million in potential donations have been identified from both local and global sources.

They also plan to raise $15 million for an endowment, down from $25 million proposed. Shipman said reducing the museum size allowed endowment needs to decrease.

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"We believe that this project still matters," said former Mayor Shirley Franklin, the center's chairwoman and a proponent while in office. "It matters as we look at what's going on around the world, seeing people pushing for greater engagement on the future in their own cultures."

The project is expected to open in fall 2013. Work was supposed to begin last year, but was delayed because fundraising was hampered during the recession, Shipman said.

The new footprint of the building, which will be built next to the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, will be 63,000 square feet instead of the proposed 90,000, though overall exhibit space remains at 30,000 square feet, Shipman said.

In addition to the auditorium, the new plan eliminates an indoor courtyard, offices and other space, Shipman said.

The center will feature permanent exhibitions such as the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection and the "Without Sanctuary" lynching exhibit as well as rotating human rights exhibitions.

The center's fundraising efforts include donations from Turner Broadcasting System Inc., Coca-Cola Co., the Home Depot Foundation, the UPS Foundation and Delta Air Lines.

DOWNTOWN PROJECTS

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is one of several projects considered for downtown Atlanta:

AT&T Dolphin Tales at the Georgia Aquarium

Cost: $110 million

Opening: April 2

The College Football Hall of Fame

Cost: $50 million

Opening: projected 2013

Open-air Atlanta Falcons stadium (proposed)

Cost: $700 million

Opening: projected 2017

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