Georgia may get old World of Coke land, but unclear if museum a fit

Nine years after buying the old World of Coke building in downtown Atlanta, the state is finally hoping to get the land it sits on.

But state officials who once planned to turn it into a state history museum say they still don’t know what will become of the building.

And it will likely cost the state millions of dollars to either rehab it after nine years sitting idle or raze it.

Former state Sen. George Hooks, a lobbyist for historic preservation groups, and Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, said it’s been several years since the push to turn the facility into a history museum had any steam.

“It’s bubbled up and bubbled down so many times it’s not on the radar anymore,” Hooks said.

The state would get the land, along with the Bobby Jones Golf Course, as part of an exchange for property that would give the city control of a parking deck and other state-owned land near Underground Atlanta, an area targeted by the city for redevelopment. That deal hasn't been finalized.

The state bought the building nine years ago for $1.1 million when the World of Coke moved to a larger facility at Centennial Olympic Park. The city owns the land the old World of Coke sits on.

Governors, some lawmakers and history buffs have tried at least twice to fund a state history museum in the Coke building, but both times the Legislature cut money for the project out of the proposed state budget.

The cost of fixing up the building was estimated at $17 million in 2011.

Gov. Nathan Deal in 2013 weighed whether to put money into creating a history museum as part of a broader plan to make Capitol Hill into a pedestrian-friendly tourist attraction. But the money was never appropriated.

“It’s been frustrating,” said Wilkinson, who served on a committee looking at the creation of a state history museum.

Hooks, a former longtime Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, said the potential cost, which has only grown since earlier estimates were made, has been a roadblock.

“The problem with that World of Coke building is it would have to be renovated at a tremendous cost,” he said. “The idea is still there, but it’s way on the back burner.”