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Midtown soars after 1996 Olympics

4:23 PM, Jul 28, 2012   |    comments
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The Midtown Atlanta skyline as seen from Piedmont Park



11ALIVE COVERAGE OF THE SUMMER GAMES




NBC OLYMPIC ZONE

ATLANTA -- The legacy of the 1996 Games is always a source for spirited debate. Is Atlanta better off? Or worse?

We are bigger, more sophisticated and we possess a skyline we didn't have before.

Perhaps the most lasting imprint on the city is Midtown and its metamorphosis into something big and grand.

"There is no question, I think Midtown is the center of gravity where the city is both north and south," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said. "I think it was due in large part to the Olympics."

Mayor Reed grew up here. He remembers Midtown the way it was 30-plus years ago.

"When I was a boy, the most important thing was the Gorin's Ice Cream on that corner. That's gone and there are skyscrapers there," he said.

And many of the skyscrapers in Midtown were put there by one man, his vision and his money -- the former Georgia Tech quarterback John Dewberry.

"While the light shined brightest in Downtown during the Olympics, it certainly had an effect on Midtown," said the Milton High School graduate.

John Dewberry is Atlanta's most prominent real estate developer and CEO of Dewberry Capital Corp. His investments total more than $1 billion since the 1996 Games. He has reshaped how we see the city on many different levels.

"I saw Midtown as a place that not only had landscaping with parks and neighborhoods, but also had the nexus of commercial development where international companies would locate," he said.

Those international companies saw Atlanta as a home and a hub by virtue of the 1996 Games. Would all of this been delayed without the Games?

"I think it would have," Dewberry said. "What Billy Payne and Mayor Young did was an upset of epic proportions."

But Midtown's changing face has not been defined only by commercial property and business. Its leafy neighborhoods have had a dramatic revitalization too.

Virginia-Highland and Morningside have both benefited from the Olympics.

Bob Silvia loves living in Morningside. He is a stay-at-home father of two children.

"In September of 1990, they announced the Olympics were coming here and I went into my boss's office and said I'm moving to Atlanta," he said.

Silva lives on North Highland with his family. He bought his home in 1994 after it had languished on the market for more than a year. The neighborhood is no longer struggling.

"What was interesting there we had no children on the street (when we moved)," he said. "Now, everywhere you look, baby carriages, kids walking to school. My kids walk to school. There are kids all over the neighborhood."

Silva believes the biggest difference between now and before the Olympics can be summed up this way: "I think it's better because there are more people focused on how to make life better."

And that optimism is shared not only in the homes of Midtown, but in the boardrooms too.

"Personally, I think Midtown will become even better in the next 10 to 15 years than the 15 years since the Olympics," Dewberry said.

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