By Keisha Hines
One of Grant Park’s most iconic structures will be a future focal point of a transformative revitalization of the Cherokee Avenue entry plaza at Zoo Atlanta. On July 23, 2014, Raymond B. King, President and CEO of Zoo Atlanta, joined Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Sheffield Hale, President and CEO of the Atlanta History Center, at a joint press conference announcing plans for the Atlanta Cyclorama. The Cyclorama painting “The Battle of Atlanta,” the locomotive “Texas” and the museum’s other Civil War artifacts will be moved to the Atlanta History Center, and ownership of the 1920s-era building will be transferred to Zoo Atlanta. As the new proprietor of the historic building, Zoo Atlanta is now in a position to begin exploring the opportunities made possible by the structure and its surroundings.
“The Cyclorama building is a spectacular example of the Grant Park neighborhood’s historic architecture, in one of the few places in the city where such notable examples may still be found. As Atlanta’s oldest cultural destination, we’re proud of our shared history,” King said. “We look forward to preserving and enhancing the building while creating an asset that benefits Zoo Atlanta guests, the Grant Park community and the City of Atlanta.”
Designed by Atlanta architect John Francis Downing and completed in 1921, the building presents numerous possibilities. First among these will be a world-class special event venue featuring intimate views of elephants roaming the Zoo’s African savanna, which will be expanded to provide additional space for elephants in a state-of-the-art facility, allowing the Zoo to continue its commitment to the ongoing stewardship of this species.
A revitalized Cherokee Avenue entry plaza will showcase an unobstructed view of the 1921 building and will reflect the historic character and unique spirit of the surrounding Grant Park neighborhood. In a continuation of one of the city’s most successful public/private partnerships, the City of Atlanta has agreed to address the significant parking challenges resulting from the success the Zoo has and will be experiencing.
Appropriate cost analysis will be needed to identify the total cost of these projects once plans are finalized, but the revitalization of the building is expected to require tens of millions in philanthropic investment. Zoo Atlanta plans to embark on a new capital campaign shortly, riding on the momentum of the recently completed campaign for Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, opening in 2015. The construction timeline will be impacted by a number of factors, but constructed is estimated to be completed in 2018.
“We commend Mayor Reed for his leadership in making sure that these assets will be here for future generations to enjoy,” King said.