Sunday, September 30, 2018

Groundbreakers

We launched the Atlanta Magazine Groundbreaker Awards program in 2012 with the goal of honoring people and projects that make Atlanta a better place to live, emphasizing innovation and new ideas.

Buildings often take their shape from a city, but rare are those that shape cities themselves—especially in ever-pragmatic Atlanta. Here, game-changing structures have been relatively few. The Flatiron Building (1897), John Portman’s Hyatt Regency (1967), Richard Meier’s High Museum (1983), and Phil Freelon’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights (2014) come to mind. We still mourn Santiago Calatrava’s 2005 design for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, another casualty of the recession. But in the metro area, cranes rise again like our city symbol, the phoenix. This year’s crop of grand plans was especially inspiring, so we dedicated our sixth annual Ground­breakers Awards to visionaries—developers, architects, builders—who are molding our city for a new generation. —Betsy Riley

2017 Finalists

Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank’s intentions for the dazzlingly complex, $1.6-billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium were to create a similar cultural hive for downtown Atlanta, the heartbeat of an entertainment and parks district that would bolster its neighboring communities. An instant landmark, the stadium’s wing-like exterior sections (an allusion to falcons in flight), 16-story “window to the city,” immense video halo board, and ocular roof of eight translucent petals have certainly made a splash.
Gamble + Gamble Architects

Gamble + Gamble Architects

Husband-and-wife-led architecture firm Gamble + Gamble has built a reputation for designing progressive single-family homes, modern-style townhomes, and striking hospitality design. But the restoration of the historic (and crumbling) Clermont Hotel presented challenges on a new scale.
Gene Kansas

Gene Kansas

Gene Kansas has an affinity for adaptive-reuse projects, especially those on imperiled Auburn Avenue, the heart of a district famously dubbed Sweet Auburn when it was thriving during the first half of the 20th century. Kansas knows how fragile community and history can be, having seen his hometown literally underwater.
The Integral Group

The Integral Group

Egbert Perry’s Integral Group bought bought the shuttered GM Plant in Doraville to create a new development called Assembly. Perry, a veteran of mixed-income and senior housing complexes spanning the metro area, has ventured into adaptive reuse in a big way. The under-construction hub of housing, corporate headquarters, retail, parks, and movie and television studios could encompass a massive 10 million square feet across 140 acres when completed over the next several years.
JPX Works

JPX Works

As founder of JPX Works, Portman has raised more than $200 million since launching the company with Bruce Fernald in 2011. The company’s Inman Quarter mixed-use development remade the commercial core of Inman Park, and Jarel says profits from its $72.5 million sale were poured into JPX’s ongoing ventures: the Lilli apartments and luxe condos called Emerson under construction in Buckhead, with unit prices starting at $2.2 million.
Lew Oliver

Lew Oliver

From Vickery Village in Cumming to pastoral Serenbe, Lew Oliver has been metro Atlanta’s New Urbanist trailblazer for more than a quarter century. But the versatile housing designer—who now master-plans full communities—calls a massive undertaking in Fayetteville, Pinewood Forrest, his most inspiring project yet.
The Living Building at Georgia Tech

The Living Building at Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s Living Building will take its name literally, generating more energy (via photovoltaic panels) and capturing more water (with a large, underground cistern that stores rainwater) than it uses. Its 43,500 square feet of programmable space will include a 170-seat auditorium, two 75-seat classrooms, seminar rooms, labs, a maker’s space, cafe, and student commons, all topped by a rooftop garden and apiary. Its composting toilets will use tiny amounts of water, and its heating-and-air system will modulate itself.
New City Properties

New City Properties

Costing $190 million, the 725 Ponce project is the largest investment in new construction on the BeltLine to date. Jim Irwin, 38, a Buckhead native, says quality design and experience are the top priorities guiding his company, New City, and its ambitious development rising across the BeltLine from Ponce City Market—the gargantuan project Irwin led as senior vice president of Jamestown Properties.
Perkins + Will

Perkins + Will

A passion project for the Grammy-winning musician, Zac Brown’s Camp Southern Ground, a 450-acre campground for kids and military vets, was master-planned by Perkins + Will, a global firm based in Atlanta. As the first of 23 planned buildings, the Peterson Dining Hall already serves as the camp’s heart.

Square Feet Studio

The firm Vivian Bencich founded with her husband John in 2001, Square Feet Studio, won first place in Contract magazine’s 2016 Inspiration Awards for work on Staplehouse. It was the first national honor for the growing firm of 11, whose portfolio ranges from the industrial sophistication of departed Abattoir to cozy Kimball House and a colorful, rambunctious Mellow Mushroom in Decatur.

2016 GROUNDBREAKERS

Groundbreakers 2016

Clarkston Community Center Senior Refugee Program

Not long after the Clarkston’s community center opened, the staff recognized that older refugees face unique hurdles in adapting to a different culture. “They’re the last [in the family] to get any kind of services,” says director Cindy Bowden. “They’re the last to learn English. They’re the last to get involved in the community. It’s important to offer them an avenue to belonging.”
Groundbreakers 2016

TechSAge

The woman guided her wheelchair onto the sidewalk along Spring Street in Midtown and considered her options. She was only going a few blocks, but to get there smoothly, she had to consider potential barriers that able-bodied people don’t usually worry about. She consulted the new app on her smartphone, which directed her along Armstead Place rather than Fourth Street; there’s no walk signal or crosswalk across traffic-heavy Spring Street at Fourth.
Groundbreakers 2016

The Giving Tree Intergenerational Preschool Program

The Arbor Terrace assisted living facility in Alpharetta is typically a pretty quiet place. But on Wednesday and Friday mornings, the space is filled with an unexpected sound: the excited chatter and squeals of young children.

PHOTOS FROM OUR 2016 EVENT

2016 INNOVATION INDEX

2015 GROUNDBREAKERS

Clark Howard and Habitat for Humanity

Clark Howard and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity

Howard’s initial involvement in Habitat in 1996 was born out of remembrance for his father, who grew up during the Great Depression and whose parents were evicted twice. And the famous penny-pincher’s mission intersects nicely with that of the organization.
Decatur

The City of Decatur

The City of Decatur has garnered plenty of awards for its environmental work. Last year it became the first local government to reach platinum status in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Green Communities program, a designation that recognizes an all-encompassing effort.
The Imperial Hotel

The Imperial Hotel

On a Monday in June, 25 years ago, activists broke into the vacant Imperial Hotel, made their way to the highest floor, and lowered a massive sign emblazoned with the directive: “House the Homeless Here.” Soon the encampment inside the historic hotel numbered 100 protesters.

2015 INNOVATION INDEX

2014 GROUNDBREAKERS

Fugees Academy

Fugees Academy grew out of the acclaimed soccer program for refugee children. Today, the school enrolls 100 students from more than twenty countries, helping them thrive as they make the transition to a new home. Thanks to donations and sponsors, tuition is free.

Midtown Buzz

A partnership between Georgia Tech and the Midtown Alliance, Buzz brings together residents, businesses, and students to develop community-focused smartphone apps like OneBusAway and CycleAtlanta.

The Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy

Founded in 2007 as the only all-girls unit of Atlanta Public Schools, the academy stresses science, technology, engineering and math courses. The first seniors graduated from the school this spring, and every single one was accepted to college.

2014 INNOVATION INDEX

2013 GROUNDBREAKERS

Neurotrack

Neurotrack is a testing system that uses eye-tracking and can determine with uncanny certainty who will develop Alzheimer’s disease in the next three to six years. It was developed based on decades of research by Stuart Zola of Emory University.

The Proctor Creek Project

The movement to rejuvenate Proctor Creek and the neighborhoods through which it snakes involves a coalition of federal, state and local agencies—along with nonprofits, city planners, and private investors.

Cancer Wellness

Tom Chapman, former CEO of Equifax, collaborated with Piedmont Hospital to create Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, holistic treatment centers for patients, families and caregivers.

2013 INNOVATION INDEX

2012 GROUNDBREAKERS

The Atlanta BeltLine

In the center of an old railroad bridge in Reynoldstown, a man pedaled a unicycle, arms outstretched. An odd-looking chap, he had spindly fingers made from motorcycle foot pegs and a red taillight heart that gleamed, E.T.-like, under horseshoe ribs. Visitors to last year’s Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibition could bring him creaking and clacking to life with a separate set of foot pedals. Will Eccleston’s Uniman is gone now, dismantled in the artist’s backyard, just as the overgrown grass and rusted tracks will someday be transformed. But for a moment, Uniman was part of an unfolding history.

The Enterprise Innovation Institute

As you read this, programmers hover over laptops and lattes at the Technology Square Starbucks, designing the Next Big Thing. It has never been so easy (or so cheap) to turn a good idea into a global product. So they devise apps to entertain you, devices to save you energy and time, and stuff you won’t know you need until they invent it. Technology Square is the heart of Atlanta’s start-up community and site of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) of Georgia Tech. Stephen Fleming, a former venture capitalist, runs this incubator and the overarching Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Rosalynn Carter

Rickey Wingo, fifty-three, suffered from schizophrenia and got agitated due to a side effect of his medicine. The final time it happened, workers at Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital pinned him to the ground and beat him to death, according to the state’s chief medical examiner, who ruled Wingo’s death a homicide. No staffers were charged or punished. Wingo’s case was just one of 115 suspicious deaths and incidents uncovered in a five-year Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation of Georgia’s state psychiatric hospitals. No, this wasn’t Jack Nelson’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize–winning exposé about abuses at Milledgeville’s Central State. This series was published in 2007. Do you remember it?