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Take a Tour 'Round Atlanta and Discover an Underground World of Possibilities
By Michael Hanna

Atlanta began as a railroad town helping to supply the cotton trade during the 19th century. Way back in 1936, the 138 mile Western & Atlantic Railroad which linked Chattanooga to mid-Georgia was chartered by the State of Georgia. As various towns grew up along the route, the extreme southern end was marked by the emerging city of Atlanta, expanding outwards from the Zero Milepost which marked the center of Underground Atlanta.

In 1968, the Atlanta Board of Aldermen bestowed historic status on the area to help protect the five-block region of the downtown Atlanta, “city beneath the city”. Despite the many years of neglect which had occurred, workers trying to restore the site found to their surprise, surviving original ornate marble storefronts with granite archways, decorative brickwork, hand carved wooden posts and cast-iron pilasters which were still intact.

In 1969 the Underground Atlanta re-opened as a retail and entertainment center offering a unique shopping, dining and entertainment experience within the historic confines of this old site.

Despite its popularity, the construction of a rapid transit line along with a series of other factors led inevitably to the Underground being closed in 1980. The huge affection with which the place has long been held however led to the cities civic and business leaders having the location added to the National Register of Historic Places, further protecting its future, before a massive joint venture between the City of Atlanta and private industry enabled the New Underground Atlanta to be opened in 1989.

The $142 million re-opening was intended to help revitalize downtown Atlanta, a move which appears to be working, as private travel industry players such as Embassy Suites hotels have begun to move into the area, having seen the opportunities that the regeneration and redesign has afforded the area.

Underground Atlanta as it stands today provides an all round family experience, with hundreds of shops, including one-of-a-kind specialty items which it would be difficult to find elsewhere, food courts, and fine restaurants which attract over 6 million visitors a year. There are also special organized events, like the Oktoberfest where the Underground becomes filled with the sounds of authentic German music, or the weekend long Montreux Jazz Festival, as well as providing dancing, food and drink, and regular live entertainment, throughout the exciting mix of bars and nightclubs created for adults to enjoy.

The Underground offers a unique experience for all visitors and is also well positioned to access the rest of downtown Atlanta’s many exciting attractions, including the home grounds of the famous Atlanta Braves Baseball, Atlanta Falcons Football, and Atlanta Hawks Basketball teams, or the CNN Center, Atlanta Opera, Children’s museum, and the World of Coca-Cola exhibition.

Michael is a keen writer living in Edinburgh. Michael's Website: Taxis Belfast

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