Underground Atlanta: successfully mixing history with a modern retail experience by Richard Green
Atlanta, Georgia, is one the Deep South's most important and most interesting, cities. Its origins lie in the extension of industry and the expansion of the American railroad in the 19th century, beginning as a railroad town to help supply the cotton trades. As far back as 1936, the 138-mile long Western & Atlantic Railroad, linking Chattanooga to mid-Georgia, was chartered by the State of Georgia.
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As various towns began to spring up around the railroad track, the southern end saw the emergence of the city of Atlanta around the Zero Milepost. The Zero Milepost, a rectangular stone marker, now marks the southern terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, and is the central point in one of Atlanta's most exciting attractions - Underground Atlanta.
Underground Atlanta, which opened in 1969, was first envisaged in 1968 when the Atlanta Board of Alderman cemented the area's status as 'historic' in order to protect the "city beneath the city" - a five-block region in downtown Atlanta. Although this particular area had suffered many years of neglect, workers involved in its restoration discovered original marble storefronts with granite archways, hand-carved wooden posts and even cast-iron pilasters still intact.
When Underground Atlanta opened to the public in 1969, it offered an entertainment and retail centre which offered a distinctly unique shopping and dining experience in a stunningly restored historic setting. Sadly, the combination of the construction of a rapid transit line along with a number of other external factors led to the closure of the Underground in 1980. However, its widespread popularity and the great affection which Atlanta's residents and visitors held for the attraction led to the launch of a massive joint venture between the City of Atlanta council and a private industry to protect its future; this led to the attraction's re-opening in 1989.
Today, Underground Atlanta provides all-round family entertainment, hosting over a hundred retail outlets, a variety of food courts, and many highly acclaimed restaurants. Now attracting over 6 million visitors a year, Underground Atlanta also hosts special events like the Montreux Jazz Festival and 'Oktoberfest', a smaller-scale version of Germany's original public festival. Regular live entertainment, and an exciting mix of bars and nightclubs for adults means that Underground Atlanta is fast becoming one of Georgia's top attractions. It continues to aid its original goal of revitalizing downtown Atlanta, and since its $142 million re-opening in 1989, many big players in the travel industry, such as Embassy Suites, have moved into the area; so if you're thinking of visiting Underground Atlanta, you will not be short of comfortable accommodation from which to choose.
Richard lives in Edinburgh, is a keen writer on a variety of subjects, and is the main contributor to the personal finance blog Cashzilla
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