MEETING WITH JEFFREY SWANAGAN OF THE GEORGIA AQUARIUM

Wednesday, Sept 25/2002

 

In Attendance: Bill Gould, Curt Flaherty, Rob Levin, Eric Brock, John Reagan, Bill Seay, Suzanne Blair, Frances Hamilton, Mike Koblentz (Chair of the Northwest Community Alliance), Rob Smulian and Deborah Ryan (The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center), and Brian Newman (Image Film and Video). Thanks to the Contemporay Art Center for the meeting room.

BACKGROUND OF SPEAKER: Jeff Swanagan works for the Marcus Foundation and is the Executive Director of The Georgia Aquarium. He is a former science teacher turned Zoo Manager (1980-87 Columbus Zoo with Jack Hannah, 1987-98 Atlanta Zoo) turned Aquarium Manager (1998-2001 Florida Aquarium, 2001- The Georgia Aquarium). He is a member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Society.

AQUARIUM GENERAL INFORMATION: The Aquarium will occupy approximately 9 acres of the 23 acre site directly to the north of Centennial Olympic Park.  The property is currently owned by the Coca Cola Company.  There are 36 aquaria operating in the United States.  Of the 14 largest, only 2 make a profit; The Georgia Aquarium is being designed to be non-profit, but will independently generate its own operating expenses. The Aquarium will be the biggest in the U.S. at 5 million gallons; the next largest aquarium in the U.S., not including oceanaria like Sea World, is 2.4 million gallons. It will enclose approximately 300,000 square feet of space.  The Georgia Aquarium is planned to exhibit 90% marine (salt water) animals and 10% freshwater. There is expected to be a huge economic impact on the surrounding hotels and businesses, with 3.5 million conventioneers and tourists visiting the area annually (as an example, The Tennessee Aquarium has added $200 million of additional annual revenue for Chattanooga). The main players, working under a confidentiality agreement at the moment, are the Marcus Foundation, Coca Cola, TVSA (architects for the World of Coke) and Heery/Fabrap International (architects for The Georgia Aquarium). Because of the early developmental stage, little of the design plans which may impact the immediate streetscape such as interactive frontage (storefronts, protected tanks with outward viewing) or after hours availability for jogging etc. were addressed, although Gary Swanagan did say they were thinking seriously about these issues. No renderings are available at this date.

The Georgia Department of Transportation traffic study has already been completed for the Jones-Simpson-Alexander Street expansion.  The expansion will be underway shortly.  However, the GDOT study will be revised to take into account the new development.  Dan Graveline, Director of the Georgia World Congress Center, has suggested that trolleys may be used to supplement public transportation in the area.  There is not an independent Traffic or Impact Study going on presently for The Georgia Aquarium.  Any negative impact findings from such a study would generate an even greater need for a Master Plan of our area.

CONCLUSION:  The Artery has a major role in the spatial/visual relationship between the aquarium, World of Coke, and Children’s Museum to the Atlantic Station development and will serve in the future as the corridor/mall that connects the aquarium cultural area to Atlantic Station, Home Park, Loring Heights, Berkeley Park, and Georgia Tech. This relationship may be helpful in getting Master Plan funding.

 A new Commissioner of Planning for the City of Atlanta is due to take office in November.  Bill Seay (Home Park) suggests that scheduling an introductory appointment with him or perhaps giving him the opportunity to attend our next neighborhood meeting may be of significant benefit to the Artery, as he will be heavily involved in the early development of the Project.