The DeKalb Atlanta Center, a 2,500 capacity concert/convention venue, opens for business Dec. 13 near the intersection of Clairmont Road and Dresden Drive. Its first event is a corporate party, but developer Vince Reggio would like local hero Elton John to be the first artist to perform there.
A lofty aspiration, perhaps, but Reggio says there isn't another venue in the metro area that's intimate enough, yet big enough, to allow John to perform in-the-round.
The concert hall is adjacent to Fiesta Plaza, which Reggio and his partner, Jeff McMurrian, who are the duo behind RAM Development, bought in August 1999 and revamped. For Cinco De Mayo of this year, they invited Mexican recording mega-star Mirabelle to the plaza and were stunned when a crowd of about 9,000 fans showed up.
"I was standing there looking at the crowd and I thought 'We need to build a music venue here,'" Reggio says. He adds that the venue will not be geared to Hispanic audiences only. "We want to be all inclusive."
RAM Development spent $1.5 million on the concert hall, which can accommodate trade shows and parties as well. Sticking a 2,500-person venue in the middle of a shopping district wasn't the zoning hassle that Reggio had anticipated. It has more than 1,400 parking spaces and three major arteries -- Clairmont Road, Dresden Drive and Buford Highway -- are less than five minutes away. The venue is also served by two MARTA stations -- Brookhaven and Chamblee.
The name, Reggio admits, is a little bland, but he doesn't intend to keep it. He's hoping to sell the name to a corporation.
DeKalb County Commissioner Gail Waldorf believes the arena is needed in her district, which stretches from the intersection of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Moreland Avenue in the south to Brookhaven MARTA station in the north.
"I have high schools that need space for graduations. I have dance groups with nowhere to perform," says Waldorf. "And people have run into trouble having events at Fernbank, for example, because they end up parking all over the place."
An $88 million expansion of the Gwinnett Civic and Cultural Center gets underway in early 2001, but the two venues will probably have little impact on each other because the Gwinnett venue is so much bigger.
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