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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Governor weighs plans for state history museum, 'protest area' near Gold Dome

Demonstrators would have a spacious new area to protest
Changes may soon be afoot near the Gold Dome to make part of south Downtown more appealing to tourists and pedestrians. Part of the proposal: dusting off a plan to transform the old World of Coke building on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive into a state history museum.

Gov. Nathan Deal is reportedly considering a number of ideas that could invigorate the area surrounding the Gold Dome. In addition to the museum, the parking deck on Capitol Avenue across the street from the Gold Dome might also be converted into a potential "protest area" dedicated to demonstrations and complemented by a pedestrian walkway along Mitchell Street.

"The building was designed to be a museum, and the governor thought it would an ideal location for a history museum if the price were right and the state was able to attract a significant amount of private dollars," Deal spokesman Brian Robinson told the AJC.

Georgia currently doesn't have an official history museum and has previously eyed the former World of Coke building as an ideal location. But the structure has fallen into disrepair in the six years since the state purchased the property for $1.1 million and estimated fixes could cost the public upwards of $17 million.

And as the AJC's James Salzer reports, similar efforts have fallen apart in the past:

State officials have eyed the building for a museum site since Coca-Cola shuttered the attraction in 2007 and moved it to a larger facility at Centennial Olympic Park. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed borrowing $15.6 million to convert it into a history museum in 2008, but powerful lawmakers instead used the funds for other priorities.

At the time, the state's plans also called for closing Mitchell Street next to the Capitol and turning it into a pedestrian plaza, for tearing down the Department of Transportation building at Mitchell and Capitol Avenue and building a parking deck, and for adding a pedestrian bridge over I-75/I-85 to connect a huge lawn area in front of the Capitol with a new park along Memorial Drive. Perdue asked lawmakers for $26.5 million to get the entire project, including the history museum, going.

Funding for these plans would still need to be approved by state lawmakers, so it'll be interesting to see whether Deal's plans will gain support this time around.

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