Downtown Atlanta: 5 Points, Underground, Capitol


From Centennial Olympic Park, you’re just a few blocks away from the center of Atlanta.  The neighborhood known as Five Points is centered on the big intersection of five roads.  This huge neon Coca-Cola sign overlooks the intersection, from atop the Olympia Building.

In this picture, it’s tough to tell the size of the Coca-Cola sign, so here are some stats. The sign’s round face is 33 feet in diameter. The letters measure nine feet tall.

To get to Five Points, locate Marietta Street NW (it’s located on the western side of the southern end of Centennial Olympic Park). Follow Marietta Street south, for about 5 blocks.

Northeast of Five Points, along Peachtree Street, you can pause for a moment to enjoy Woodruff Park.  This “ATL” sculpture is actually a piece of playground equipment.

The park also has some statues..

… and you’ll find creative sculptures elsewhere around the area too (including this one, appropriately entitled, “Five Points”, by artist George Beasley).

The Georgia State Capitol is only about four blocks south of Five Points.  It would have been easy to walk there, but instead I decided to be content with the view from a distance.

Underground Atlanta

I don’t know if you’ll agree with me, but I think the idea of Underground Atlanta is just a little bit more awesome than the actual place.  Underground Atlanta is a shopping mall, of sorts, with a unique history.  It is, essentially, Alabama Street, however, it’s the area below the actual surface street.

In the early 1900’s, viaducts were built above railroad tracks, to allow for automobile traffic.  The buildings along the road suddenly discovered that their storefronts were essentially below ground, so they moved their storefronts to “upper” Alabama Street.  During Prohibition, businesses serving alcohol thrived underneath the viaduct — but by the end of the 1920’s, the area was abandoned and forgotten, forming a time-capsule of architecture.

Developers realized the potential for “lower” Alabama Street in the 1960’s, and for a decade or so, and after some redevelopment, bars and restaurants boomed in Underground Atlanta into the 1970’s.  Eventually, though, the area became crime-ridden, and was once again forgotten.

Another resurgence came in 1989, when the area was redeveloped once again, and converted into a less-gritty shopping mall.  The World of Coca-Cola helped — its original location operated here until it moved to a bigger facility near Centennial Olympic Park.

Just about a block away from Five Points, you’ll find the entrance to Underground Atlanta near this statue.

Once you’ve entered Lower Alabama Street, you’ll find dozens of storefronts and restaurants…

… along with some old ghost signs…

… and, down one alley, a few vintage cars are on display.

Unfortunately, Underground Atlanta lost some of its real estate when the MARTA train stations were installed in the 70’s.  It also lost some of its allure when it was “sanitized” into a more typical shopping mall.  It’s still cool to be able to walk underneath the streets, but that’s about the only thrill you’ll find here.  Most of the stores weren’t very appealing, and I wasn’t looking for lunch, so I simply walked through — and I was done with it in about 15 minutes or so.

With time on my hands, I decided it was time to take a longer walk, out to see Dr. King’s church.

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