On a day of change and celebration for Central Atlanta Progress, three Jewish leaders stood out at the annual meeting Thursday morning, March 31, at the Georgia Aquarium.
A.J. Robinson, the president of CAP and the related Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, oversaw the proceedings, starting on a catwalk above the tank for the aquarium’s new dolphin show.
Robinson, who played a key role in brokering the deal with Coca-Cola that resulted in the aquarium being built at Centennial Olympic Park instead of another part of Atlanta, got to have some fun while celebrating CAP’s 75th anniversary and the aquarium’s recent 10th birthday.
Not only did he compare himself to the dolphins jumping through hoops, but he also was shown with a sea lion nose and whiskers — the look being used to market the aquarium’s new sea lion show.
Tasked with presenting 75 years of CAP impact in three minutes, Robinson first offered a few slides from history, including a downtown streetcar featuring a “Staggered Hours Help Traffic” sign.
Even then, Robinson said, CAP was concerned about downtown traffic.
The new Atlanta streetcar, running between the park and the King Center, was one of a flood of accomplishments that flashed across the screen during the promised three-minute impact video, along with such additions the past 75 years as MARTA, Atlanta Restaurant Week, Trees Atlanta, tax-advantaged districts and the tourist-friendly Ambassador Force.
The meeting featured a milestone that could be part of the centennial montage in 2041: the renaming of the thriving tourist area around Centennial Olympic Park from the Luckie Marietta District to the Centennial Park District, a more meaningful name for out-of-towners and others who don’t know the area well.
But the biggest moment for Robinson may have come when he surprised the breakfast meeting’s host, Bernie Marcus, with the announcement that CAP’s Downtown Economic Impact Award now bears Marcus’ name. The first winner of the Bernie Marcus Downtown Economic Impact Award is Centennial Olympic Park, which is marking its 20th anniversary.
“That’s a wow,” Marcus said. “I’m a little speechless.”
The only problem: Robinson conditioned the renaming on Marcus’ getting up early once a year to attend the CAP annual meeting. Marcus said, “I don’t know if I can do that.”
It was the second time the Home Depot co-founder and philanthropist whose money and vision built the aquarium took center stage (or tank) during the ceremony. Marcus’s friend Pete Correll earlier presented him the first award of the morning, the Dan Sweat Award for his lifetime of achievement and contributions to the city and especially downtown, where the aquarium has drawn more than 22 million visitors since opening in November 2005.
Marcus said the aquarium and everything else he has done for Atlanta are blessings of Home Depot, so “if you ever shop anywhere else, may your toilets run forever. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
The third Jewish community member to step into the spotlight was Andrea Videlefsky, a physician at Urban Family Practice in Marietta who leads the Holocaust remembrance and genocide prevention organization Am Yisrael Chai.
For creating the Daffodil Project to memorialize the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust and thus bringing a 180,000-flower ribbon of remembrance to the area between the King Center and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, she received the Turner Downtown Community Leadership Award from Turner CEO John Martin.
Photos courtesy of Central Atlanta Progress