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Hawks Owner: Atlanta Deserves a Better Downtown

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Such an "extraordinary" city needs a more vibrant core, says billionaire

The new principal owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Tony Ressler, operates an investment group empire headquartered in Los Angeles with offices in New York, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Shanghai, and other cities. So the man has ambition and a global perspective.

Which makes it all the more interesting that Ressler is publicly scratching his head as to why Atlanta's downtown core isn't more exciting.

In a recent interview with the AJC, Ressler and other team officials outlined the Hawks' ambitious goals for connecting with the Atlanta community and contributing to downtown's vibrancy, capitalizing on more than 200 event dates at Philips Arena per year and the momentum from development around Centennial Olympic Park and the new Falcons stadium.

Ressler offered the following:

"This is far too extraordinary a city to have a downtown that isn’t much more vibrant. Our hope, our objective and certainly the vision that we hope to bring is how do we be a meaningful participant in moving that forward. Really transforming what this downtown area could and should be."

Last month, it came to light that the Hawks were not only staying put in Philips Arena but were investigating the viability of a large-scale, mixed-use component that could bring retail, restaurants, residences, and offices to the west side of downtown — possibly on property that's currently The Gulch, a gaping hole of nothing.

Such a project would be just one piece of a substantial (but still unrealized, for the most part) development puzzle in that immediate area, with new hotels, apartments, and the aforementioned football colosseum in the works.

Thus far, there are no concrete plans. But Ressler told the AJC his team has spent time analyzing the immediate area to determine who owns what, and what sort of vision could work.

Regarding the arena itself, an overhaul that could cost as much as $300 million could begin in the summer of 2017, with goals of wrapping in 2018 for the 50th anniversary of the Hawks' move to Atlanta. Mayor Kasim Reed has said the city can afford to chip in $100 to $150 million of that. Team officials noted that Philips Arena is one of 10 NBA facilities built in the late 1990s — and the only one yet to be renovated, according to the newspaper.

Renovations could include ripping out the arena's huge wall of suites and creating better floor seating by replacing the arena's rounded ends, which were designed to accommodate hockey before the Thrashers flew the coop.