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Downtown Atlanta welcomes high school for first time in eons

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Cristo Ray, a private school serving low-income students, will open its doors in a converted downtown office building

The Cristo Rey sign atop the building, with downtown skyscrapers beyond
Cristo Rey in downtown.
Cristo Rey

Downtown Atlanta is a district known for tall office towers, tourist attractions, sports pantheons, and a growing college.

While the area's residential population has grown in recent years, it isn't a neighborhood known for its family population with school-age kids.

However, starting later this month, high school students will head to class in the heart of the city for the first time in many, many years.

Cristo Rey High School, a private Jesuit school previously located in Midtown, will christen its new facility on Piedmont Avenue when classes start soon.

Atlanta magazine reports that 525 students—more than triple the number enrolled at the old campus a few years back—will attend the school.

Not surprisingly, the building housing the school started out life as an office development.

Back in 2014, plans were released for the building to be converted into a hotel. While that didn’t pan out, the stage was set for its school conversion after developer Jim Cumming donated the 70,000-square-foot building to Cristo Rey in 2015.

Now, after more than a year and $20 million in renovations, the 1960s-era building houses classrooms, a cafeteria, a library, a gymnasium, and state-of-the-art laboratory spaces for students.

Cristo Rey is the only school in the commercial heart of downtown, but with Atlanta’s growing urban population, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that other schools could follow suit in coming years.