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Downtown’s push for a digital lights, arts district is starting to yield results

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It’s no Times Square South, but it’s a start

A large red outdoor sign with the Coca-Cola beat and logo on it.
One of the initial digital installations reflects a well-known downtown brand.
Photos courtesy of Dilweg Companies and BIG Outdoor

Where Marietta Street meets Ted Turner Drive downtown, a high-def LED billboard that wraps a corner of the renovated 101 Marietta Street building was recently flipped on, marking the continuation of flashy, aesthetic enhancements that downtown boosters have mentioned in the same breath as Times Square.

The LED sign—debuting with festive Coca-Cola ads—joins a mural and other signage at the 1970s landmark made possible by lessened advertising restrictions. And it’s another sign that downtown’s Atlanta Arts & Entertainment District, or AAED, is starting to materialize.

The Atlanta City Council approved legislation in 2017 based on a pitch by Central Atlanta Progress that called for the relaxation of ads and signage regulations. The ordinance slashed height restrictions for advertisements and paved the way for light projections, glowing billboards, and other forms of signage.

A year ago, Central Atlanta Progress announced the first 13 sites expected to received AAED installations. The list has grown since then.

Plans call for beaming billboards, massive art installations, and architectural lighting dotted throughout downtown, as well as parts of Castleberry Hill and Vine City. The Atlanta Downtown Improvement District is managing the initiative.

A map of downtown Atlanta with points highlighted in purple.
A map showing where the first 13 AAED installations are expected to go.
Remaining images courtesy of Central Atlanta Progress

The first completed AAED installation at 235 Peachtree Street fronts Peachtree Center’s recently updated retail core. It juxtaposes traditional advertising with digital pieces by local artists, curated by the Living Walls nonprofit, along with MARTA schedules and information on alternate modes of transportation, including ride-hailing and e-scooter proximity.

Another installation adorns a 76 Forsyth Street parking garage, incorporating two static displays, a mural, and a plant wall, with artist Neka King’s The Peaceful Peach popping up between runs of commercial ads.

A large digital sign and many large buildings shows in downtown Atlanta.
A broader view of the 101 Marietta Street sign’s downtown context, with a new mural at left.

Beyond 101 Marietta Street, the 17 sites currently on deck for updates include 79 Marietta Street’s parking deck (see below), Embassy Suites at Centennial Olympic Park, the Reverb Hotel, the Westin Hotel at Peachtree Plaza, and the American Hotel.

According to Central Atlanta Progress, revenue-sharing deals with participating advertisers will help fund public art and entertainment programming throughout downtown.

The 101 Marietta Street building is “uniquely positioned to host this innovative initiative” and capitalize on it, with close proximity to mega-attractions such as State Farm Arena and Centennial Olympic Park, according to reps with building owner The Dilweg Companies.

The North Carolina-based real estate investment firm partnered with BIG Outdoor on what could be the AAED’s most eye-catching component to date, the 1,050-square-foot lighted sign.

Static ads wrap another corner of the property, while elsewhere Dilweg Companies partnered with Buckhead Murals for a geometric, colorful new mural designed by Atlanta architecture firm ASD/SKY.

A parking deck with colorful painting on it and a huge LED billboard.
Plans for 79 Marietta.
A Westin hotel show in downtown Atlanta with an LED billboard in purple.
Plans for the Westin’s Peachtree Street facade.