AJ Robinson, Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) President and member of TUFF’s Board of Directors, shares his thoughts on the vibrant potential for Downtown Atlanta with the World Cup coming in 2026.
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Between the transformation of Downtown from the 1996 Olympics and the planning for the 2026 FIFA World Cup was the Georgia Aquarium.
AJ Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, recalled the bustle of Downtown between the November 2001 announcement of the aquarium’s creation, its opening four years later and what has happened around the worldwide tourist attraction since.
“We don’t necessarily need new venues,” he said, “but we have the same opportunity to put our best foot forward.”
AJ Robinson is president of Central Atlanta Progress and Atlanta Downtown Improvement District
CAP’s annual meeting Jan. 31 will be what Robinson called a “call to action” to prepare Downtown before the world’s attention again turns to Atlanta. While the Atlanta Sports Council is handling the specifics and timeline for World Cup preparation, he said, CAP has its list as well.
“Everyone is thinking about it,” he said. “There are things you can do in the next 2 ½ years, there are things you could get started but may not finish in time [for the World Cup] and then there are long-term things that would occur post-World Cup. That’s our challenge, trying to create a list that falls into those categories.”
On CAP’s list in the short-term are road and sidewalk improvements, and cleanliness and safety programs, as well as managing communications with multilingual World Cup visitors. On that get-started list is revitalizing Peachtree Street, and for the future, Robinson cites office-to-housing conversion, The Stitch highway project and the changes to South Downtown, all part of CAP’s long-term goal.
“We’re trying to make Downtown more vibrant and more livable. How in the short-term can we conduct ourselves and show at least the beginning of that in 2026?” he said. “All these things will be lifted up because of the visibility of the World Cup.”
CAP is continuing in 2024 to convene with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Atlanta and other partners to flesh out “what we all collectively feel is the future of Downtown,” he said. The World Cup makes the work more crucial, as well as more exciting, he added.
“We want to make sure we look our best and operate our best during and after the World Cup. There are going to be a lot of people who have never been here before,” Robinson said. “The whole way we approach this is it’s like having a big party and making sure we have everything in order.”