National civil rights center gets financial boost
by Phillip Lucas, Associated Press
March 07, 2013 10:55 AM | 564 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA (AP) — PNC Bank and Invest Atlanta are providing $24 million in funding to support the first phase of construction for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

The center has received an $11 million New Markets Tax Credit from PNC and an additional $13 million tax credit from Invest Atlanta — formerly known as the Atlanta Development Authority, said Asia Rambo, a PNC Bank spokeswoman.

“Financing for this project has taken more than five years to pull together, and we could not have completed funding prior to construction without the financial support of PNC and other public and private partners,” Doug Shipman, the center’s CEO said in a news release.

The three-story, 42,000 square foot center — initially expected to cost about $100 million — is slated to be built in downtown Atlanta near the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. It is slated to house the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection — a rotating anthology of 50,000 letters, speeches and sermons written by the civil rights icon.

Developers say the cultural institution and gallery will also highlight Atlanta’s prominent role in the civil rights movement. Plans also include the construction of an auditorium, a broadcast studio and additional wings to house temporary exhibits, said the center’s spokeswoman LaTasha Smith.

David Gibson, of the PNC Bank Tax Credit Investment Group, says the bank partnered with Invest Atlanta to support the center about nine months ago.

“It really supports the long-term vision of what the city’s been trying to accomplish in the area,” he said Wednesday night. “It was not that difficult for us to quickly see that we’d be really proud to be part of it.”

Brian McGowan, CEO of Invest Atlanta, says the tax credits provided critical “last mile” support to the project, which he says may have been delayed without the funding. Smith says the center is slated to open in May of 2014.

“It allowed us to leverage the financial strength of PNC Bank and provide the much-needed capital to get this project moving and create jobs and new economic activity,” he said in a statement.

The first phase of construction — set to begin in March — is expected to create 700 jobs over the next two years.

About $74 million has been raised to fund construction, and Smith says the development team is now working to secure funding for programming and an endowment. Organizers plan to launch a fundraising campaign this spring to give members of the community a chance to support the project, she said.

The Coca Cola company donated the land the center will be built on and has added a $500,000 cash commitment, Smith said. The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation — a community development organization named after the owner of the Atlanta Falcons — has increased its initial $1 million commitment to $2.5 million, and Smith says the center’s civil rights gallery will be named after the foundation.

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