The National Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR) in downtown Atlanta was the brainchild of civil rights legends Andrew Young and Evelyn Lowery and put into motion by former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin in the mid-2000s. The project garnered generous contributions but still required a complex public/private financing scheme to fill in the gaps while keeping the cost of money to a minimum. People close to the project recommended Arnall Golden Gregory’s real estate lawyers to execute the financing strategy. The firm’s environmental team was enlisted to address environmental issues.
Putting in place financing for the project, including melding Tax Allocation District (TAD) grants, loans subsidized by New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs) and three credit facilities from SunTrust Bank, took approximately 10 months. Financing subsidized by NMTCs totaling $23 million in loans came from community development entities affiliated with Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, and PNC Bank. PNC Bank also was the NMTC investor in the transaction. SunTrust Bank provided additional financing that bridged charitable contribution pledges to NCCHR. The NMTC financing required that the project restructure its ownership, with a new subsidiary organization — The National Center for Civil and Human Rights Foundation, Inc. — becoming the facility owner and NCCHR becoming the sole tenant. The change required City of Atlanta approval to transferring the right to draw on approximately $27 million of TAD grants that NCCHR had obtained to purchase and exhibit Dr. Martin Luther King’s personal papers. The AGG team participated in negotiations with landowner Coca-Cola on donating the property to the foundation and on construction and operation of the center and its relationship with the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium. AGG also represented NCCHR and the foundation in obtaining credit facilities.
Groundbreaking for the 43,000-square-foot museum occurred on June 27, 2012, and two years later it opened. Each year, hundreds of thousands of museum visitors discover the connection between the American Civil Rights Movement and the global human rights movements that are active today. Plans are to expand the NCCHR in two more phases. The Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network honored AGG Partners Althea Broughton and Mindy Planer with its National Economic and Community Development Impact Award for their work on the project.