2012 Groundbreakers - The Future Issue - Atlanta Magazine
 
 

Meet the inaugural class of Atlanta Magazine Groundbreakers—people and projects shaping the future of the city and tackling our future challenges. All of the Groundbreakers represent works in progress: smart ideas that are under way but still have years—in at least one case, a couple of decades—to go before their potentials are fully realized. That may sound idealistic, but we selected these Groundbreakers out of dozens of candidates because they combine imagination with pragmatism. They tackle real problems. They embody a shift in Atlanta development. They're built on foresight about our changing demographics. And yes, there is a robot.

  • The Atlanta BeltLine

    For helping us connect

    In the center of an old railroad bridge in Reynoldstown, a man pedaled a unicycle, arms outstretched. An odd-looking chap, he had spindly fingers made from motorcycle foot pegs and a red taillight heart that gleamed, E.T.-like, under horseshoe ribs. Visitors to last year’s Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibition could bring him creaking and clacking to life with a separate set of foot pedals. Will Eccleston’s Uniman is gone now, dismantled in the artist’s backyard, just as the overgrown grass and rusted tracks will someday be transformed. But for a moment, Uniman was part of an unfolding history. Read More
  • Harriet Robinson

    For leading HIV vaccine research

    The problem is invisible. The solution is expressed in a symbology that few laypeople can decipher. And despite more than a decade of development, any substantive sign of that solution’s effect on humanity is still, at best, years away. But in terms of impact, it doesn’t get much bigger, clearer, and more immediate than the prospect of a successful HIV vaccine. Read More
  • Rosalynn Carter

    For protecting the rights of the mentally ill

    Rickey Wingo, fifty-three, suffered from schizophrenia and got agitated due to a side effect of his medicine. The final time it happened, workers at Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital pinned him to the ground and beat him to death, according to the state’s chief medical examiner, who ruled Wingo’s death a homicide. No staffers were charged or punished. Wingo’s case was just one of 115 suspicious deaths and incidents uncovered in a five-year Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation of Georgia’s state psychiatric hospitals. No, this wasn’t Jack Nelson’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize–winning exposé about abuses at Milledgeville’s Central State. This series was published in 2007. Do you remember it? Read More
  • The Enterprise Innovation Institute

    For fostering Atlanta's start-up community

    As you read this, programmers hover over laptops and lattes at the Technology Square Starbucks, designing the Next Big Thing. It has never been so easy (or so cheap) to turn a good idea into a global product. So they devise apps to entertain you, devices to save you energy and time, and stuff you won’t know you need until they invent it. Technology Square is the heart of Atlanta’s start-up community and site of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) of Georgia Tech. Stephen Fleming, a former venture capitalist, runs this incubator and the overarching Enterprise Innovation Institute. Read More
  • Georgia State University

    For graduating tomorrow's diverse leaders

    Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets may have the more distinguished histories among local colleges. But Atlanta’s future may very well rest in the hands of the Panthers of Georgia State. That’s because the classes graduating from the lower-profile research university in Downtown Atlanta mirror the emerging demographics of the surrounding city—diverse both in terms of ethnicity and socioeconomic background. In fact, GSU graduates a higher rate of African Americans, Latinos, and Asians than any of its in-state rivals and in 2011 awarded more bachelor’s degrees to African Americans than any U.S. non–historically black college. Read More
  • GATSBII

    For being a provocative alternative in senior healthcare

    Meet GATSBII. He’s a sturdy fellow who weighs about 450 pounds and stands at four foot four—unless he needs to reach something and extends to five foot five. He looks just like the classic robot of your imagination: a broad, rolling base that contains two operating computers; arms with clawlike pincers; a laser scanner that hums up and down; and a row of cameras and an Xbox Kinect atop his head. (Yes, we know you shouldn’t use personal pronouns for a robot, but who can resist? Just look at him.) Read More
  • Louis Corrigan

    For investing (literally) in the arts

    As evidence for the maxim that one person can indeed make a difference, consider that, all by his lonesome, arts enthusiast Louis Corrigan gave more money to local arts groups last year than the entire Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs. Corrigan, a successful investment firm research analyst, is the majority funder of Flux Projects, which sponsors creative installations and performances around the city, and he provides about 40 percent of the backing for professional dance troupe gloATL. But he’s not simply a modern Medici seeking a tax write-off; in keeping with his financial background, Corrigan leverages his assets so the grassroots community gets the biggest bang from his bucks. Through his nonprofit foundation, Possible Futures, he targets grants to enable arts journalism websites artsatl.com and burnaway.org to cover and promote local goings-on. Through Flux and his support for gloATL, Corrigan underwrites public arts projects in such highly visible venues as Freedom Park and Centennial Olympic Park, with the aim of reaching audiences that might not otherwise seek out experimental visual art, photography, or dance. Read More
  • EUE/Screen Gems

    For turning Lakewood Fairgrounds into a movie-making moneymaker

    The folks behind the decision to transform the old Lakewood Fairgrounds into a thirty-three-acre film and television production campus want you to know two things: Part of the reason they came here was because of Georgia’s vaunted tax incentives for moviemakers, but no, their company doesn’t get a break on its own taxes. The crucial point is that, by creating the largest studio and soundstage complex in the state, EUE/Screen Gems has made it possible for lots of other filmmakers and TV networks to take advantage of the state’s tax deals. Read More
  • Linda Matzigkeit

    For sounding the alarm about childhood obesity

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has admitted patients who weigh more than 500 pounds, and the pediatric facility treats type 2 diabetes, hypertension, liver disease, and sleep apnea—diseases once seen only in adults. When Children’s started asking questions, it was stunned to discover that although 40 percent of Georgia children were overweight or obese (second worst only to Mississippi), more than 70 percent of parents considered their kids’ weights normal. Read More
  • K. Rashid Nuri

    For cultivating oases of fresh produce amid our food deserts

    Nuri's urban farms bring fresh food to areas of Atlanta where rubble, history, and poverty are cross-pollinated. Read More
  • Ponce City Market

    For repurposing the past—2 million square feet of it

    On August 2, 1926, Sears threw a party and 30,000 Atlantans showed up, frantic to peek inside the new 750,000-square-foot retail center on Ponce de Leon Avenue, where all of the 35,000 items in the iconic Sears Roebuck catalog were on display. “If ever there was a doubt in the minds of Atlantans that the company actually kept in stock the thousands upon thousands of articles . . . that doubt was erased after a tour through the building,” enthused an Atlanta Constitution reporter. It was built in a record six months by more than 2,000 workers, and Sears pumped $2 million into the construction job market. That’d be $26 million today; no wonder Mayor Walter Sims was on hand to hoist a flag atop the 232-foot tower. Read More