Decades ago when the Downtown Connector was built, the area known as Auburn Avenue was literally split in half.

Over the years, the highway’s underpass has become home for people who have nowhere else to go and an area that does not attract visitors and businesses. Now, a group of metro area students are working together to develop a plan to solve a problem that has not been addressed by adult planners and engineers. Their results will soon be revealed and presented to government officials for consideration of the New Auburn Avenue.

In less than three months, students from Benjamin E. Mays High School in Atlanta and students from Hiram, Ga., have developed their own versions of what needs to happen to this valuable real estate.

“It will be fascinating to see if the students have come up with ideas that haven’t been tapped by the ‘powers that be’ for years,” said Atlanta architect Oscar Harris, who has been involved in mentoring the young people.

City planners will get their first look at what the students envision when they graduate from the Atlanta Center for
Creative Inquiry on Saturday, April 27, at the Georgia Pacific Tower.

A panel of distinguished architects, engineers and construction managers, will also scrupulously review and judge the students’ work. Scholarships and internships will be awarded to the top designs, but all the students will benefit from this unusual endeavor.

The students walked along Auburn Avenue during the project and learned the importance the Fourth Ward played in the months leading up to Aug. 28, 1963. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. The students talked with historians and people who live and work in the area. Some of the students called their experiences “life changing.”

“It has been wonderful to see these students progress and the ripple effect they have on other students…like a drop of water in a pond,” said Hebrew Dixon, this year’s chairman of the board.

The Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry (ACCI) began mentoring students attending Atlanta Public high schools in 2004 as part of the Studio for Creative Inquiry program developed by Carnegie Mellon University. The mission of ACCI is to mentor, educate and develop creative abilities in youth to promote future diversity in architecture, engineering and construction. There is no other program like ACCI in the country.

The program is funded totally through private donations and grants. Last year, internationally renowned “stipple” artist Kyle Lane donated one of his rare works to ACCI, which was later acquired by Georgia Pacific in an exclusive auction. All donations are tax deductible.

For more information, go to or call 770-460-7647.

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