Plans are percolating to turn one of Atlanta’s most recognizable Olympics relics into a flashy billboard.

But that vision for the Centennial Tower at 70 3rd Street—colloquially known as torch tower, or the torch—encountered some resistance from Midtown development arbiters this week.

Standing for nearly 30 years between the 15-lane Connector expressway, an alley, and The Varsity’s parking lots, the 123-foot-tall Centennial Tower was erected as a climbable tourist attraction by late developer Taz Anderson in advance of the 1996 Summer Olympics. 

The tower's defining feature: a metal flame in full blaze, standing about 20 feet tall atop the structure.

A team that includes Atlanta-based Smallwood architecture is proposing alterations to the tower that would renovate an 1,800-square-foot, cylindrical building at its base and apply a ring of digital signage closer to the old observation deck and torch.

How the Centennial Tower appears today over the downtown Connector. Google Maps

Rendering illustrating how digital signage could wrap the recognizable structure. Smallwood; via Midtown Alliance

The digital signage would be static, according to plans filed with the Midtown Development Review Committee, but visible to hundreds of thousands of motorists per day on the Connector. Plans indicate a conversion of part of the property would allow for an office and visitor ticketing uses. 

Midtown DRC members raised concerns during Tuesday’s monthly meeting that the project, as proposed, isn’t practical for office and ticketing uses and doesn’t meet applicable code.

DRC members raised concerns the proposed signage conflicts with the city’s ordinance prohibiting signs above roofs and allowing only “signature signs” on buildings standing four or more stories, according to a meeting recap.

The tower's base near The Varsity as seen in 2017. Google Maps

The size of proposed signage “greatly exceeds” what’s allowed by the city ordinance, which limits signs to only 5 percent of the area of walls they’re affixed to, the DRC noted.

DRC members plan to ask city staff to review signage plans to determined exactly what’s allowed. They also requested updated plans regarding proposed security fencing around the tower’s base.

All plans are expected to come up for review again at a future DRC meeting.

Initial plans for the digital wrap beneath the torch portion. Smallwood; via Midtown Alliance


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