Announcing the Opening of Savanna Hall
Elegant spaces meet wild places at Atlanta’s newest special event destination.
A historic treasure comes alive for an exciting new chapter as Atlanta’s newest premier event destination with the debut of Savanna Hall, now open for special events at Zoo Atlanta. Savanna Hall is the second phase of the Zoo’s landmark Grand New View, which roared to life with the opening of the all-new African Savanna in August 2019. The roughly $55 million transformation represents the most ambitious reimagining in Zoo Atlanta history.
“This is a milestone years in the making for Zoo Atlanta. We are still experiencing the excitement of opening the new African Savanna, and with the completion of Savanna Hall, we are now able to unite the two with an event experience unlike any other in the city,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “Our hope is that Savanna Hall will attract many new guests who might not otherwise have thought of visiting the Zoo, bringing new friends and advocates for our mission of conservation.”
The project architect was The Epsten Group. The contractor was Winter Johnson Group. The building, which originally had two floors, now has four, with event spaces on the third and fourth floors and administrative spaces on the first and second floors. A highlight of the Savanna Hall experience is the Michael & Thalia Carlos Ballroom, a two-level grand ballroom with sweeping views into the African Savanna. The ballroom includes two terraces over the Savanna, one covered and one open-air. Other venues include the Delta Savanna Terrace at the front of Savanna Hall, with views into Grant Park; multi-purpose meeting and conference rooms; and the Savanna Vista, an intimate venue immersed in the center of the African Savanna.
Zoo Atlanta is pleased to present Proof of the Pudding as its official catering partner. In addition to offering inspired, locally sourced menus for a variety of occasions, Savanna Hall also features two kitchens: one a standard banquet kitchen and the other a specialty kitchen equipped for kosher events.
Built in 1921 and famed for its grand scale and neoclassical architecture, Savanna Hall served for more than 90 years as the home of the Cyclorama painting The Battle of Atlanta. Following the move of The Battle of Atlanta and other artifacts to the Atlanta History Center, Zoo Atlanta engaged in meticulous efforts to preserve historic elements of the structure so that it retains many nods to its past. These include the building’s original granite façade; original, hand-laid terracotta brick walls now visible in the Michael & Thalia Carlos Ballroom; a portion of the original center column that supported the building’s roof; the rail system that was originally used to hang the massive painting; and restored terrazzo floors. Savanna Hall’s first-floor lobby features a history wall celebrating the intersecting histories of Zoo Atlanta, the Atlanta Cyclorama and Savanna Hall.
“It was very important to us that the Savanna Hall of the 21st century should preserve some of the aspects that made it such an iconic site throughout most of the 20th century,” King said.
The journey to Grand New View began in 2014, when the City of Atlanta offered the stewardship of the historic building to Zoo Atlanta. A $20 million challenge grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation launched the Grand New View capital campaign. Major gifts included 11 gifts of $1 million or more from a Friend of the Zoo; The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation; Delta Air Lines through the Delta Air Lines Foundation; The Gary W. Rollins Foundation; Georgia Power Foundation; The Home Depot Foundation; The Kendeda Fund; The Marcus Foundation; longtime Zoo supporters David and Cecelia Ratcliffe; The UPS Foundation; and the Zeist Foundation.
As part of the historic preservation work done on Savanna Hall, Zoo Atlanta partnered with Bank of America to obtain federal and state historic tax credit funding and with Atlantic Capital Bank for bridge loan financing.
“Bank of America Community Development Banking is pleased to help finance the new Savanna Hall at Zoo Atlanta,” said Wendy Stewart, Bank of America Atlanta Market President. “The bank provided a commitment of $10 million in tax credit equity investments to help support the Zoo, one of the city’s oldest and most popular cultural centers with more than 900,000 visitors per year. We are delighted to champion this important site and invest in the economic development of Atlanta.”
“We are proud to partner with Zoo Atlanta on such a transformational and historical project,” said Ashley Carson, Not-for-Profit & Business Banking Executive at Atlantic Capital Bank. “Zoo Atlanta is an iconic brand for our city and a wonderful destination and educational opportunity for our community members and its visitors. We are grateful for playing a small part in this important project.”
Photo courtesy of Jack Parada Photography
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About Zoo Atlanta
A proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the gold standard for animal care and welfare, Zoo Atlanta has a mission to save wildlife and their habitats through conservation, research, education and engaging experiences. The Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals representing more than 200 species from around the world, many of them endangered or critically endangered. Highlights include giant pandas, including Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the only giant panda twins in the U.S.; one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Recent transformations include Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, home to more than 70 species in the world’s first LEED Gold-certified reptile and amphibian complex. Experiences include behind-the-scenes Wild Encounters with African lions, Aldabra giant tortoises, giant pandas and lemurs. Zoo Atlanta is open year-round with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Keeper Talks, interactive wildlife presentations, education programs and special events run year-round. For more information, visit zooatlanta.org.
NOW OPEN: the all-new African Savanna, featuring new and expanded habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, warthogs and meerkats. Coming soon: southern white rhino.
NOW OPEN FOR EVENTS: Savanna Hall, a state-of-the-art special event destination in the newly-restored historic former home of the Atlanta Cyclorama. Highlights include the Michael & Thalia Carlos Ballroom, a two-level space with sweeping views into the African Savanna; the Delta Savanna Terrace; multi-purpose meeting venues; and more.
The African Savanna and Savanna Hall are part of the Zoo’s landmark Grand New View transformation. Future elements include an enhanced entry plaza, opening in early 2020. For more on the Zoo’s mission and conservation programs and partnerships, visit zooatlanta.org/conservation or download the conservation report, Beyond the Zoo.