ATLANTA’S WEST END HEADED FOR CHANGE (part 1)
Kelsey Jones (NNPA/DTU Journalism Fellow)
CID Approved for the Historic Community
West End, one of Atlanta’s oldest intown neighborhoods is headed for a major resurgence.
There is a buzz about West End as it is getting a second look by developers, entrepreneurs and potential residents, thanks in part to the popular Beltline project, its close proximity to Downtown Atlanta, the Atlanta University Center, the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, the MARTA station (on the north-south line that ends at the world’s busiest airport) and the Interstates.
With other intown neighborhoods like the Old Fourth Ward, Grant Park, Virginia-Highland and Inman Park maxed out with overpriced housing, investors have turned their attention to West End. It was just announced last month that a rehab bungalow with four bedrooms sold for over $425,000.
It took eight years and the Atlanta City Council finally approved a Community Improvement District (CID) for the intown neighborhood.
CIDs are self-taxing districts where commercial property owners voluntarily agree to pay a certain amount of taxes to fund several improvements in their community. The CID will not only revive the neighborhood, but it will, in result, be an attraction hub for more businesses to come. More than twenty-five neighborhoods in Georgia are CID approved, including the Midtown and Buckhead communities.
The CID, serving West End, will cover the areas of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, to Lee Street, to Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard and to White street. It will also reach the Atlanta University Center community.
Many city leaders and organizations support the new CID including: Council President Ceasar Mitchell, councilmembers Cleta Winslow, Andre Dickens, Michael Julian Bond, Central Atlanta Progress, Invest Atlanta, and the West End Merchants Coalition.
While the CID will be beneficial to the West End neighborhood, merchants would have to agree to raise their property taxes to fund these new renovations. They hope to invest more than $100,000 into this tax district in efforts to revitalize its community. The merchants will also have the creative control on how the money is spent to better their neighborhood.
Property owners who have voluntarily increased their property taxes to help fund this economic development include: Wells Fargo, H.J. Russell, Elexis Realty, Selig Enterprises, West End Mall, Willie Watkins Mortuary, and McDonald’s Corporation.
Though these business owners are participating in this funding, other business owners in the West End are not aware of the new changes happening just outside of their storefronts. The lack of knowledge of this legislation prevents the merchants in the area to be involved with the redevelopments. It is important that all merchants in the West End have direct information and point of contacts on how they can be involved in their community’s endeavors.
Just around the corner, the neighborhood of Ashview Heights is also looking to revitalize. Shawn Walton, founder of WeCyle Atlanta located in West End and community advocate, is making great strides to improve his local neighborhood. He believes there are “life threatening elements that pushes people out past amenities that they need to sustain their lives like healthy corner stores, access to healthcare, hospitals, and things of that nature.” Walton is a soon to be owner of an access hub that that will be available to all Westside residents.
When asked about what the West End should do with the CID funds, Walton said, “I think they should make the quality of life along the corridor more walkable. It is a very uncomfortable walk down Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard and so I would love to see that done first and foremost.”
With major concerns of safety following the recent shootings near the Mall of West End, merchants suggest they set up more security cameras around the neighborhood and stop lights. Another business owner added that they should use some of the money to hire off-duty officers to patrol the streets. The community hopes that with the new security cameras, the crime rate will go down and the desirability level will go up.
The merchants are looking to partner with The Atlanta University Center, which comprises of Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University to help sponsor their endeavors including the security cameras that could reach past the colleges’ campuses. The opportunity would benefit both parties, all while helping the West End to become a more welcoming place.
In addition to security cameras and off-duty officers, the funds will be used to create bike paths, expand the sidewalks, and improve traveler’s commute by transportation and parking upgrades.
Renovations will not take place until later this year or early 2018.
(Part two will look at the new nontraditional businesses coming to West End and the impact the Beltline is having on the community.)
Kelsey Jones is a 2017 NNPA “Discover The Unexpected” Journalism Fellow and a student at Spelman College. This summer, Kelsey is creating content for The Atlanta Voice, a member newspaper of the NNPA. Follow Kelsey on Twitter @kelseyfjones.
Fellow, The Atlanta Voice
Kelsey Jones is a senior pursuing an English degree at Spelman College. Born and raised in Albany, GA, this budding journalist developed a passion for Journalism while in high school after being on the school’s yearbook staff. She aspires to be a local reporter/anchor in a top 10 market. Kelsey has honed her journalistic skills as a news intern at WSB-TV and a former staff writer for the Morehouse College Maroon Tiger Newspaper. She also has had her photo essay of her travels to the Dominican Republic displayed in a photo exhibition at Spelman College. As a first-generation college student, Kelsey plans to use her voice to reach a broader audience and embark on a journey to Discover the Unexpected.