Gentrification of Atlanta
The gentrification of Atlanta has been the source of both praise and condemnation. Gentrification of Atlanta's inner-city neighborhoods began in the 1970s, and it has continued, at varying levels of intensity, into the present. Many factors have contributed to the city's gentrification. A major increase in gentrification that occurred in the last years of the twentieth century has been attributed to the 1996 Summer Olympics. However, during the 2000s, Atlanta underwent a profound transformation demographically, physically, and culturally. Suburbanization, rising prices, a booming economy, and new migrants decreased the city’s black percentage from a high of 67% in 1990 to 54% in 2010. From 2000 to 2010, Atlanta gained 22,763 white residents, 5,142 Asian residents, and 3,095 Hispanic residents, while the city’s black population decreased by 31,678. Much of the city’s demographic change during the decade was driven by young, college-educated professionals: from 2000 to 2009, the three-mile radius surrounding Downtown Atlanta gained 9,722 residents aged 25 to 34 holding at least a four-year degree, an increase of 61%. Between the mid-1990s and 2010, stimulated by funding from the HOPE VI program, Atlanta demolished nearly all of its public housing, a total of 17,000 units and about 10% of all housing units in the city. In 2005, the $2.8 billion BeltLine project was adopted, with the stated goals of converting a disused 22-mile freight railroad loop that surrounds the central city into an art-filled multi-use trail and increasing the city’s park space by 40%. Lastly, Atlanta’s cultural offerings expanded during the 2000s: the High Museum of Art doubled in size; the Alliance Theatre won a Tony Award; and numerous art galleries were established on the once-industrial Westside.
There is also a national trend of young people moving back into the cities, and Atlanta is one of the cities experiencing that. Metro Atlanta is also one of the fastest growing areas in the country in terms of both population and job growth and expected to grow by another 3 million between now and 2040. That makes intown areas attractive for those working intown, and much land is still available in some neighborhoods.
Gentrification by area
Many of Atlanta's neighborhoods experienced the urban flight that affected other major American cities in the 20th century, causing the decline of once upper and upper-middle-class east side neighborhoods including Grant Park, Inman Park, Candler Park and Virginia Highland. In the 1970s, after neighborhood opposition blocked two freeways from being built through the east side, the area became the starting point for Atlanta's gentrification wave, first becoming affordable, hip but edgy neighborhoods attracting young people, and by 2000 having become relatively affluent areas attracting people from across Metro Atlanta to their upscale shops and restaurants.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, gentrification expanded into other parts of Atlanta, spreading throughout the historic streetcar suburbs east of Downtown and Midtown, areas with black majorities historically such as the Old Fourth Ward, Kirkwood, Reynoldstown and Edgewood as well as Cabbagetown, once populated mostly by working-class whites with Appalachian origins. On the western side of the city, condos, apartments, and retail space were built into former warehouse spaces, transforming once-industrial West Midtown into a vibrant neighborhood full of residential lofts and a nexus of the arts, restaurants, and home furnishings..
The "poster child" for gentrification in Atlanta today is the Old Fourth Ward. Gentrification of the Ward began in the 1980s, and continued at a more rapid pace during the first decade of the 2000s. New apartment and condo complexes with ground-floor retail sprung up, particularly along the BeltLine, Ponce de Leon Avenue, North Avenue, and Highland Avenue. New residents were attracted to the neighborhood due to its close proximity to Downtown, Midtown, Inman Park, and Virginia-Highland, its urban vibe, its walkability, and its cultural offerings. By the 2010s, Old Fourth Ward had become one of the most dynamic and sought-after areas of the city, winning Creative Loafing's 2010 award for "Best Bet for Next Hot 'Hood". The area, which remains majority black, has seen a huge influx of whites in recent decades. The trend began in the 1980s, and from 1980 to 2000, the area west of Boulevard went from 12% to 30% white and the area east of Boulevard went from 2% to 20% white.
In 2010, Creative Loafing awarded Old Fourth Ward "Best Bet for Next Hot 'Hood." In 2011, the neighborhood celebrated the opening of the Historic Fourth Ward Park and saw the kickoff of the Ponce City Market project.
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The far Northwest Atlanta is experiencing pressure of a different kind from neighboring Cobb County, Buckhead and Cascade Heights. For example, Riverside/Bolton. The inner parts of Northwest Atlanta such as Knight Park, Berkeley Park and Howell Mill are almost completely gentrified, whereas Bankhead, Rockdale and other neighborhoods in the Northwest have begun gentrification.
Southwest Atlanta is the area between I-75 and I-20 along with the neighborhoods West of Grant Park. West End is the fastest gentrifying in the Southwest, with both the affluent Cascade Heights district and downtown putting pressure on this area. Southwest neighborhoods gentrifying include: West End, Capitol View, Capitol View Manor, Peoplestown, Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, Westview, Oakland City and Adair Park. The gentrification in the Southwest differs from other parts of Atlanta in that it is largely wealthier black professionals and families moving in. These neighborhoods had been majority-black either since white flight in the 1940s-1960s. They fell into steady decline, with Stewart Avenue becoming infamous for prostitution, crime and drugs. But by 2000, in Adair Park, young people were starting to move back into the neighborhood, settling alongside many lifelong residents, attracted by the "charming affordable bungalows and community spirit". Unlike gentrification waves in northeastern and eastern Atlanta, the one in inner southwestern neighborhoods consisted overwhelmingly of African Americans, and the area (NPU V) remained 89% black as of the 2010 census.
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South Atlanta is the part of Atlanta typically Southeast of I-75 and West of Moreland Avenue, South of Grant Park, including McDonough Blvd. Neighborhoods include: South Atlanta, Lakewood Heights, and High Point. These neighborhoods are showing early signs of gentrification with South Atlanta being the farthest along with some already unaffordable exclusive neighborhoods built along McDonough Blvd.
Nathan McCall in his novel Them, describes the concerns of existing working-class black residents in the Old Fourth Ward in light of increasing numbers of more affluent white families moving into their historically black neighborhood. The Atlanta Progressive News regularly runs stories expressing concerns about the displacement of existing residents and the lack of "affordable" housing as a result of gentrification. The gentrification of the city’s neighborhoods has been the topic of social commentary, including The Atlanta Way, a documentary detailing the negative effects gentrification has had on the city and its inhabitants.
Displacement of existing residents
It is difficult to isolate one factor of gentrification, since they often feed others. A Georgia State student studied gentrification in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Atlanta (between Adair Park and Peoplestown) and came up with the following causes of displacement generally lead to gentrification. Some additional information is available from the Annie E Casey foundation, again on Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a good neighborhood for studying gentrification because like much of NPU-V, it is ground zero for what is expected to be the next wave with planners and researchers working hard to make sure displacement is not so rampant as in other parts of Atlanta.
- Increased costs to live in neighborhood.
- Higher rents.
- Increasing land values.
- Higher taxes.
- Investor flipping
- Decreased affordable housing inventory
- Increasing numbers of vacant properties.
- Redevelopment of affordable housing stock with less affordable and infill development.
- Uneven access to capital.
- Political displacement: Existing residents losing stake in clubs and organizations, causing some to move out.
Remediation of displacement
With the understanding that gentrification is a likely inevitable force for the beltline area: The Anne E. Casey Foundation along with land banks, churches, community leaders and other organizations are working to ensure that neighborhoods in the Southwest do not experience the same level of displacement as in the Eastern parts of Atlanta. This involves efforts such as acquiring vacant homes to revitalize them and move in stable working-class citizens with restrictions on future sale price, workforce training, tax stabilization, and education on property values to avoid homeowners selling to flippers.
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- U.S. Census Bureau
- Galloway, Jim (2011-03-23). "A census speeds Atlanta toward racially neutral ground | Political Insider". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2012-07-16.
- Dewan, Shaila (March 11, 2006). "Gentrification Changing Face of New Atlanta". The New York Times.
- "Urban centers draw more young, educated adults". USA Today. April 1, 2011.
- Schneider, Craig (April 13, 2011). "Young professionals lead surge of intown living". ajc.com. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
- Deirdre Oakley; Erin Ruel; G. Elton Wilson. "A Choice with No Options: Atlanta Public Housing Residents' Lived Experiences in the Face of Relocation". Georgia State University.
- Husock, Howard. "Reinventing Public Housing: Is the Atlanta Model Right for Your City?". Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
- US Census Bureau 1990 census - total number of housing units in Atlanta city
- Atlanta BeltLine
- Martin, Timothy W. (April 16, 2011). "The New New South". The Wall Street Journal.
- City populations boom as young people opt against settling down in the suburbs
- 8 Cities With Surprising Job Growth
- Expect 3 million more in metro Atlanta by the year 2040
- Emily Kleine (January 27, 2001). "Virginia-Highland: Classic homes and convivial atmosphere reel 'em in". Creative Loafing.
- "Best Bet For Next Hot 'Hood: Old Fourth Ward", Creative Loafing, 2010
- "Adair Park: Newcomers rediscover the charms of this southwest hood", Creative Loafing, October 7, 2000
- "Them", Amazon.com
- Atlanta Progressive News: search for term "gentrification"
- Stakeholders' Perspective of Risk of Gentrification in Atlanta's Pittsburgh Neighborhood
- Pittsburgh Preservation