West End Set to Map Out its Future with Newly Approved Community Improvement District

Last week, the West End received another victory when the Atlanta City Council approved the formation of the West End Community Improvement District.

CIDs are self-taxing business districts wherein commercial property owners agree to pay a tax to fund a variety of improvements such as transportation upgrades, the widening of sidewalks, intersection and parking upgrades, pedestrian and bicycle paths, streetscapes, more green space, or private security.

Sponsored by Councilmember Cleta Winslow, she said the idea of a CID for the West End developed eight years ago as the community suffered through the economic downturn of the Great Recession. The West End CID will be governed by a six-member board.  However, the timing of the formation/approval — just months before Winslow faces reelection is curious. She faces strong competition from commercial real estate broker and former West End Neighborhood Development president, Kimberly Parmer as well as Elizabeth Whitmore, a CAU graduate and active Westside community resident.

The CID has the support of both the West End Merchants Coalition and Central Atlanta Progress, a private, not-for-profit corporation that strives to create a robust economic climate in downtown Atlanta.

The boundaries of the West End CID include Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to the north, Lee Street to the east, White Street to the south and west. It also includes the Atlanta University Center.

The West End has long maintained a strong commercial base surrounding the Mall at West End. In the past year, several new businesses have opened near or along RDA/Cascade corridor including 992 Gallery, 640 West Community Cafe, and Live Edge Restaurant Bar. And the newly inked CID is poised to be well funded, as the multi-million dollar Lee+White Development has already brought with it the announcement of several new tenants who will pour millions in investment into the West End economy.

In September 2016, it was announced that Monday Night Brewing would anchor the $30 mil project on White Street, which will be included in the CID. Since then ASW Distillery, Southern Aged, and Wild Heaven Beer all announced plans to occupy part of the 55,000 sq ft project which faces the almost finished Westside Beltline Trail.

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According to a report by the Council for Quality Growth, quoted in an article published last week in the AJC, “by utilizing self-imposed tax revenues from commercial businesses within their districts, CIDs are dramatically changing their communities in many ways.” The Council for Quality Growth, a metro Atlanta non-profit trade organization that works to ensure the region’s regulatory environment supports quality growth and development.

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Emphasis must be placed on providing  increased security and lighting in the heavy commercial corridors. Additionally, young entrepreneurs and residents have repeatedly expressed concerns about the diminishing opportunity to start a business in the area. Commercial rents for most spaces hover above $1600 a month. Funds should be set aside for the creation of entrepreneurship hubs that provide retail spaces at reduced or subsidized rents and support growth of small local business persons.