Cranes rising in Vine City: New Park; Affordable Senior Housing; Bike Lanes

Invest Atlanta is forging ahead with its plan to bring more affordable housing to the downtown neighborhood that sits in the westward shadow of the almost finished billion dollar Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  At a recent board meeting, Invest Atlanta approved a $10 million bond resolution to fund the construction of 105 units of senior housing in Vine City. The 105-unit Oasis of Vine City complex will be reserved for seniors above the age of 62, who will pay no more than 60 percent AMI. The units will all be affordable and high quality, with amenities such as energy efficient appliances, pre-wired security, and a fitness center.

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This project has been in the works for almost 5 years. This year, much emphasis has been placed on ensuring that long-time residents are not pushed out of some of Atlanta’s poorer historic westside neighborhoods. In April, Mayor Kasim Reed announced the Anti-Displacement Tax Fund, a program funded with corporate and philanthropic dollars to help residents in  Vine City, English Avenue, Ashview Heights and the Atlanta University Center area pay increasing rents and tax bills as their property becomes more valuable. the ADTF will be run by the Westside Future Fund and hopes to raise $5 million.

As many SW Atlanta residents recently received property tax assessments that are double and triple that of last year, the need for stable, affordable housing on the Westside is more important now than ever. Oasis of Vine City should enable these long-time residents to age in place in their communities. Additional funding for the project will come from a variety of sources, including Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs, the Vine City Trust Fund, and affordable housing tax credits.

Last month, the city and civic leaders also broke ground on a new park in Vine City.

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Construction has begun on Rodney Cook Senior Park, a $45 million public-private project that is sure to trigger a rebirth of Vine City and surrounding neighborhoods. The 16-acre park will feature a playground, picnic pavilion, multi-use courts for sports, a boardwalk and terraced pools. The park will also feature 18 statues of Georgia civil rights leaders and others who were considered peacemakers throughout the state’s history.

Scheduled to open Summer 2018, Rodney Cook Sr Park will also have a retention pond.

Along Simpson Rd Joseph E. Boone Blvd, city contractors have begun construction work on the Boone Boulevard Green Infrastructure & Capacity Relief Project which includes reducing the roadway to two lanes and the addition of bicycle lanes between Northside Drive and Mayson Turner Road. Work will begin east of the Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard intersection. Once complete, the Boone Boulevard Green Infrastructure & Capacity Relief Project will help manage stormwater and increase sewer capacity in the area.

 

 

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.