Georgia Dome Trust Fund and Community Development
The Georgia Dome Trust Fund was created in 1989, directed to initiate development in the Vine City area. Positioned under the authority of Invest Atlanta--Atlanta's Development Agency, a number of objectives were outlined. In brief, these included acquiring land, providing mortgage financing to encourage homeownership, finance to convert rental properties to homeownership, new development for mixed income housing, and improving rental housing stock (Invest Atlanta document). The fund was issued with $8 Million dollars to facilitate regional development. The majority of the money was funneled toward construction loans and mortgage financing, with a significant portion provided to the Historic Westside Village as a development loan (Invest Atlanta, Housing Finance Division, 2012). The Invest Atlanta document states that 815 units were produced, 119 loans were provided to homeowners and 20 loans to developers (Invest Atlanta). In addition, financing was provided for the construction of two apartment complexes. There is no numerical total stated for the "proceeds loaned to Vine City Housing Ministry, Inc." But the document indicates that money loaned to the Vine City Housing Ministry was targeted toward the acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of single-family homes (Invest Atlanta).
Below is a map published by Invest Atlanta. Two different zones are clearly marked, but it is not clear how these zones were determined. It seems that the first area marked by the red line was the original "Vine City" region, as the Invest Atlanta project understood it. The 'expanded' boundary suggests the map was changed at a later date. This new boundary includes the southern half of the English Avenue area, which originally had been excluded from the map encompassing future sites for Georgia Dome Trust Fund development plans. It is probable the map was changed according to the socio-economic makeup of the area, which is drastically different as one crosses onto the southern side of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. A number of Universities and more affluent homes inhabit this side of the MLK Jr. Dr, while on the northern side Vine City and, further up north, English Avenue are characteristic examples of low-income neighborhoods typified by boarded-up homes and abandoned properties. In part, this re-jigging of the boundaries may have provided greater justification for the provision of investment funds, but at the same time it also shifted attention away from "Vine City", and community organizations based there.
Prospects for the new stadium:
On September 10, 2013, Invest Atlanta, Atlanta's Development Authority, published a 127 page document titled Westside TAD Neighborhoods: Strategic Implementation Plan for the Neighborhoods of Vine City and English Avenue. The document outlines how decision-making was set-up to institute development projects (page 82):
The document is available publically but a few aspects will be highlighted here. The document lists the managers of Invest Atlanta, explains the "project team" for urban planning, and most importantly, states the objectives. Some important statistics are listed to justify the necessity of a development plan. The neighborhoods are described as "ravaged by decades of depopulation, disinvestment, escalating crime and social-ills" and low household incomes. They also recognize that previous planning initiatives "have failed to impact marginally these communities" (6). The primary goals of the plan are 1) create a cohesive, sustainable vision for future redevelopment; and 2) improve human capital, job opportunities and direct economic development. These goals are to be accomplished by following 9 listed points. Among these are: improving the quality and mix of housing stock; identifying "three to five key short term development opportunities;" and integrating job creation with development projects (page 6).
Here is a brief summary illustrating how the strategy is broken down into three steps. They can be found on page 7 of the document.
- Stabilization: Improve safety, support local businesses and residents, and enable greater property control "through acquisition, land banking and property management."
- Predevelopment: Project planning, including zoning and guidelines that fit with the planning, and developing human capital.
- Execution: After stabilization and program development has commenced, the programs can begin implementation. Priorities are identified based on a Decision Making Matrix.
- Five project areas are identified in the document: Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, Northside Drive Entertainment District, North Avenue & Northside Drive, James P. Brawley Drive
The areas were selected for development to encourage revitalization, tourism, economic activity related to the stadiums, and to decrease criminal activity. In order to address these issues, the document claims "meetings were held with residents, civic leaders, developers, business owners and other key constituents to solicit input." (8). This approach seeks to develop a widespread program that prioritizes human capital.
Invest Atlanta has dedicated $15 million dollars to the "bricks-and-mortar" budget of the project. The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation committed an additional $15 Million, to be used for social development (14).
The community development plan passed through three cycles of community participation. The first was on March 28, 2013, in which 110 people attended (a noted mix of community residents and stakeholders). The meetings presented information for future and then held "breakout sessions" for public participation, in which people marked projects on a map of the area. The list of issues included environmental projects, flooding, historical heritage of the neighborhoods, constructing community centers and creating jobs. In the second and third meetings more issues were added onto the list, and the goals defined more succinctly.
The description of the area is as follows: "Based on the existing conditions data, the Westside TAD Neighborhoods are currently experiencing population and housing trends similar to many urban neighborhoods suffering from depopulation and disinvestment. The Westside TAD Neighborhoods have experienced a significant decrease in population and the decline of residents could also indicate a lack of employment and/or housing options. This assumption can be supported by the decline in employment and the high number of vacant housing units. In addition, an excessive number of vacant houses can also be a contributor to increased crime and security issues. These conditions may be factors in residents' perception of neighborhood as an unsafe place to live and raise a family." Page 32
The TAD development project centers out-migration as a major issue and calls for significant reform in many different areas to reshape the living experience in Vine City/English Avenue. Importantly, the plan also identifies the series of previous development initiatives that have unfolded in the area over the last decade. The goal is to build upon these initiatives, which are outlined on pages 36-41. The main projects consist of housing initiatives, reconstruction of transportation networks, extending the Atlanta Beltline, modifying many major streets and applying a "road diet" to increase pedestrian accessibility, and flood control parameters on all future construction. The strategy to develop human capital is focused first and foremost on job creation, and then on opening up space for education. Three major roadblocks are identified preventing community development: depopulation, private disinvestment, and crime (69). Creating a community resource center anchors the strategy to revive the lives of people in the area. A few specific areas of potential employment are outlined: environmental jobs, positions in culture, history and art, early childhood education, construction, deconstruction, real estate, and entrepreneurial training (72-73).
The robust plan of action comes with a strategy for implementation. This plan follows the three steps outlined above: Stabilization, Predevelopment, and Execution. Stabilization involves three key steps: 1) Code enforcement, largely targeted toward meeting the specific demands of abandoned or dilapidated houses. 2) The intensification of police presence and the establishment of a program to incentivize police officers to live in the area. 3) Crime prevention through environmental design: designing spaces that are considered to be safe and help prevent criminal activity. (77). Additional steps aim to assist the needs of residents and businesses, as well as implementing land banking and property acquisition. Human capital development goals are explained with a neat flowchart, highlighting the areas of community needs, identifying providers, and matching them up while providing services from the resource center.