Yes, I said it. The 30310 is hurting with a poverty rate of 30% and an actual decline in the number of professionals that reside in historic West End. I contacted the good folks at Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc., via e-mail, to ask about investment activity in the West End and the city’s vision for the area.
AEMI is owned by Invest Atlanta, an arm of Atlanta city government charged with stimulating the city’s economic activity.
While they have spent some $67 million over the past couple years on development, I haven’t seen near the activity that I have witnessed on the north side of Atlanta.
The West End is a part of the Cascade-Ralph David Abernathy-Georgia Avenue (Yes, DC, we have one, too.) corridor. According to most recent data collected by AEMI, the corridor has seen a decline in population, falling from 60,403 residents in 2000 to 58,344 residents in 2005. Although the percentage of residents employed has increased from 51.8% in 2000 to 54.2% in 2005, the percentage of residents holding college degrees, that percentage that has a higher incomes, fell between 2000 and 2005. In 2000, the percentage of residents having a bachelor’s or a master’s degree was 11.3% and 8.7%, respectively. Fast forward to 2005 and those percentages fell to 9.7% and 6.6%.
The city is touting a project called the Atlanta BeltLine as a major 25-year growth model for the city. A $2.8 billion investment will get us a transit line running through a 22 mile corridor that loops the city. The corridor will connect a number of neighborhoods and create 30,000 jobs during that period. It will throw in a few parks and bike trails as well.
Nice, if you run marathons, but I don’t see how the BeltLine will bring continued economic activity to the West End, especially since it misses the area of the West End with the most capacity for commercial activity, that being the corners of Joseph Lowery Boulevard and Ralph David Abernathy; and Lee Street and Ralph David Abernathy.
If you are going to attract residents and visitors, you need to supply them with a culture/commercial center. Ironically the corners I mentioned have the supporting infrastructure for that endeavor, including a rapid transit station, the West End Station, that would make accessing commercial activity an absolute breeze.
If there is an economic policy for the West End, it sure is not apparent. It is so not apparent that last year city council member Cleta Winslow started her own economic initiative for the West End.
What this area needs is a little supply side economics. Revamping the West End Mall into something akin to the Camp Creek Marketplace in East Point, the Edgewood market center in East Atlanta, or Lindbergh Center would work. The current mall could be converted to provide shopping and office space, attracting small businesses and residents.
When it comes to the West End, someone in city hall isn’t listening.