Olympics spur revitalization efforts
Massive construction and improvement projects are gradually transforming Atlanta’s landscape as the city prepares to host the world during the 1996 Olympic Games, and the momentum has helped change the lives of 89 families in some of the area’s oldest and most neglected communities.
As a result of a cooperative effort between the city and Fleet Finance, $10 million was committed to restore and revitalize the Summerhill, Mechanicsville and Peoplestown neighborhoods, all near the Olympic Stadium site. The project, Friends of Atlanta Neighborhood Assistance Program (FANAP) has provided the resources needed to implement major residential improvement projects.
The affected neighborhoods are three of Atlanta’s oldest predominantly black communities. Settled in the 1860s by newly emancipated staves, the area thrived until highway construction and other development spurred a decline in the 1960s.
In 1992, community leaders and residents met to discuss the impact of Olympic development on the area, meetings that eventually resulted in the creation of FANAP. The program provides direct grants for home restoration and a revolving fund for the purchase of vacant land. FANAP also provides investments in affordable housing tax credit initiatives and funds that are disbursed to the neighborhoods’ Community Development Corporations (CDC).
Implementation began with the CDCs screening applications from homeowners seeking grant funding. Residents had to meet certain eligibility requirements, including proof of home ownership, residency and income levels. After a professional home inspector visited the homes and set priorities for renovations and repairs, contractors submitted bids.
FANAP required contractors to hire community residents to assist in the rehab projects, creating an apprenticeship program that has helped 50 men and women gain experience in construction, painting and carpentry. Some have been hired full-time by the contractors for whom they worked.
Since the program began, 89 homes have been renovated through $1.4 million in direct grants. It has provided homeowners with major interior and exterior restoration work, including new roofs, ceilings, foundations, kitchens and bathrooms. Average project cost was $16,500.
Additionally, money has been disbursed among several efforts aimed at programs that will continue after the Olympics. These include:
* a $500,000 grant to establish a revolving fund for the purchase of vacant lots earmarked by the CDCs for development;
* a $75,000 grant to the Mechanicsville and Peoplestown communities for neighborhood development plans critical to fund-raising and strategic planning;
* a $50,000 grant to Summerhill Neighborhood, Inc., to reinforce its redevelopment; and
* $6 million in affordable housing tax credit initiatives in the neighborhoods.