Column: Atlanta Land Trust group works to keep Beltline area affordable

By Maria Saporta
Friday, November 26, 2010

The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership did not want the 22-mile development ring to lead to unintended consequences.

That began to hit home for Valarie Wilson, the partnership’s executive director, when she began making Beltline presentations in neighborhoods in the corridor.

“While they were cautiously excited about the Beltline, there also was the fear that they would be displaced,” Wilson said. “The taxes would go up, and they wouldn’t be able to stay there.”

For the past two and a half years, the partnership has been exploring how to maintain the affordability in Atlanta’s most fragile neighborhoods as development along the Beltline began taking shape.

The answer? The Atlanta Land Trust Collaborative.

The citywide collaborative will work to help develop and sustain individual land trusts throughout the city. The collaborative now has a nine-member board and has hired an executive director — Tony Pickett, an architect who has worked with the Atlanta Housing Authority and who has been a housing consultant.

The Home Depot Foundation has provided $125,000 in seed money to help launch the Atlanta Collaborative.

“The compelling reason for us was to support an initiative to preserve affordability around the Beltline,” said Tim Block, the foundation’s program manager for affordable housing who is a strong proponent of the land trust model. “We wanted to do everything in our power to prevent gentrification in those neighborhoods.”

In addition to Home Depot, Wells Fargo has provided a $25,000 grant as has NCB Capital. And Atlanta’s United Way has contributed $50,000 to the initiative.

“We want to make sure we are part of the solution to offer innovative ways for affordable housing,” said Candy Moore, Wells Fargo’s senior vice president for community development in the Southeast. “We think the citywide model is the best way to go.”

The collaborative currently is working with the Atlanta Housing Association of Neighborhood-based Developers and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The first initiative under way is the Pittsburgh Community Land Trust, which already has acquired 100 vacant houses in the neighborhood south of downtown.

“Our goal is to establish two land trusts within the next three years,” Pickett said. “The governance structure of the land trust is unique. A third of the board is community residents, a third is nonprofits and a third is business.”

A representative from each of the land trusts will serve on the board of the collaborative.

A land trust provides continuous affordability because it owns the land. The buildings are owned by individuals, but because they don’t own the land, the purchase price is more affordable. A 99-year ground lease means a community land trust can keep the building affordable if it is sold to new owners.

“There are some vulnerable communities along the Beltline,” Wilson said. “I believe this is a tool that will allow Atlanta to be the city we want it to be — where everybody can live in an affordable, quality home.”

Wesley Woods’ 22nd gala

For 21 years, the Foundation of Wesley Woods has been honoring Heroes, Saints & Legends — to shine the light on prominent older adults in the Southeast who continue to contribute to society.

The 22nd annual gala will be no exception.

The gala will honor Pat Epps, a native of Athens who founded Epps Aviation in 1965. In addition to running his aviation company, Epps, 76, has been a community leader involved in Angel Flight, active with Georgia Tech and a benefactor behind building a park next to DeKalb Peachtree Airport.

Former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, 83, also will be honored at the gala. Massell continues to remain active as the founding president of the Buckhead Coalition and is often described as the “Mayor of Buckhead.”

The gala also will give the “Key to a Cure” award to Coach Frank Broyles, who attended Decatur High School and Georgia Tech. Broyles, 86, spent nearly five decades as the University of Arkansas’ athletic director.

In 2004, Broyles lost his wife, Barbara, Day Broyles to Alzheimer’s. That led him to write a book: “Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers,” and has made him a tireless advocate to support those living with Alzheimer’s and for research.

The proceeds from the gala, which will be held on May 5 at the St. Regis Hotel, will go toward supporting ongoing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research being conducted at Emory University. The honorary chairs of the event are Jenny and Phil Jacobs.

Humana helps youth

The Center for Children and Young Adults is this year’s recipient of Humana’s Community Benefit Program in Atlanta.

The Center, which is a home for abused, neglected and abandoned youth in Georgia, has received a $100,000 grant from the health services company based in Louisville, Ky.

The grant will go toward helping the children and young adults master life skills, such as cooking, money management and tools needed to succeed in today’s workforce.

“The impact of this gift will be life-changing for many youth who so desperately want to make a good life for themselves and become productive and contributing citizens in our community,” said Kimberley Shellman-Borna, the center’s CEO, in a statement.

The grant was made by Dan Feruck, Humana’s Georgia commercial operations market president.

Attorney to the stars honored

Atlantan Joel Katz, one of the leading entertainment attorneys in the country, will be honored Dec. 4 by the Atlanta Region of ORT America, the world’s largest non-governmental educational organization.

The annual tribute dinner will be held at the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead, and it will honor Katz for his support of educational organizations, such as the University of Tennessee, Hunter College and Kennesaw State University.

Katz, chair of Greenberg Traurig LLP’s global entertainment and media practice, has had an all-star list of clients, including James Brown, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Alan Jackson, Julio Iglesias, Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor and even the Michael Jackson estate.

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  2. […] a nonprofit board that many housing experts consider the key to ensuring affordable housing stock. The Atlanta Land Trust Collaborative — a coalition of more than 30 community development corporations, philanthropic organizations and […]