Atlanta housing leaders – once shunned – back on the scene

By Maria Saporta

After an eight-year freeze between the administration of Mayor Kasim Reed and the pioneers of Atlanta’s modern day transformation of public housing, a thawing is taking place.

That thaw was evident on the night of Oct. 18 when top leaders in Atlanta and the nation attended Integral’s 25thanniversary celebration at the Fairmont in west Atlanta.

More than one person noted that such a celebration could not have taken place a year earlier (the actual 25thanniversary of the urban community development firm) because no one would have wanted to contend with the wrath of Mayor Reed if they had attended.

Integral

Egbert Perry speaks at the Integral’s 25th anniversary celebration on Oct. 18 (Special: Integral)

The thaw also was evident in Orlando, at the ninth annual conference of Purpose Built Communities.

The Atlanta-based national community redevelopment consulting entity has developed partnerships with the Grove Park Foundation in addition to its historic work in the East Lake community. And there’s talk that Purpose Built could include other Atlanta neighborhoods into its national network.

That’s a far cry from the relationship that existed during the Reed administration.

Early during his tenure as mayor, Reed developed a vendetta against Renee Glover, the CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority; Egbert Perry, the CEO of the Integral Group; and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, then CEO of Purpose Built Communities.

Those three leaders – along with the organizations they represented – were cast aside while the city saw the beginnings of an intractable shortage of affordable housing.

Early on, Reed was able to push Glover, a nationally-recognized leader in the transformation of public housing projects, out at AHA. For the entire of eight years of his administration, AHA did not build any new affordable housing developments on the hundreds of acres it owned.

Purpose Built Shirley Franklin David Edwards

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and David Edwards, both leaders of Purpose Built Communities, in Orlando in one of its communities (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Instead, the city and AHA decided to file costly lawsuits against Perry and Glover, which further disintegrated their relationship in Atlanta. Those suits were thrown out and dismissed earlier this year.

And Christopher Edwards, AHA’s chairman, proclaimed after a board meeting earlier this year that the authority “is now out of the lawsuit business.”

AHA, which now calls itself Atlanta Housing, also is looking to go back into the development business, by looking to develop on property it has owned for decades.

Meanwhile, during the Reed administration, Integral and Perry stayed away from doing developments within the City of Atlanta – because of the mayor’s ire against them.

Now that the lawsuits are behind them, Integral and Perry can start working on plans to develop housing on the property they jointly own with the housing authority.

These are encouraging signs, but more thawing needs to take place.

It would have been wonderful if the Atlanta Housing authority, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and key members of her administration had been part of the Integral 25thanniversary. Perry said he didn’t know if they had been invited.

Orlando Lift

New affordable housing developed by Atlanta-based Columbia Residential as part of Orlando Lift – a Purpose Built community (Photo by Maria Saporta

But the Integral event was a reunion of the players who were instrumental in the transformation of public housing projects into mixed-income communities all over the City of Atlanta.

Those in attendance included Henry Cisneros, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Renee Glover, Mayor Franklin and members of the McCormack Baron Salazar development firm which partnered with Integral on the Techwood Homes to Centennial Place transformation – which became a model for other “Hope VI” communities across the nation.

The Purpose Built Communities conference in Orlando demonstrated that community redevelopment is becoming a science and an art.

It has broadened the Hope VI model of mixed-income communities combined with a quality elementary school to include early learning and after-school programs in a cradle to college model. It also is focusing on health and wellness as well as other quality of life amenities, such as parks and greenspace and small business incubators.

Creating health communities is paramount to Atlanta becoming a city for people of all incomes, races, ethnic backgrounds and generations.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Purpose Built partnered with Atlanta to develop a citywide strategy for healthy communities – weaving a fabric of multiple communities into a more vibrant city.

As the city begins to implement the recommendations of the House ATL task force, we can now bring all our  key players back onto the field – including those who have been on the sidelines for way too long.

Purpose Built Communities

Purpose Built Communities

Purpose Built

Map of Purpose Built Communities

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

5 replies
  1. James Reese says:

    So you are telling us Atlanta’s affordable housing stock plummeted because of a vendatta the former Mayor had against the folks who build some affordable housing?

    Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms get it together! The poor folks of Atlanta are being run out of their communities because they can’t afford to live their any longer. These organizations can save a whole lot of folks from the misery that has been thrusted upon them by selfish politicians.Report

    Reply
  2. Truth be told says:

    It is important that we realize that the current lack of affordable housing in Atlanta, is the results of the rapid removal housing projects and wholesale displacement of those who lived there.Report

    Reply
  3. jon carlisle says:

    The ‘poor folks in Atlanta are being run out of their communities’ because Trump’s tax cut has left working Americans with larger paychecks, shortchanging the pimps, vagrants and drug dealers who relied on Obama’s pick pocket technique (crooked Kasim too busy bankrolling Mitzi to notice).Report

    Reply
  4. Where is Hosea says:

    you couldn’t be more wrong. Truth is there are thousands of affordable homes in South Atlanta. Its just that no one wants to live there because crime is rampant and out of control. Its much easier to blame the greedy developers because they are white. You want a cheap house? try Venetian Hills..how about 130K not “affordable? Try Oakland City for 90K.
    Atlanta, you elected a Mayor who couldn’t give two shakes about affordable housing unless it serves her purpose. You got EXACTLY what you voted for. The myth of no “affordable housing” is just a ruse to keep ignorant people from realizing you just elected a crook who is nothing but another Kasim Reed with Heels.
    Need a more affordable house? Head over to West Atlanta near the ACU….granted you will most likely be carjacked (unless you walk whereby you will just be robbed) or have your door kicked in, but you want affordable right? Show me another city where you can buy a house for 90K.
    The problem is not lack of affordable housing. The problem is CRIME. Nobody wants to live where crime is rampant and thats south and West Atl. Fix the crime and you fix the housing problem. But our city’s MAyor and others dont want to address that issue because they have no one to blame but themselves. Its much easier to blame those “greedy developers”
    Elect Stacy Abrams and the whole state will move in that direction. Just listening to Keisha Lance Bottoms tell lie after lie makes me want to give up. I wish for once we could elect an honest Mayor who will address the real problems instead of blaming someone else other than city hall.Report

    Reply
  5. Chris Johnston says:

    You are correct. There is no Ivan Allen Jr. or William B. Hartsfield on the horizon.

    The City has always had a crime “combat zone” – I remember when Buttermilk Bottoms was one. Under the political leadership since Ivan Allen Jr., more of the City has become a combat zone each year.

    And the clueless voters elect the same clowns in every election. They are always suckered by politicians who promise to stand up to The Man (which they become) and to give away more free stuff (which they do not, instead lining their pockets).Report

    Reply

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