Column: Fighting crime is key to revitalizing Atlanta’s Westside

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on April 17, 2015

Amid all the uplifting talk of economic investment in the Westside communities of Atlanta, there’s a difficult reality. They continue to be among the most crime-ridden areas in the city.

That was one of the hard realities presented by Frank Fernandez, vice president for community development for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, at a panel discussion on the revitalization of the Westside at the Rotary Club of Atlanta on April 13.

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank reinforced his conviction that if we build the finest football and soccer stadium in the world but we don’t improve the quality of life of the people living in the communities around it, we will have failed.

So it was in that spirit that Richard Dugas, CEO of home builder PulteGroup Inc. and chair of the Westside Future Fund, announced that his company would build “at cost” homes for police officers who would agree to live in those communities.

The effort is part of an initiative being put together by the Atlanta Police Foundation, the City of Atlanta’s Police Department, Invest Atlanta and the Westside Future Fund.

“Before you can have revitalization of a community, you have to have stabilization,” said Dave Wilkinson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Police Foundation. “Having police officers live in a community is a strong crime deterrence. It also makes the police officer invested in the community.”

Under the program, about 20 Atlanta police officers will have an opportunity to buy a discounted Pulte home that will be built in the Vine City, English Avenue and Westside communities. They will be required to live there for five years and serve as the community police officer.

The selected officers will receive an additional $500 a month stipend to attend community meetings and serve as the liaison between the neighborhood and zone commander.

“The officer will be the cop on the block,” Wilkinson said. “They will have a list of things they will have to do on a monthly basis to receive that $500 stipend, but that will mean they will basically be able to live in their home for free.”

Wilkinson said that the Atlanta Police Foundation, Invest Atlanta and the Blank Foundation also are working to install about 60 security cameras throughout the communities with eight license plate readers for a total cost of $1.2 million. Those should be installed within six months.

Speaking of the Westside

When talking about the future of the Westside communities, do not mention the words “redevelopment” or “gentrification” in the company of Arthur Blank or Richard Dugas.

“This is not a redevelopment project,” said Dugas, who was tapped to chair the Westside Future Fund by the Atlanta Committee for Progress. “This is a revitalization initiative.”

The Future Fund, which will be seeking private investment for the Westside revitalization efforts, is looking for an executive director with the help of the firm Diversified Search.

The goal would be to find someone who was less a community developer than someone who was skilled at community engagement, he said.

“As opposed to doing something to the community, we want to be working with the community,” Dugas said. “It is a fantastic place. From a real estate standpoint, the location of these neighborhoods are so close to downtown. And they are incredibly, historically significant.”

A major initiative of the Blank Foundation is to build the “human capital” in a recently announced initiative called Westside Momentum, where six nonprofits are working with 39 community groups to help them develop their skills.

“This is being done from the ground floor up,” Blank said. “it is all about making a difference in people’s lives.”

Meanwhile Dugas said that the longer-term vision for the area will be to have a thousand new homes in the Westside communities in the next five to 10 years.

Dugas said the Westside Future Fund probably will announce its fundraising goal at the June meeting of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and he expects it will be “in the tens of millions of dollars.”

Asked if Pulte would be a major contributor, Dugas said: “No question we will, as will many other companies.”

Harvard Business School–Atlanta

Four local nonprofit leaders have been selected by the Harvard Business School Club of Atlanta to receive Social Enterprise Initiative Scholarships.

The annual program provides grants to leaders of local nonprofits to take executive education courses at the Harvard Business School.

The four executives who will attend Harvard this summer are:

  • Mindy Binderman, executive director of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS);
  • Carol Collard, president and CEO of CaringWorks Inc.;
  • Vanisa Karic, executive director of Tapestri Inc.; and
  • Robert Bruder-Mattson, president and CEO of United Methodist Children’s Home.

Since the inception of the program in 1997, the Atlanta Club has awarded more than 60 scholarships to local nonprofit leaders. “Educating leaders who make a difference in the world is the foundation of our School’s mission,” says Ed Shartar, vice president of social enterprise initiatives for the club. “And the leaders recognized for this year’s SEI scholarship are doing exactly that – impacting not only our community, but also the world. We are honored to have the opportunity to recognize and give back to these incredible individuals.”

Delta Air Lines Inc. is donating free round-trip airfare from Atlanta to Boston for all scholarship recipients.

Steve Smith joining Pendleton Group

Civic leader Steve Smith is joining the Pendleton Group consulting firm. Most recently, Smith had been associate superintendent for the Atlanta Public Schools for three years before stepping down last summer to serve in a temporary consulting role. Before joining APS, Smith had been vice president of corporate responsibility at Turner Broadcasting System and had his own consulting company. He also held several key civic role, including serving as chair of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Pendleton Group, which includes Georgia’s former economic development commissioner Craig Lesser, will be holding a welcome reception for him at the Commerce Club on April 22.

Hemophilia of Georgia names new CEO

The board of the Hemophilia of Georgia has appointed Maria Manahan as its new CEO, succeeding Trish Dominic, who is retiring after 30 years with the organization.

During her tenure, Hemophilia of Georgia grew to become one of the leading hemophilia organizations in the world.

Neca Smith, the board member who chaired the nationwide search with the assistance of the Washington, D.C., based firm Vetted Solutions, said that in the end they ended with a unanimous decision to pick someone well known to the organization.

Manahan joined Hemophilia of Georgia in September 2000, and she most recently was serving as vice president of finance and operations. In that role, she managed pharmacy operations, the business department and the agency’s finances. “I have so enjoyed working with Maria for the past 15 years, and I think she will do an outstanding job,” Dominic said.

Manahan has a MS in Policy Studies and Nonprofit Management and BS in Urban Studies – both from Georgia State University. She was born in Cuba and speaks fluent Spanish.

“I am very excited and honored to be the next CEO of Hemophilia of Georgia,” Manahan said. “I look forward to working closely with the bleeding disorder community as we pursue opportunities together to improve care and treatment and to fund research for a cure.”

 

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.

6 replies
  1. SaportaReport says:

    Thanks Dan, There are several stories within Maria’s weekly column from the Business Chronicle. It should be about 1/2 way down the page.Report

    Reply
  2. Dan Backhaus says:

    I eventually found it, but it was confusing at first. The piece is long enough to where an anchor link to the second heading would have been advisable… 😉Report

    Reply

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