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Commentary: Spotlight shining bright on Atlanta’s Westside

Original Story on WABE

So many players. So many agendas. So much history.

Richard Dugas Pulte Homes

Richard Dugas, CEO of Pulte Homes, at the announcement in December 2014 that he was going to chair the Westside Future Fund (Photo by Maria Saporta)

That sums up Atlanta’s Westside, the impoverished communities located across Northside Drive from the new Mercedes-Benz stadium and the Georgia Dome.

All eyes are on West Atlanta as the Westside Future Fund begins fundraising and coordinating efforts to revamp the area.

The fund is a private entity, established by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in December 2014.  It is chaired by Richard Dugas, CEO of Pulte Homes.

A myriad of people are seizing an opportunity for lasting revitalization in neighborhoods such as Vine City, English Avenue, Castleberry Hill, the Atlanta University Center and Ashview Heights … everyone from billionaires like Arthur Blank and Dan Cathy to grassroots leaders planting community gardens.

Reed and top business leaders established the Westside Future Fund to serve as a “community quarterback,” according to Fund chairman Richard Dugas.

The Fund is raising $4.5 million for operating support through 2018 – a period that would extend the organization into the next mayoral administration. And it is providing a neutral ground for everyone to coordinate activities.

These communities have been let down in the past, and Dugas asked for patience.  It could take 20 to 30 years to revitalize the area.

His top priorities are engaging the community and preserving the historic integrity of the Westside.

A socially-responsible investment fund is in the works that could be used to acquire blighted properties and make other physical improvements.

Jeff Sprecher, CEO of the InterContinental Exchange, pledged $5 million as soon as legal issues are worked out.  And Dugas believes Sprecher will be the first of many large investors.

Stakes are high, as the spotlight is shining bright on the Westside.

Let’s hope the Westside Future Fund becomes a model of success, rather than another case study in unrealized dreams.

Maria Saporta

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.


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