Let’s create meaningful opportunities for Westside residents

By Guest Columnist ARTHUR BLANK, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and chairman of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

We all believe in something.

In fact, I think believing in something drives all of our major moments in life.

Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank

Bernie Marcus and I believed in putting the customer above all else when we created our Home Depot values and operating principles.

I believed – and still believe – that we could promote positive change in people’s lives when we formed my Family Foundation back in 1995.

And I believe that Falcons fans will continue to Rise Up for their team and for this great city and state.

And now, I am asking us to believe in the future of Atlanta’s historic Westside neighborhoods.

These once vibrant neighborhoods have been left behind as many of the areas surrounding them ushered in social and economic resurgence. Although well-intended people and organizations have tried to create positive change, they’ve lacked the cohesion and resources to make a real or sustainable difference.

Together, we can do better.

Donald Ogeese Westside Works

Donald Ogeese, one of the graduates of the Westside Works program, got a job in the construction industry working on the new Falcons stadium (Special: Blank Foundation)

In 2013, my Family Foundation made a promise based on belief in the residents of these neighborhoods and in the people of Atlanta. Our $15 million commitment to transformational community development in the Westside communities of English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill was the first step.

Now we are inviting others to join us in finding ways to provide these neighborhoods with what they desire: safe streets, healthy environments, jobs and places to learn.

All of these are the same things that many of us have, but sometimes take for granted.

Creating this real transformation of people and place will not be easy, and it will take time. But I believe that we have an unparalleled opportunity to step up and make a difference in people’s lives.

car repair

Blank Foundation and Westside Works supports car repair training with NAPA at the City of Refuge (Special: Blank Foundation)

The $15 million we committed is just the beginning. To make lasting change a reality, we need a team effort with residents and strong partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits and government organizations, as well as local and national philanthropies.

To that end, we are gratified to see the development of the Westside Future Fund, which will help us build partnerships and create meaningful opportunities for current and future Westside residents to share in Atlanta’s growth and progress.

Over the past 30 years, I have seen first-hand what collaboration on important community issues has done to enrich this city.

culinary training

Culinary training at the City of Refuge – Westside Works and Blank Foundation (Special: Blank Foundation

We are constantly challenging ourselves to improve the quality of life for our residents and create an unforgettable experience for visitors. I believe that the time is now for Atlanta to take that same momentum and propel our Westside communities into the future with more purpose, opportunity and connection, while preserving their unique history and vibrancy.

I believe; will you?

For more information or to find out how you can get involved, email [email protected] or sign up for future communication from the Westside Future Fund. 

 

12 replies
  1. Chad Carlson says:

    Yeah, right, after he destroyed the oldest African American church in Atlanta and founding home of Spelman College. Give me a break. Orwellian PR. The money he donates goes down a rabbit hole of graft and corruption of local community “leaders.” Only the residents who actually live in these neighborhoods can create positve change through sweat equity. What this stadium does is cut off the neighborhoods from downtown, fill up yet another landfill with the trash from the 20 year old stadium that will be demolished, and draw people from out of town one day a week, in their cars, leaving massive empty parking lots in their wake.Report

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  2. ATLborn says:

    Authur.  I was born and raised in the BankheadEnglish Ave section of Atlanta. In fact my mom still lives near the corner of Joseph E Boone and Joseph E Lowery. We already know one issue. This area has a very low percentage of folks that own their home. But I always wondered why are there so many empty boarded up homes with unkept yards. A look through the Fulton County property records gave me my answer, During the real estate boom of the early to late 2000’s. A small small number of mortgage fraud crooks caused this issue in this area. They purchased 60-70% percentage of the empty properties at below market value. They then refinanced these $20-30K homes for an average of over $200k. After getting the money out, they walked away from the property which caused it to go into foreclosure. Another person “crook” would buy the same foreclosed property for a below market price. Refinance again, pull out ~200K and not pay the bank. Again the home goes into foreclosure. Around 2008 an investor named Rick Warren “Buckhead resident” begin buying these homes that had been foreclosed two, three and four times for a bargain price of ~$5-7k each. But he is doing a John Dewberry and holding on the the property, but not maintaining any of them. With so few homeowners living in the area he is able to get away with cutting the grass once a year and leaving windows not boarded. Last count he owned over 400 properties in this area while the city of Atlanta took him to court a few weeks ago with over 90 code violations. “#1 slum land lord in the city of Atlanta”. Believe his main motivation is buying up properties near the Beltline for extreme profit. With you and Kasim Reed working together, would like to know your plans to help  revive this area.Report

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  3. Mary LaVonne Avery says:

    What happened to guy that purchased 125 homes in Vine City area. He was in court with Mayor for code violations. He’s waiting on the opportunity!Report

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  4. EPiC_Isha says:

    While I do not understand the logic of cutting off direct access to downtown from the Westside via historic Martin Luther King Jr. Drive NW, I do support the “power of many” working cohesively to pool resources and empower Westside residents to #RISEUP. 

    Every resident should have the opportunity to improve their quality of life; to have safe streets to travel, healthy environments to raise and nurture children, meaningful work with companies that compensate talented employees fairly as well as places to learn, socialize, and thrive! Teaching “a man to fish” is certainly a way forward as is eliminating or minimizing the many barriers to success. In 20 years, the bar has been pushed higher such that even those with skills and experience find it difficult to keep up. It’s not hard to imagine the challenges those in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods face. 

    I was wondering if Westside residents have the opportunity to work on (now) and at (later) the stadium (Donald Ogeese testimonial noted) and would like to see Westside residents with entrepreneurial aspirations have access to opportunities as well. 

    The Beltline also took time–less than 10 years to be exact. Now, “business is booming” and communities are thriving on every sector except south and west Atlanta. That should not be the case. Things will change for the better the moment we realize that the customers we are admonished to work diligently to serve are no different from those we serve with.Report

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  5. woosnews says:

    This is a nauseating puff of propaganda –  coming from the man who orchestrated the destruction of the very part of downtown he’s claiming to want to save. 

    As if he didn’t notice Friendship Baptist Church, the rich and historic sanctuary that had been the cornerstone in this community for 150 years. Like he never heard about Historic Mount Vernon Church,  or the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive Bridge that connected the historic black communities around the Atlanta University Center to the business and civic centers downtown. All were just razed to clear the path for his new Falcons stadium. Even the Georgia Veterans Memorial that once graced the entrance of the Georgia Dome has been removed  — and in a couple of years – the Dome will be gone too –  so the new publicly subsidized Falcon’s stadium can be even more profitable for this so-called “philanthropist” whose private venture is going to be getting more than a billion dollars in public money from the city’s hotel-motel sales tax over the next 30 years.  

    No one has done more to destroy what was valuable and viable in this part of the city than Arthur Blank, using Mayor Reed as his puppet. Destroying roads and bridges, historic houses of worship, and our city’s most profitable tourist destinations – and then making us pay for the damage – That’s is the work of a terrorist – not a philanthropist. Who thinks it’s okay to cause this kind of destruction and scoop up a billion bucks in public subsidies to do it? And then act like giving back pennies on the dollars is charity – $15 million doesn’t even cover the ride to the morgue! 

    You want to see a beautiful and inspiring paragon of Atlanta history?  Check out this short recap – https://youtu.be/gsPD7rHicuc
    You want to see a vibrant Atlanta community in action? Here you have it. – https://youtu.be/bKZx76huVqg. 
    And if you want to see the destructive force of waste and corruption ripping out the heart of Atlanta’s Friendship – watch this https://youtu.be/UD4P8v8M-wY .  

    The destruction of Atlanta’s Historic Friendship was just one of many deliberate actions designed to demolish and demean what was what was truly good and great about the community. Rules were bent and critics were threatened. Tearing down this prime piece of real estate made it that much easier to transfer of hundreds of millions of public funds and assets into private hands. 

    We’ve already lost so much in this deal, and we’re about to lose so much more…  

    If ever there was a need for a real RICO investigation in Georgia – this is it.Report

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  6. Danica Kombol says:

    Fascinating facts in the video. 48% of homes abandoned. That said, Arthur Blank says, “The people who live here have hope.” Hope is stronger than any fact or figure.Report

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  7. Chad Carlson says:

    “No one has done more to destroy what was valuable and viable in this part of the city than Arthur Blank. Destroying roads and bridges, historic houses of worship, and our city’s most profitable tourist destinations – and then making us pay for the damage. Who thinks it’s okay to cause this kind of destruction and scoop up a billion bucks in public subsidies to do it? And then act like giving back pennies on the dollars is charity. The destruction of Atlanta’s Historic Friendship was just one of many deliberate actions designed to demolish and demean what was what was truly good and great about the community. Tearing down this prime piece of real estate made it that much easier to transfer of hundreds of millions of public funds and assets into private hands.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UD4P8v8M-wY&feature=youtu.beReport

    Reply
  8. Chad Carlson says:

    “The city enabled these failures by placating political factions instead of taking responsibility for helping to transform the shattered neighborhoods, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found. Officials granted funds to nonprofits they knew had histories of financial disarray and botched developments. Then they stood back while these nonprofits used the money on pet projects.” http://arcnewsmanager.atlantaregional.com/templates/?a=54633Report

    Reply

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