Frank Fernandez

Westside initiatives take root, ‘but there’s a long way to go’

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Dec. 22, 2017

During a recent tour of English Avenue and Vine City, Frank Fernandez of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation highlighted numerous initiatives that have begun to take root on the Westside.

A former check-cashing business is being transformed into a restaurant. Several vacant lots have been turned into neighborhood parks. Police officers are moving into the neighborhood thanks to an initiative of the Atlanta Police Foundation. Westside Works has a new home where it is training residents in the fields of construction, heath care, culinary arts and soon childcare.

Georgia Trust

Georgia Trust buys three parcels near Westside BeltLine

It’s a new day for the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, which purchased three properties near the Atlanta BeltLine’s Westside trail in Washington Park and Mozley Park.

The Georgia Trust closed on the purchases Thursday – two houses and a vacant lot – with the intent of renovating the two homes and developing a new house on the vacant lot – all while keeping the properties affordable.


Meredith Britt John Ahmann

City adopts land-use vision for Westside communities

As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Dec. 8, 2017

A far-reaching land-use plan for the Westside received an important boost when it was unanimously adopted by the Atlanta City Council on Dec. 4.

The Westside Land Use Framework Plan — more than two years in the making — emerged after an unprecedented number of community meetings with more than a thousand participants.

Dan Cathy James Quincey

Opening of new Chick-fil-A on the Westside brings together top CEOs and residents

The eve before the opening of the new Chick-fil-A restaurant on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive was a night unlike any other in Atlanta’s history.

The “haves” and the “have nots” huddled indoors and ate dinner in the warmth of a new Chick-fil-A restaurant on the Westside of downtown on Wednesday night braving below-freezing temperatures and ice-covered streets.

MLK’s “Beloved Community” and the G-Word

An almost surefire way to start an argument in Atlanta is to utter the “G-word” – as in “gentrification.” In the midst of a torrid development boom, the inflow of affluent newcomers to Atlanta – and the involuntary uprooting of low-income residents that inevitably follows – reveals the racial and economic fault lines running through city’s social bedrock.


In the shadow of Mercedes by Kelly Jordan

Click each photo to enlarge

American Explorers, Flying through the air

The path to leadership: Nurturing perseverance and grit

By Guest Columnist KAAMEL NURI, program manager of American Explorers, a program of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

If I asked you to define leadership, chances are you would come up with a list of noble character traits, moments of everyday greatness, or inspirational quotes meant to propel us forward on our quest to be better.

Dobbins, Northside bridge to Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Baby steps across Northside Drive?

By Guest Columnist MIKE DOBBINS, a professor of the practice of planning at Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture who has overseen several Tech studios that examined Northside Drive and its neighborhoods

For over 30 years Northside Drive has separated westside residents from the jobs and vibrancy that continue to grow in Downtown Atlanta with a physical wall of traffic and pavement as if to emphasize the race and class divisions that plague the neighborhoods it bounds.

Dhiru Thadani John Ahman

Atlanta’s Westside ‘Action Plan’ strives to improve lives of residents

For the past six months, a team headed by prominent planner and urbanist Dhiru Thadani has been working on an action-oriented plan for Atlanta’s Westside communities.

The team recently presented its draft Action Plan at the Transform Westside Summit, and now there will be about two months when community members and stakeholders will be able to respond to the recommendations and ideas.

Gaines Hall

A year after fire, questions plague future of Gaines Hall

Second column in a two part-series. Last week: Revival of Hancock County’s Courthouse in Sparta, Ga.

The story of two eerily similar buildings reveals a tale of two cities.

The Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta caught fire on Aug. 11, 2014. Atlanta’s Gaines Hall caught fire Aug. 20, 2015. Both designed by the same architect – William Parkins – before the turn of the 19th Century.

But the similarities end when we look at how both communities have responded since their respective fires.

Richard Dugas Pulte Homes

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.