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Commentary: Gentrification in Atlanta’s West End — Bringing Positive Changes [VIDEO]

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In recent years, Atlanta has been facing an increase in development across the city. One major project is the Atlanta BeltLine, which is a 22-mile trail that is designed to wrap around the metro Atlanta area. This trail has brought attention to the West End area, specifically the neighborhoods of Adair Park, Pittsburgh and Westview. With the rise of construction, it begs the question of the effects this gentrification is having on the community.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 1990 to 2016 the African-American population in the Atlanta area has decreased 13 percent, while the white population has increased 7 percent. With the demographics in the area changing, neighborhoods are becoming more diverse. Some people see this as problematic, but contrary to popular belief, gentrification can have positive effects in communities. We asked people in the West End area how these developments have impacted them and their community.

MAP: West End in 2007

Dedra Ridges, who says she’s been living in the West End area since the age of 1, spoke with VOX Media Cafe reporters concerning the changes in the area. She says it has had a positive impact. “We have our own local farms, more grocery stores less liquor stores,” said Ridges. “We actually have more trees, see more green, we have more trails; it’s been amazing so far.”

The changes in the community have surprisingly been positive, as previous projects such as these haven’t always had the best impact on a community.

This doesn’t seem to be the case for the entire West End community, though. Organizations such as the TransFormation Alliance help alleviate the potential problems gentrification can hold. This organization helps to create more equitable housing and transportation for residents in the Atlanta area. Michael A. Bryan, a program intern with the TransFormation Alliance, told VOX, “Gentrification isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If it’s not controlled and maintained, it can be detrimental to communities.”

MAP: West End in 2018

With these positive changes, there are still the many negatives to gentrification, one of them being housing prices. Ridges stated, “Housing prices have increased drastically, and it’s making it harder for our seniors to afford housing.”

Housing is a main concern for these new developments, but this is being helped by the involvement of the community.

“People really want to be involved in these processes,” Bryan stated. This seems to be what’s making the West End community stick together, everyone being involved in what’s occurring in their community. Ridges added, “The engagement in the community has overall improved.

Ridges talked about the Facebook group chat some West End residents use to communicate with each other. In the Facebook group, they discuss the changes occurring and the building sites under construction.

The only negative about this form of communication is: “It’s leaving out a lot of seniors, because a lot of them over here who are homeowners are seniors who’ve been here for 30 or more years,” Ridges explained.

The community has tried distributing flyers to these homeowners to make them aware of changes that are occurring. But Ridges said the best way to get the news across is to talk to people face to face.

Some people who have lived in the area for a while aren’t as receptive to the changes. “Everything is happening so fast for her,” Ridges says in regard to her mother, who is a senior homeowner in the area and has lived there for more than 50 years.

This is bittersweet for some neighbors. As the community improves, it loses some of the sense of history that was once held. With this loss, there’s also the gain of a greater sense of community, as residents must band together to represent their community.

Watch the video below to hear from West End community members.

This package was written and produced by VOX Media Café 2018 participants Caleb Cherry, Aryanna Brown and Jordan Owens.

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